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In modern societies, increased complexity, risks, uncertainty and value pluralism create dependency on science and expertise to provide data to underpin and validate decision-making. Yet, what does a policymaker do when the data is uncertain, expert opinions divided and yet decisions are urgent? ‘What’ science does s/he follow?

Despite a commitment to evidence-based policy, in many countries the response to COVID-19 has been characterised by poorly designed policies that have compromised population health and contributed to higher levels of poverty and inequality. ‘What’ science did our decision makers follow? ‘Whose’ expert opinion have they listened to and whose opinions have they discounted?  This project will investigate the use of science advice in policy making during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will ask: Do pandemics and other crises show the limits of evidence-based policy? Do they call for new models of governance that are less technocratic and more deliberative, democratic and radical, and if so, who should get a voice?

This project will analyse primary and secondary data to:

  1. establish how current formal and informal processes of science advice help or hinder the ability of policymakers to access diverse views and the ability of researchers to engage with policymakers
  2. assess to what extent specific experts or types of evidence have been excluded from science-based policy processes and how this may have impacted on the ability to develop social policies sensitive to intersectional needs.

This project will address some of the fundamental ethical questions relating to the science-policy interface with the aim to learn lessons from the current pandemic. Future pandemics are predicted and therefore effective, equitable and legitimate research-into-policy pathways are fundamental not just to our future collective response but also to develop greater preparedness now.


This project will involve empirical bioethics methods which combine philosophical and ethical analysis with empirical research. It will provide a range of training opportunities in empirical bioethics research methods, including literature review, conceptual ethical analysis, qualitative research, data analysis.


The project will require qualitative interviews with a diverse range of stakeholders in the UK or abroad.


This project would suit a candidate with a background in social/political sciences, bioethics or philosophy wishing to develop expertise in the field of empirical bioethics with an interest in social epistemology, philosophy, science and technology studies and public health.