The Contextualization Deficit: Reframing trust in science for multilateral policy


"In a world of growing geopolitical tensions, science remains one common language for developing coordinated international action. When trust in science is compromised, the capacity for cohesive global policy action is further diminished. The question is how can the multilateral policy interface engage effectively with science, in ways trusted by populations? This working paper addresses this crucial problem by reviewing what research and practice in a range of fields from journalism to regulation have learned about trust in science in recent years, and the implications of that body of knowledge for policy-makers. The research suggests that the expectation that ‘trust in science’ should lead naturally to universal public compliance, although often criticized, still prevails among policy (and scientific) circles. The working paper proposes a different, more meaningful form of engagement of the multilateral system with science, organized around the notion of contextualization – in other words, the recognition that values, history, socio-economic factors and identities shape how people will respond to the science–policy interface in specific locations. It also considers the implications for action of the different engagement model for the science–policy interface."


International Science Council, Centre for Science Futures


Nick Ishmael-Perkins, Sujatha Raman, Jenni Metcalfe, Indigo Strudwicke, Toss Gascoigne, Joan Leach


October 24, 2023