October 7, 2019

Scientific evidence: what is it and how can we trust it?

The phrase “scientific evidence” has become part of the vernacular – thrown about like a hot potato during discussions of major environmental, health or social issues. Climate change is one example. The EU’s ban on neonicotinoid pesticides is another.

We’ve heard numerous mentions of the associated “evidence”, indicating the importance of the issue and the need for action. This evidence is presented by proponents in much the same way that evidence is given in a court case, usually to back up policies or decisions that will impact people’s lifestyles. But, unlike in a court case, we are rarely told exactly where the evidence comes from and why it’s evidence.

Scientific evidence is information gathered from scientific research, which takes a lot of time (and patience!) to conduct. But there are a few things that all this research needs to have in common to make it possible for decision-makers, and ultimately all of us, to accept it as “evidence”.