Corien Prins uses Stevin Prize to stimulate science-informed policymaking

On October 4, 2023, Professor of Law and Information Technology Corien Prins officially received the NWO Stevin Prize in The Hague. The prize, to the amount of € 1.5 million, was awarded in recognition of her contribution to the development of law and (information) technology as well as to the policymaking in that field, among other things, in her capacity as the Chair of the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR). Prins wants to use the prize money to help improve the experience with and insight into science-informed government policymaking.

Corien Prins knows from experience that making good use of academic knowledge does not happen spontaneously. Much knowledge, usually in the form of solid reports for policymakers, is shelved. In her opinion, more needs to be done with respect to the competencies of scientists as well as politicians and policymakers. She wants to promote these competencies by using the Stevin Prize in three different ways: fellowships at Parliament and advisory councils in The Hague, an educational program focusing on competencies to benefit from academic knowledge, and research on how academic knowledge is used in politics and policy.

Science advisory fellowships

The idea behind the fellowships is that they give recent PhD graduates and other young scientists the opportunity to work for six months at an advisory council in The Hague (e.g., the WRR or the Dutch Education Council, Onderwijsraad) or at the Analysis and Research Department (DAO) of the Netherlands House of Representatives. This will allow them to experience first hand how politics and policy could more effectively benefit from science. They will be given the opportunity to gain experience in giving advice, but to also be able to say: this is where knowledge ends and politics begins. In dialogues with policymakers, these fellows in their turn show how science works. Corien Prins: "It is important that it is a dialogue, not merely learning and sending information. You need to learn to speak the same language."

Training as a science advisor

The second plan involves setting up an educational program that teaches competencies to conduct that dialogue. This program is aimed at scientists as well as policymakers and politicians. The focus of the first two initiatives will initially be on law, Prins’ own field, but the idea is to branch out to more disciplines.

Research into how science informs policy

The third plan is to study whether and how scientific advice on regulating technological innovations (e.g., through reports by Research and Documentation Centre WODC) is used. What recommendations are adopted as policy and which aren’t? And why exactly? What is the right moment to introduce academic knowledge? Are there any opportunities we may have missed? The research project is aimed to answer these questions so academic knowledge can be put to better use.