International Association for Impact Assessment

COVID-19 Pandemic May Herald the Return of Science

  • Blog post by IAIA Executive Director David Bancroft

    COVID-19 Pandemic May Herald the Return of Science

    One inadvertent potential positive aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic may be the return of science to the decision-making process. In performing the 360-degree review of IAIA in preparation for the new IAIA Strategic Plan, a frequent comment was that there has been a loss in confidence in science and facts by both decision makers and the general public. While those who ignore reality and revel in conspiracy theories will always be with us, the perspective that science, facts, knowledge, information, and expertise are irrelevant has also been on the rise in the general population of the Western world.  

    What in large part is on trial during the pandemic is the value of science and information in decision making. This pandemic is a case study in ignoring facts and believing that dire consequences will just disappear if you do little or nothing:  case in point, the lack of testing, the slowness of encouraging social distancing, and the promotion of unproven drugs. Those with backgrounds in One Health, the idea that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and our shared environment, have long warned of a potential worldwide pandemic. This includes Sonia Shah, author of the 2017 book Pandemic. Unfortunately, these warnings were not heeded. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates definitively that one cannot bluff and bluster away a virus.

    Impact assessment (IA) is one of the primary tools to bring science, facts, knowledge, information, and expertise directly into the decision-making and policy-making process. How should IA be repositioned in governmental and private sector decision making and be bolstered after the pandemic subsides? IAIA needs to be at the forefront of those discussions, as Goal 1.4 of our new Strategic Plan indicates that IAIA should “create a virtual Center for Excellence for Impact Assessment to advance the concept of impact assessment into the next 50 years.”

    If IAIA and professionals in IA do not take the lead in this endeavor, others will, and we may not like the outcome. I hope you will join IAIA and help us create this sectoral consensus.

    Overall, I believe we have a short window of time where we may see the reaffirmation of the principles of the Enlightenment and a retrenchment of unfounded belief. Bringing science and facts to the decision-making process may yield a rebirth of impact assessment to benefit our members and their vision of a just and sustainable world for people and the environment.

    What do you think? Does this mirror what you are also witnessing in your region of the world? Or do you have a completely different viewpoint? IAIA members and subscribers, join the discussion on IAIAConnect.


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