Influence of Culture and Languages on Science Advice in Europe – the INCLUSIVE project

An image of people from different cultures talking

Rokia Ballo

The ‘INfluence of Culture and LangUages on Science adVice in Europe’ or ‘INCLUSIVE’ project aims to explore how language, culture and context affect the provision and use of scientific evidence in Europe and to consider any implications for future practice and research. Cultural and linguistic factors may lead to sources of knowledge being ignored when advice is being prepared, or advice being less effective in informing decisions than it could be.

The project has been led by Dr Claire Craig (INGSA Vice-President, Evidence) co-ordinated by Rokia Ballo (PhD candidate at UCL STS) and supported by the project’s expert advisory board, including Dr JC Mauduit, a co-investigator at IPPO.

The project has been organised by INGSA in association with the International Public Policy Observatory and funded by the Québec government and the Fonds de Recherche du Québec.

What is Legitimate Expertise?

In its initial exploratory phase, the project considered questions such as the factors determining what is taken to be legitimate expertise, which categories of individuals are considered credible and the philosophical and practical problems on giving advice where the evidence is created in languages other than those of the politician or publics. 

Phase one focused on two policy topics, gene editing and energy transition through the lens of nuclear energy, in four national case studies: Belgium, Norway, Poland, and Switzerland. National case studies were selected to gather insights from countries with a range of national, regional, and linguistic contexts. Policy topics were selected to give the project an analytic focus and because they combine scientific and technical aspects of advice with cultural and political considerations. 

To keep the project oriented towards science advice in practice, data collection for the project across these geographies and policy areas included structured expert interviews and workshops, alongside a rapid synthesis of the existing evidence. Facilitation for the project’s London workshop, held at the Royal Society of Chemistry in May 2023, came from staff and MPA students at UCL STEaPP.

What We Found in Phase One

Language was shown to matter in two important ways:

  • Operational uses of language – which include the mechanics of linguistics and translation and how these are explicitly or implicitly deployed – e.g., choices around the inclusion or exclusion of some languages in backstage science-policy discussions as well as the translation of science advice for the public which may risk information becoming ‘lost in translation’.
  • Language as a proxy for different cultural issues – The dominance or underrepresentation of languages may trace the identities of some groups relevant to the policy context, such as regional or ethnic communities, without itself affecting the provision or use of advice directly.

Culture and context:

  • Discussions of culture, particularly in the literature, could be separated into four broad groups: ethnicity, nationality, organisation and disciplinary. These factors all play an important  role in the agenda setting and framing of most issues.
  • The framing and salience of policy issues, and therefore the evidence or advice associated with them, are deeply culturally dependent (and can also be impacted through the use of language), as indicated through comparison of responses to the same/similar policy question between different jurisdictions. 
  • In crisis situations, where the agenda is set by very extreme events, the impact of culture may be more evident in processes of prioritisation and decisions around where evidence is sought and how it is used.

Next steps

Based on learnings from phase one the project’s second phase has included a stronger focus on the impact of language on the provision of European science advice

The project is currently exploring these issues through a single topic: Food Safety science advice. Replicating our approach in phase one, Food Safety was chosen because it combines scientific and technical questions alongside a wide range of cultural and political concerns.

The project remains aligned with INGSA’s focus on science advice in practice and has recently hosted a series of expert-led roundtable discussions in multiple languages. These first-hand accounts will be reviewed in conjunction with two further rapid reviews of the academic and grey literature written in multiple European languages. These expanded evidence reviews look at how language, culture and translation are understood in the socio and applied linguistics literature as well as the International relations and political sciences. Findings from this phase of the project will be presented at INGSA’s upcoming international conference in Kigali, Rwanda. The INGSA2024 conference theme the ‘transformation imperative’ focuses on expanded evidence for inclusive policies in diverse contexts.

Stay connected

If you would like more information about INGSA’s work in Europe or the INCLUSIVE project, contact Project Coordinator Rokia Ballo at: you would like more information about INGSA’s global activities, you can sign up to their open-access network for free at Members receive quarterly updates about news, events, and opportunities right across INGSA’s global network. You are also able to sign up to any applicable Thematic Division of interest.