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The role of science in parliamentary decision-making

12 April 2021 klockan 10.26

On 8 April, the Speaker Andreas Norlén hosted a seminar on the role of science in parliamentary decision-making. The seminar took the form of a dialogue between members of the Riksdag, Göran K. Hansson, Permanent Secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel laureates Emmanuelle Charpentier and Reinhard Genzel.

In order to highlight the value of science for politics, democracy and decision-making, the Speaker initiated a morning with a focus on research and the future. The day was introduced with a seminar for each of the committees, in which the members were able to learn about researchers’ findings in the subjects which the committee themselves had chosen to examine in depth.

Following this, a joint public seminar was held in the former First Chamber with the two Nobel laureates, the Speaker and the chairs of the Riksdag committees on the importance of science for parliamentary decision-making.

As a result of the current pandemic, the seminar was carried out mostly on line. The broadcast can be viewed on-demand via the Riksdag webcast service at www.riksdagen.se. The event was arranged in cooperation with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Swedish Research Council and the Nobel Foundation.

The Speaker's address

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Honourable Nobel laureates and guests,
Honourable members of the Riksdag,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to extend a warm welcome to the Riksdag’s Research Day and our concluding seminar.

And a special welcome to our distinguished guests, the Nobel laureates Professors Emmanuelle Charpentier and Reinhard Genzel.

I took the initiative to arrange this day to provide the committees with the opportunity to benefit from the latest knowledge within their particular areas of responsibility and to highlight the value of science for politics, democracy and parliamentary decision-making. I also wanted to highlight the Nobel prizes here at the Riksdag in yet another way as a fantastic asset for our country, besides the other activities we arrange during the Nobel week in December every year.

Here in the Chamber of the Riksdag, thousands of decisions are taken that affect our society. To enable our elected representatives to meet the challenges of today and the future in the best possible way, we need access to – and knowledge of – relevant research results. 

Yes, facts, knowledge and discoveries are of central importance in both research and politics. We need to understand our world. We need to understand people. That's how simple – or complicated – it is. Each and every one of us should seek to do just this – in both science and other fields. 

The poet Maria Küchen has written beautifully on how “understanding without facts is poetry or madness. Facts without understanding are a voice calling into space unheard.” 

I cannot express better how important it is that the decisions of the Riksdag should rest on a scientific foundation, be formed on the basis of the different political convictions of the political parties and be taken with understanding of how all these things interact.

It is my hope that this day will be a beneficial supplement to the exchange with researchers in different disciplines that the members of the Riksdag always have within the framework of committee work, policy development, various networks and in other ways. 

Earlier today, the committees arranged seminars in which researchers reported on current findings, relevant in the particular areas of responsibility of the committees. Now we are about to start the second half with a joint discussion. 

I am very honoured to have two renowned researchers here with us and I am looking forward to learning about your experiences, knowledge and points of view. 

For rarely has the research world had such great significance for us as it has today. We are living in a time where facts and knowledge are required in important but widely differing areas such as pandemics, climate change and economics.

At the same time, the world we live in is being shadowed by a growing threat to confidence in knowledge. Ill-founded opinions are sometimes compared with facts. Fake news is being spread at great speed over the internet. Polarisation is increasing in public debate – sometimes in such a severe climate nowadays that even researchers are met with hatred and threats when they present results from research which are in conflict with certain people’s views of how reality is or should be.

Free, solid and reliable scientific knowledge is of crucial importance for a smoothly functioning democracy and lively public debate. The rights of all researchers to freely choose their research subject and method, and to publish their results freely is one of the building blocks that create our democracy, and in countries where academic freedom is restricted democracy itself is in danger.

Here at the Riksdag we are in the middle of celebrating our four-year-long democracy centenary marking one hundred years of democracy since the breakthrough of universal and equal suffrage in 1918-1922. 

During the last century, Sweden has undergone a thorough transformation to become the research and knowledge-intensive nation it is today. I believe that this journey in particular is a result of the introduction of democracy with components such as the freedom of expression, academic freedom and the rule of law.

Honourable Nobel laureates, 
Honourable members of the Riksdag,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In conclusion, as Speaker of the Riksdag, once gain I would like to underline the value of science for what we are working with here in this very building: legislation, politics and democracy. The words of Olof von Dalin in Then Swänska Argus from the 18th century are just as relevant today: 

God help the country where good sense is persecuted
And virtuous knowledge is covered with darkness

With these words I would now like to hand the floor to today’s moderator, Professor Göran K Hansson, but first I would like to thank the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Swedish Research Council and the Nobel Foundation for their most admirable cooperation in arranging this day.

Thank you.