As our politicians are trying to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, weâ€™re all learning fast about things like exponential growth rates, herd immunity and ventilator design.
Unfortunately, it seems like thereâ€™s a lack of scientists and engineers in the decision-making class. Iâ€™m fairly sure itâ€™s always been like this, at least in the UK where I live, and checking our current batch of MPs shows there areÂ 103Â with some kind of science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM) or medical background, out of a total of 650. Thatâ€™s about 16%, or just less than one in six.
It’s not enough, is it? While we donâ€™t expect our leaders to be expert in everything, itâ€™s difficult for anyone from an arts background to have the same feel for figures as a scientist, doctor or engineer, particularly when theyâ€™re looking at things like probabilities and risk. I also think thereâ€™s also been a general downplaying of the importance of numeracy in recent years, as well as a rejection of â€˜expertsâ€™ as somehow unnecessary.
At least, in the UK, weâ€™re seeing senior scientists and medics getting a highly visible role in advising the government, and updating the public. Itâ€™s a start, but we need the people in power to be more clued up if theyâ€™re going to make all the right decisions â€“ or at least, to take advice from the specialists. Hereâ€™s hoping.