The 2015 elections: how the political parties view science


Political parties vote two-dimensionally, says the political geographer Michael Hermann. This fact is also reflected in the answers party bosses gave to four questions on science policy that Horizons asked them. By Valentin Amrhein and Daniel Saraga

ScienceDebate Schweiz

(From "Horizons" no. 106, September)

When it comes to science policy, where do the front lines lie in our party-political spectrum? Primarily along two dimensions, says the political geographer Michael Hermann. The first dimension involves science funding. Here, the left says invest, while the right says economise. The second dimension no longer functions according to the left/right pattern, and Hermann describes it as the ‘Physicists’ dilemma’, in reference to the play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Should scientists do what’s do­able, just because they can? When deciding whether political decisions should be made according to scientific possibility or the needs of society, often those on the far right join up with those on the far left.

Some two-thirds of the politicians in the National Council and the Council of States have a university degree. “But given today’s state of permanent election fever, it’s not aca­demic politicians who’re in demand in parlia­ment, but communications experts”, says Hermann. “Furthermore, there’s a shift taking place away from facts and towards opinions”. In order for our readers to form their own opinions, here are the answers party executives gave to four questions asked by Horizons, along with the results of four votes in the National Council.

Politicians offer their opinion

ScienceDebate is a joint initiative of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, the SNSF and the online electoral assistance organisation Smartvote. ScienceDebate drew up 13 questions on science policy and put them to Swiss politicians. Its website  features the arguments of party chairpersons and their executive committees, along with answers from all candidates standing for seats on the
National Council in 2015, listed according to their respective parties.