OBJECTIVES: Both the political appetite for a science-based coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) policy and its acceptability to the public are little understood, at a time of sharp distrust not only of governments but also of scientists and their journals' review practices . We studied the case of France, where the independent Scientific Council on COVID-19 was appointed by President Macron on March 12 , 2020 . STUDY
DESIGN: We conducted a survey on a representative sample of the French adult population .
METHODS: Our data were collected by the French Institute of Public Opinion using a self-administered online questionnaire . This was completed by a sample of 1016 people stratified to match French official census statistics for gender, age, occupation, and so on . We conducted statistical analysis using Python (Pandas-SciPy-Statsmodels) with Chi-squared and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests to control for statistical significance .
RESULTS: Intense media coverage has given the council a very high public profile, with three respondents out of four (73 %) having heard about it . Perceptions are positive but complex . French citizens expect science to be important in political decision-making . Four of five (81.5 %) want political decisions, in general, to be based on scientific knowledge . But one in two (55 %) says that the government has not relied enough on science and only 36% are satisfied with the government's crisis management to date . Although most feel that the council has a legitimate advisory role even in situations of uncertainty (only 15% disagree), it is not perceived as fully independent . Only 44% think that it directly represents the scientific community, and only one of three people considers it completely independent from the government (39 %) and the pharmaceutical industry (36 %).
CONCLUSIONS: Our study confirms that while the transparency of scientific advice is important, it alone cannot ensure public confidence in political decision-making . We suggest that efforts made today to instill a 'science-savvy' public culture-one that allows the complex articulation between scientific knowledge, uncertainty, and political decision-making to be understood and accounted for would greatly benefit evidence-based policy in future crises.