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Europe wants scientific advice to become pluralistic

Commission endeavours to create a new science committee and reject a single advisor model

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The European Commission is backing plans to take away the role of a single 'chief scientific officer' and extend it to a broader committee of experts.

The EC president Jean-Claude Juncker has endorsed new proposals, coming originally from the research, science and innovation commissioner Moedas, that a panel of science academy experts replace the position of Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA) to the European Commission.

The CSA role was previously held by Professor of Molecular biology and Cell biology at the University of Aberdeen Anne Glover, until the position ended in November 2014. 

Now the EC wants to update how scientific advice is handled across Europe.

In a statement the EC said: “The plans will draw on the wide-range of scientific expertise in Europe through a close relationship with national academies and other bodies, coordinated by a high-level group of independent scientists.”

Commissioner Moedas has now been tasked to implement this new arrangement over the coming months, involving other commissioners and making the most of effective cooperation between Commission services. 

Commissioner Moedas said: "In combination with the forthcoming proposals on better regulation, the new model for independent scientific advice will contribute to the Commission's continued pursuit of the best possible evidence-based policy. 

“This will be a significant step forward for an effective European Commission that delivers for citizens, and addresses the major societal challenges which Europe faces."

Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science, was more cautious over the new plans.

She said: “If the European science and social science academies will be more involved in scrutinising and applying evidence to European policy, we might see some improvements in the reasoning behind policies.

“But committees lack some important features of individual advisers: there are much vaguer lines of personal responsibility and accountability, and committees in general are at risk of being conservative, reaching conclusions that no one member stands behind and consensus that doesn't really exist.

“They are also more obscure to the wider public. Whether this panel can counter that under the proposed new system, through individuals being proactive and taking discussions about policy out into the public domain, is not clear. What is clear is that the chain of reasoning for European regulation and policy needs to be more evidence-based and less obscure to citizens who want to know how decisions have been reached and whether evidence supports them.”

Article by
Ben Adams

15th May 2015

From: Regulatory

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