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16th Jul 2018

One Barroso-era advisor left on new EU science body

  • CERN director Rolf-Dieter Heuer (l) with science commissioner Moedas, in April (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission has decided that only one member of a discontinued informal scientific advisory body will be part of its new 'high level group' of science advisers, it announced on Tuesday (10 November).

The announcement of the seven members of the team, heading the so-called Scientific Advice Mechanism, comes just over a year after Jean-Claude Juncker took over the presidency of the Commission from Jose Manuel Barroso.

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Juncker decided to end the post of a single Chief Scientific Adviser, set-up under Barroso, and asked his science commissioner Carlos Moedas to find out how independent scientific advice could best be institutionalised.

European governments have varying traditions when it comes to scientific advice at top level, with the Anglo-Saxon tradition favouring a single person with direct access to the government leader, and other nations relying more on academic bodies.

Last May, Moedas announced the Commission would set up a team of advisers, rather than appoint a single one.

The decision was a departure from the previous administration, which had set up a Chief Scientific Adviser in 2012. Following the handover from Barroso to Juncker, Scottish biologist Anne Glover, the first and only one to have filled the post, said it was unclear who would succeed her.

For several months after Juncker took office, an informal advisory body to Glover, the Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC), was also left in the dark.

“We learned from the papers we didn't exist any longer,” STAC member Victor de Lorenzo told EUobserver in February.

His fellow STAC member, Alan Atkisson, at the time expressed disappointment the body could not continue. “We were just hitting our stride”, he said.

One year after the STAC de facto stopped providing advice, the Commission has announced the seven names of its new scientific body. French mathematician Cedric Villani is the only one who had also been a member of the STAC.

The team also includes professor Rolf-Dieter Heuer, who until the end of this year is director-general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), most well-known for its Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

The other members are Polish biologist Janusz M. Bujnicki; Dutch sociologist Pearl Dykstra; Portuguese physics and materials expert Elvira Fortunato; British meteorologist and climate scientist Julia Slingo; and Danish microbiologist and food safety expert Henrik Wegener.

"The seven exceptional scientists I have appointed to the group will take the use of independent science advice in Commission policy making to a new level," Moedas said in a prepared statement.

"The European Commission will rely on their independent advice on a range of complex policy issues where high-level scientific input is needed."

The group will have its first meeting in January 2016.

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