Wednesday

20th Feb 2019

EU commission to appoint team of scientific advisers

  • The advisory group is to be set up in autumn (Photo: jurvetson)

The European Commission is to appoint a team of scientists to advise it, departing from the previous system of having a single chief scientific adviser.

It also plans a “structured relationship" with national scientific advisory bodies in order to draw on a "wealth of knowledge and expertise”.

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“The new model for independent scientific advice will contribute to the commission's continued pursuit of the best possible evidence-based policy”, said science commissioner Carlos Moedas in a prepared statement on Wednesday (13 May).

The set-up represents a departure from the previous commission which had introduced the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) post at the beginning of 2012.

It was taken up by biologist Anne Glover who reported directly to the commission president.

The post of such an independent adviser, which has the direct ears of government leaders, is common practice in Anglo-Saxon countries.

Other European nations are more reliant on academic bodies, like national scientific authorities, for scientific advice on government policy.

The commission already had several scientific agencies, some of whom are said to have viewed Glover's proximity to to previous commission president, Jose-Manuel Barroso, as threatening.

While the business lobby had spoken out in favour of continuing the post, a group of environmental groups campaigned against it.

NGOs like Greenpeace called the CSA post “fundamentally problematic as it concentrates too much influence in one person”.

They also did not like Glover's comments that there is scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified organisms.

After Barroso's term ended, it remained unclear for a while whether Juncker would appoint a new CSA.

After several media reported that Glover had been fired – which she herself has denied - Juncker asked Moedas to come up with a review on how to best institutionalise future independent scientific advice in EU policy-making.

A commission paper noted there is “no single model or best practice” for providing such scientific advice to politicians.

The text also said that scientific advice “must take account of the specific characteristic of EU policy making" including the need to consider "national perspectives".

It is unclear how many people will be part of the group - to be set up by autumn - and how they will be selected.

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