“The role of scientific advice in European policy decisions is now in limbo,” says the Biochemical Society’s Chair in the wake of the abolishing of the European Commission’s Chief Scientific Adviser.
Set up just three years ago, the Chief Scientific Adviser was an opportunity to ensure independent expert science, technology and innovation advice was available to the Commission.
This week the position was officially scrapped as part of the creation of a new European Political Strategy Centre, which ‘replaces’ the Bureau of European Policy Advisers and does not contain a Chief Scientific Adviser position. It is not clear what role, if any, science will play in this new Centre.
Biochemical Society Chair Steve Busby said: “The role of scientific advice in European policy decisions is now in limbo, after President Jean-Claude Juncker abolished the Chief Scientific Adviser role with no alternatives in place.
“If the European Union is to be a leader in science and innovation and play its part in tackling global issues like climate change and food security, independent scientific advice must be championed and available to senior policymakers.
“While we would prefer to see the Chief Scientific Adviser role remain, we call on President Juncker to quickly and clearly articulate his vision for a credible alternative. Scientific advice must be an integral part of European policymaking and there needs to be an independent scientific voice, in some form, to ensure this advice is received, promoted and valued at the highest levels.”
Similar concerns were voiced by other societies and organisations. Mark Downs, CEO of the Society of Biology, which we collaborate with on science policy, described the decision as an “enormous blow to evidenced based policy making”.
“It sends a signal that science and its role in policy making has been down-graded at a time when Europe needs to do all it can to support innovation in an increasing competitive global marketplace through an effective, realistic and evidence led policy and regulatory framework.”
Sense about Science, another organisation we support, lambasted the decision: “There is now nothing that brings scientific scrutiny to the political part of European policy making. The most senior figures in European regulation and law making no longer have a line to the evidence base of the European research community.”
In July, Sense about Science led the charge with a letter to President Juncker urging the role be retained. Forty organisations, including the Biochemical Society, and 773 individuals signed the letter.
Writing in the Guardian, James Wilsdon, a signatory to the letter, provides a fitting conclusion: “If the role of a European CSA is dead, snuffed out by bureaucratic indifference before its third birthday, the wider agenda of improving the evidence base for European policy must yet prevail.”