Professor Dame Julia Slingo DBE FRS

Professor Dame Julia Slingo DBE FRS

When it was announced that European Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas would be conducting a review of science advice to the European Commission, the research community keenly awaited a response.

The result of the review was the Science Advice Mechanism, known as the SAM, announced in May 2015. As I have blogged about before, the SAM will include two new features – a High Level Group of seven scientists, and a strengthened relationship with academies.

The composition of the High Level Group of Scientific Advisors was announced yesterday. Dame Julia Slingo FRS from the UK will sit on the Committee, as well as the following experts: Janusz Bujnicki, Pearl Dysktra, Elvira Fortunato, Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Cédric Villani and Henrik C. Wegener.

So what will the High Level Group aim to do? The Commission outlines its tasks as the following:

  1. To provide the Commission with independent scientific advice on specific policy issues where such advice is critical to the development of EU policies or legislation and does not duplicate advice being provided by existing bodies. The advice provided by the group shall identify the most important and relevant evidence and empirical findings that can support decision making on the specified policy issues, including an assessment of the robustness and limitations of the evidence and empirical findings.

  2. To support the Commission in identifying specific policy issues where independent scientific advice is needed.

  3. To provide recommendations for improving the overall interaction between Commission policy making processes and independent scientific advice concerning any field of Union policy making

In addition, we are awaiting further discussion on the second feature of the SAM I mentioned above: the strengthened relationship with the academies. Five European networks signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year, and have been discussing how they plan to engage with the SAM. They are meeting on a regular basis to discuss cooperation, and their next meeting will take place at the Royal Society later this week (the Society is a member of two of these five groups).

The debate on European science advice has been a lively one in 2015. It is encouraging to see that the European Commission is emphasising the role that high quality, independent scientific advice can play in policy making, and we will be monitoring the work of the SAM as it continues to take shape.