Imprensa

Imprensa

Streit über ‚TV-Rolle’ für führenden EU-Wissenschaftler

2009-12-09

Prominente Akteure der europäischen Wissenschaftspolitik sind sich uneins, ob der vorgeschlagene wissenschaftliche Chefberater ein hauseigener Berater des Präsidenten der EU-Exekutive oder ein unabhängiger Frontmann für die Wissenschaft sein soll.

John Wood, who chairs the European Research Area Board (ERAB) - which proposed the creation of a Chief Scientific Advisor - sees the role as a public advocate on scientific issues. 

He says the advisor should be independent-minded and feel free to give evidence-based advice. It should be a person who can go on television during times of crisis, such as a pandemic, and help communicate on scientific matters in a way that engages the public and allays fears. 

"The Chief Scientist for Europe should be someone who speaks for science - someone who goes on TV during a crisis," he said. 

This follows the model of UK scientific advisors, who have been known to lock horns with government agencies on matters of science policy. The US takes a similar approach, with President Barack Obama appointing a panel of high-calibre advisors from a range of disciplines. The head of the team is based in the US president's executive office. 

Cultural differences over definition of job 

However, there appears to be a major gulf between this Anglo-Saxon model and what might be envisaged by Brussels. High-level science policymakers in the EU institutions view the role less as an independent voice of science, and more as a scientifically-savvy confidante of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. 

Portuguese MEP Maria da Graça Carvalho, formerly an advisor on scientific and innovation issues to Barroso, said the president was putting knowledge at the centre of the EU's agenda and the Chief Scientific Advisor would play a role in this. 

She compared the proposed role of a scientific advisor with that of a political advisor, saying the new position would be given to someone who can offer evidence-based policies on scientific issues ranging from health to climate change. 

Announcing his plan to create the new position, Barroso himself said the advisor would have the power "to deliver proactive, scientific advice throughout all stages of policy development and delivery". 

Whether this turns out to be closer to Carvalho's expectations or Wood's definition remains to be seen. 

Wood, who has rubbished reports in the UK press linking him to the role, said the job would be less attractive to top scientists if it were merely a backroom policy position rather than a high-profile advocacy role. 

Background

In September, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced plans to appoint a Chief Scientific Advisor to assist the incoming EU executive in making tough decisions on everything from GMO authorisations to addressing climate change (EurActiv 25/09/09). 

The new job, to be created after the new-look EU executive is sworn in, forms part of an ongoing period of major reflection within the Commission, which is re-organising its directorates in charge of science, research and innovation policy. 

Numerous scientific committees are already providing the European Commission with advice on policy decisions or proposals related mainly to consumer safety, public health and the environment. 

In addition, specific EU agencies, such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), have been set up to handle particular technical and scientific tasks. 

Further advice for EU policymaking is provided by the Commission's in-house research facilities, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Bureau of Economic Policy Advisers (BEPA) and the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE). 

The European Research Area Board (ERAB), a high-level, independent advisory committee created by the Commission, also provides advice on the design and implementation of EU research policy. 

The EU executive also receives ad hoc advice from a number of 'comitology' committees regarding the implementation of EU legislation in national administrations.