Chief Science Adviser for Europe

An editorial in this week’s Nature argues that the post of Chief Science Adviser to the Europe, created at a meeting of European Commissioners on 17 February, must have real teeth and the support needed to deliver effectively.

In an article on p326 (‘Setting the bar’), Nature reveals that there has been pressure within the Commission to bury the post in beaurocracy, which would have resulted in a lack of power, authority and independence for the occupant of the role. The Commission has now rejected this, making clear that the Chief Scientific Advisor will report directly to the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, and be supported by the Bureau of European Policy Advisors, a government think-tank close to the President.

The role of the Chief Scientific Adviser is likely to be to deliver science advice across the board, not just on matters related to the funding of scientific research in Europe, a welcome development given Barrosso’s comments last year when he pledged to fill the gap relating to the provision of high-quality, independent scientific advice at EU level. The editorial argues that the post-holder must be adequately supported, highlighting the example of the Office of Science and Technology in the U.S., headed by President Obama’s CSA, John Holdren. The OST has a team of 70 dedicated experts and similar should be created for the European CSA.

Highlighting the UK Government’s current efforts to develop principles on the use of independent scientific advice by ministers and civil-servants, the piece argues that similar priniples should be developed in Europe. The Commission should draw up guidelines to govern the relationship between Commissioners and the CSA, to ensure that independent science advice is intelligently procured and utilised.

See the BES and Biochemical Society’s joint response to the UK Government consultation on Guidelines for the Use of Scientific Analysis in Policy-Making.