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Hans-Olaf Henkel on the new organization of the scientific chief advisory board

20 May 2015

Hans-Olaf Henkel on the new organization of the scientific chief advisory board

The ECR Group acknowledges the increasing need for evidence-based policy-making. However, we have doubts about the effectiveness, efficiency and independence of the new system which is to be put in place in autumn 2015. There are already extensive institutional structures for scientific advice in place, for instance, the Joint Research Centre or Horizon 2020, which can be more beneficial, if strengthened in their capabilities.

The ECR Group acknowledges the increasing need for evidence-based policy-making. However, we have doubts about the effectiveness, efficiency and independence of the new system which is to be put in place in autumn 2015. There are already extensive institutional structures for scientific advice in place, for instance, the Joint Research Centre or Horizon 2020, which can be more beneficial, if strengthened in their capabilities.

In his speech at the meeting of the ECR Group on 13/01/2015 Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, promised to appoint a new Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA). Nonetheless, the Commission has abolished that position after the end of the CSA’s mandate. The Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation has been asked to deal with the question of how “independent” scientific advice to the Commission can be better institutionalized in the future. Thus, last week, a new mechanism for “independent” scientific advice in the European Commission was presented. The proposed so-called mechanism consists of “a structured relationship” with scientific advisory bodies as well as a new institutional body named “High Level Group of Eminent Scientists”. The aim is to ensure effective, efficient and independent scientific advice that is geared to the needs of policy.

We acknowledge the increasing need for evidence-based policy-making. However, we have doubts about the effectiveness, efficiency and independence of the new system which is to be put in place in autumn 2015. We are apprehensive of political influence in the decision-making process and the use of “scientific advice” as a political tool. There are already extensive institutional structures for scientific advice in place, for instance, the Joint Research Centre or Horizon 2020, which can be more beneficial, if strengthened in their capabilities.

ECR Vice-President Hans-Olaf Henkel, MEP comments:”The new organization is complicated and costly. The usefulness of handing over the duties of the Chief Scientific Advisor to an entire group of scientists is doubtful, especially as more people will be taking responsibility. Parallel to these structural reforms, Horizon 2020 funding has been cut. Institutions of research and development are worried about the extent to which the so-called “Juncker programme” will be financed to the detriment of Horizon 2020. The programme cannot contribute to economic growth and jobs in Europe by counting on private research activities, because particularly basic research and those in the humanities can hardly be financed privately. One should invest in knowledge, not bureaucracy!”

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