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expert reaction to news about abolition of post of CSA to European Commission

The role of chief scientific adviser to the president of the European Commission has been scrapped. Anne Glover was the first holder of the post which was based within the Bureau of European Policy Advisers, a body which will cease to exist.


Prof Paul Hardaker, Chief Executive, Institute of Physics, said:

“It is deeply disappointing to hear about the abolition of the post of chief scientific adviser to the European Commission. It’s a major step backwards and a poor reflection on the Commission’s view of evidence-based policy making. It’s never been more important for the Commission to have access to the kind of impartial, independent advice provided by a chief scientific adviser post.

“We’d like to congratulate Professor Glover on her leadership and for all the work she’s done in the role. Her departure, and the wisdom and experience she has brought, will be a great loss to the EU’s programmes of work.”


Prof Sir Paul Nurse, President, The Royal Society, said:

“This appears to be a very backward step by the new Commission, having only made the enlightened decision to raise the profile of scientific advice 3 years ago. Scientific advice must be central to EU policy making, otherwise you run the risk of having important decisions being unduly influenced by those with mixed motives. If the Commission has a plausible plan for ensuring that scientific evidence will be taken seriously they need to start sharing it with people soon, otherwise they will encourage those who portray the Commission as out of touch and not willing to listen to informed advice.”


Ms Aisling Burnand, Chief Executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities, said:

“Linking science with policy making is essential for Europe’s future prosperity. The European chief scientific adviser provides independent expert advice on any aspect of science, technology and innovation, all of which underpin the EU’s economic growth agenda. Getting rid of the CSA sends a terrible message to the science community and will make global investors think the EU is not serious about a future based on science and technology.”


Prof Guy Poppy, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Food Standards Agency, and Professor of Ecology at the University of Southampton, said:

“Europeans need input from the best science and evidence to help address the major issues such as climate change, ageing, energy, water and food security and to ensure that risks are managed and regulated to ensure innovation and prosperity for all people today and tomorrow. The role of the CSA is to allow the conduit between the external work of scientific networks and science and the internal world of government and policy making. Sadly, I feel this conduit has been broken after the great progress of Anne Glover in enabling the complexities and challenges of scientific evidence to be explained and offered as an important lens for policy and decision making. The commission needs to act quickly and with leadership to demonstrate how such a fundamental and trusted link can be activated in the absence of a chief scientific adviser.”


Dr Sarah Main, Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), said:

“This feels like a blow to the stomach. With my most optimistic hat on, I can only hope that the new Political Strategy Centre will be designed with advice from Anne Glover to create a permanent home for independent scientific advice in the European Commission. However, I am not encouraged to such optimism by the fact that it has been confirmed that the centre will not have a chief scientific adviser role.

“Independent advice on the wealth of scientific information that must be considered in European policy-making is essential. British companies tell us they are often frustrated by policy decisions in Europe they see as uninformed by evidence which impact hugely on their ability to research and trade in the UK. Beyond the interests of the UK, there are challenges which science can help address that need international coordination, and Anne played a hugely important role in supporting collaborative scientific efforts across Europe.

“Some months ago, Anne reflected on her experience as European CSA and provided her employers with thoughts on how the recruitment process, operation and responsibilities of the role could be improved. I hope her advice is heeded.

“When asked as President Elect, Mr Junckner said ‘yes’, he would keep the very important role of European CSA. Later his office said that he valued independent scientific advice but would have to think about how to source it. I urge him and the 28 science ministers from across Europe to ensure that those with experience of the challenges of the role, notably Anne Glover herself, advise on how to permanently establish robust independent scientific advice in the Commission.”


Dr Robert Parker, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said:

“It is essential that EU policy is informed by independent scientific advice. As the European Commission’s chief scientific adviser, Anne Glover has raised the profile of science in European decision-making and has been a strong advocate for science and innovation as a driver of the European economy. That scientific evidence continues to underpin EU policy-making is vital – not just for scientists but for the wider benefit of all EU citizens. The President of the European Commission has assured the scientific community that he intends to seek independent scientific advice and we look forward to seeing how the Commission ensures this is core to EU policy-making going forward.”


Prof Dermot Kelleher, President of the Federation of European Academies of Medicine, said:

“The removal of the role of chief scientific adviser to the European Commission President is a step back for European science policy. Such a senior academic advisory position was key in catalyzing scientific advice, from across the spectrum, to inform the work of the European Commission in formulating sound policies for Europe. European networks of national Academies had expressed their support of Prof. Anne Glover’s advisory work and had called for greater resources to develop her European action so this is disappointing news.  We will follow closely how this gap will be addressed in future.”


Prof John Hardy, Professor of Neuroscience, UCL, said:

“It is a sad fact that often the last thing politicians like is rational advice.”


Mr Imran Khan, Chief Executive, British Science Association, said:

“Everyone – Europeans and the rest of the world alike – will rightly see this decision as the European Commission downgrading both the practical and the symbolic value of science in Europe.

“Right now Europe needs to be taking a global leadership role in science, emphasising the scientific strength of nations like the UK, so it’s pretty disappointing state of affairs.

“I’d urge UK politicians to take proactive leadership role in helping the EC reinstate this position.”


Prof Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, said:

“Ann Glover did a splendid job despite limited resources. It would send a disquieting signal if her success wasn’t built upon. It’s crucial for Europe that its immense scientific potential should be optimised and exploited. Multinational issues relating to health, environment and energy loom ever larger. It’s surely crucial that trusted independent expertise should be embedded in the Commission at the highest level. The role of chief scientific adviser should be strengthened, and not downgraded.”


Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said:

“The appointment of a chief scientific adviser by the last European Commission made an important practical and symbolic commitment to placing science, innovation and an evidence-based approach at the heart of the European Union’s policy-making and economic development. The Wellcome Trust is thus deeply disappointed by the Commission’s decision to abolish the role. There has been no explanation to the scientific community across Europe, which has admired, respected and valued the contribution that Prof Anne Glover has made as CSA.

“When we wrote to the President of the Commission with other medical research charities to express our support for the CSA role, we were assured by his office that he valued independent scientific advice. It is hard to see how the quality and influence of this advice can be maintained, let alone improved, by this decision. It is thus critical that the Commission consults the research community swiftly to create a new mechanism for bringing independent, transparent and evidence-based scientific advice to the heart of European decision-making.”


Prof Sir John Tooke, President, Academy of Medical Sciences, said:

“We are disappointed to hear that the role of chief scientific adviser the European Commission President has been abolished. It is critically important that the European Commission, and the EU more widely, receives and acts upon expert scientific advice. The role of chief scientific adviser is vital to ensure evidence from research is considered across the spectrum of the Commission’s work.”


Ms Tracey Brown, Director, Sense About Science, said:

“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. One chief scientific adviser, working with scant resources and a lack of clarity, was only ever a thread where many ropes were needed. But it indicated policy makers’ recognition that science and evidence are tools for making better, more accountable policy. It was an aspiration, one which came on the back of a series of directives that made little sense and were full of unintended consequences.

“Yes, next to other big influences in European policy making – the big EU ‘structural funds’ paid to advocacy groups to enable them to lobby in Europe and the formidable resources of commercial public affairs activity – the CSA role has been tiny. When Anne Glover took it on in 2012, she was surprised to find she had a smaller team than when she was chief scientific adviser for Scotland. However, the support and generosity of spirit shown by the research communities across Europe made it a workable if difficult role, as she has repeatedly thanked them for. In fact Anne Glover inspired that generosity, so much so that after just three years the research world came to believe that contributing to European policy making was part of their responsibilities. In the face of European policy challenges in energy, food production, pest and disease control and much else, this has been a huge step forward. What a wasteful and regrettable situation that the new Commission could be turning its back.”


Prof James Wilsdon, Professor of Science and Democracy, University of Sussex, said:

“There are legitimate debates to be had about the most effective arrangements for scientific advice in Europe, but it is hard not to interpret this decision as a serious downgrading of the role of science at the highest levels of the Commission. President Juncker now needs to clarify with urgency what alternative structures for scientific advice he plans to put in place. 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.”


Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, said:

“The announcement by the European Commission that the chief scientific adviser role has been abolished is 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.”


Prof Nigel Brown, President of the Society for General Microbiology, said:

“I am appalled at the abolition of the CSA post.  Many of the major challenges facing Europe – climate change, food security, healthy ageing, disease control – require scientific input to policy at the very highest level. This is disastrously short-sighted.”


Dr Roberto Bertollini, Chief Scientist and WHO Representative to the EU, World Health Organization, (speaking in a personal capacity) said:

I have to express my deep disappointment for this decision. In my personal view this shows once again unwillingness to accept independent scientific opinion as “one” of the basis for decision making and assessment of policies. Ideology and vested interests continue to dominate the public debate in Europe and elsewhere irrespective of the attempts to bring knowledge and science based advice in the picture.”


Prof Ian Boyd, Defra Chief Scientific Adviser, said:

“I am disappointed to hear that there will no longer be a chief scientific adviser in the European Commission. The role of chief scientific adviser has two main components. One is technocratic and I can see that there are other mechanisms that could assure the quality and relevance of this technical element of scientific advice used in government. But the other concerns the role of being a trusted adviser; the person who will privately say what they really think and not necessarily what they think people receiving the advice want to hear. This is about building personal relationships with decision-makers, including politicians and senior officials, while also being held to account by the scientific community one represents. The importance of this role for science cannot be overstated. I want to pay tribute to Anne Glover for her leadership. She has been a tireless advocate for the voice of science at the centre of government.”


Prof Colin Blakemore, Director, Centre for the Study of the Senses, University of London, said:

“It’s a sad day for science, policy, politics and the public in Europe.”


Declared interests

Prof Sir John Tooke:

Public Appointments Held at Present:
1)       Non-executive Director, UCLH NHS Foundation Trust; Chair of the Quality and Safety Committee, 2010-
2)       President, Academy of Medical Sciences, 2011-
3)       Member, National Institute for Health Research Advisory Board, 2007-
4)       Board Member, GMEC (Global Medical Excellence Cluster), 2012-
5)       Board Member, International Advisory Board, Qatar Academic Health Science Centre, 2011-
6)       Academic Director, UCL Partners, 2010-
7)       Member, Medical Schools Council Executive, 2007-
8)       Member, Associate Parliamentary Health Group, 2010-

Previous Public Appointments Held Within the Last 5 Years:
1)       Chair, UK Health Education Advisory Committee, 2005-2011
2)       Chair, Medical Schools Council, 2006-2009

Personal and Business Interests:
Non-executive Director, Bupa; Chair of the Medical Advisory Panel, 2009-2015

Tracey Brown: Sense About Science pressed for this role in 2009, after meeting with Commissioner Potocnik’s team about improving scientific input in the wake of errors in directives (e.g. Human Tissue, Physical Agents). The proposal convinced the Spanish presidency and was taken up by the UK government and EU scientific agencies).

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