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The Commissions’s new scientific advisors get to work

The newly established High Level Group of Scientific Advisors is up and running, having met for the first time on 29 January in Brussels. The group forms a core element of the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism, which was set up to support the Commission with independent scientific advice for evidence-based policy-making. The group boasts seven European leading scientists who will bring together high-quality evidence and insights from different disciplines to provide an independent scientific perspective in addition to the scientific and technical support provided by the Joint Research centre, the Commission’s in-house research service. As such, the panel is a successor to the short-lived position of the EU Chief Scientific Advisor, held by Anne Glover between 2012 and 2014 and scrapped by the then incoming EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in plans to come up with a new system of independent scientific advice. The seven-member panel should please the critical voices that had called for the axing of the controversial Chief Scientific Advisor post on the grounds that it concentrated too much influence in the hands of one person.

The panel of scientists will meet four to six times a year to provide advice on policy issues at the request of the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation. The panel’s first meeting on 29 January was attended by Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, and Andrus Ansip, the Commission's vice-president responsible for the Digital Single Market. At their request, the panel will focus on issues in cybersecurity and vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide in the weeks and months to come. The Commission will support the work of the panel with an allocation of EUR 6 million through its 2016 Horizon 2020 work programme to encourage collaboration with European national academies of science. 

The seven members of the star-studded panel, appointed last November for two and a half years, are Janusz Bujnicki, head of the laboratory of bioinformatics and protein engineering at Warsaw’s International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology; Pearl Dykstra, professor of sociology at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam; Elvira Fortunato, a materials scientist at NOVA University in Lisbon; Rolf-Dieter Heuer, departing director-general of CERN; Julia Slingo, chief scientist with the UK’s Met Office; Cédric Villani, Fields medal winner and director of the Henri Poincaré Institute, in Paris; and Henrik Wegener, provost of the Technical University of Denmark.  European Commission