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EU science policy organisations

The European Commission (EC) and the European Parliament (EP) have different mechanisms to ensure policy workers and MEPs are briefed on scientific material. The EC conducts in-house scientific research within the Joint Research Centre and has recently constructed the Scientific Advice Mechanism to ensure that the latest academic research is heard.

There are 751 MEPs (including the UK) within the EP. All MEPs are required to sit on at least one of the 20 committees that focus on a particular area of governance. Each committee is responsible for assessing legislation proposals and negotiating edits to legislation with the Council of the EU. Additionally, they can organise meetings with experts and commission internal reports that focus on their relevant policy areas.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC)

The JRC is the EC’s in-house scientific research centre, which provides independent evidence throughout the whole policy cycle. Research topics include agriculture, climate change, energy, mineral resources, and environmental issues. The broad range of supported policies are covered in this booklet.

The JRC has specialist laboratories and research facilities located across five different countries that employ thousands of scientists. They collaborate with over 200 external institutions (including the EGU).

Further information on DG JRC may be found at https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en.

The European Parliament Research Service (EPRS)

The EPRS is the in-house research centre for the European Parliament (not to be confused with the JRC who are the in-house research service for the European Commission. They operate as the main provider of science to the EP; usually carrying out secondary research or commissioning primary research in response to requests made by MEPs, committees or other EP bodies. They also carry out joint projects with the JRC, for example the Science Meets Parliaments scheme (see below).

Many of their subsequent reports and resources are available online for the general public to read. Additionally, they have an active blog in which they post a variety of different types of articles [3]. These include updates on ongoing legislation being drafted by the EU, information briefings about a science policy topic, more in-depth analysesinfographics, and factsheets.

Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA)

MEP committee representatives can sit on cross-committee panels, which look at interdisciplinary topics. The Science and Technology Options Assessment, or STOA, is a cross-committee panel that focuses on providing Parliament’s Committees and other parliamentary bodies with independent and impartial scientific advice for science-related issues. The panel was established in 1987 and is made up of 23 MEPs that span eight permanent Committees of the Parliament: AGRI, CULT, EMPL, ENVI, IMCO, ITRE, JURI and TRAN. STOA also employs secretariat staff to help with projects and events [2].

STOA (who meet monthly) have budget to fund research projects totalling 650,000 euros per year. Together with the EPRS they fund more substantial projects to provide scientific evidence for topics of policy-relevance. A study can have a maximum amount of 100,000 euros funding.

STOA work very closely with the EPRS. Together, the types of projects conducted are:

  • Impact Assessments. These usually have a timeframe of <1 year and a resulting report is written for the requesting committee.
  • Technology Assessments have a shorter time frame. The usual result is a short report summarising the current state of affairs for a specific topic.
  • Scientific Foresight Unit carries out projects that look at 30-50 years into the future. Activities include horizon scanning, scenario building, and legislative back-casting (to accomplish an end goal, i.e. 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, what legislature is needed in the near future to achieve this).
  • Short written documents include “awareness documents” and “What If” documents, which are all available on the EPRS blog.
  • The Scientists-MEPs pairing scheme entitled Science Meets Parliaments, which is co-organised by the Joint Research Centre. This year there was over 30 pairs and there are already plans to hold the scheme again in late 2016. A summary of the experience can been found here.
  • Discussion workshops in which external experts can be called into present scientific research on a particular topic. Previous topics have been on volcanic eruptions and mitigation of earthquake effects.

Current projects being conducted focus on ‘future agriculture’ (precision farming), ‘assistive tech for the disabled’, and ‘3D printing and additive manufacturing’. Possible future topics will cover: energy resistance, employments, new technologies, regional policy, and language development within the information era.

Sources:

  1. http://www.eubusiness.com/Members/michaelterberg/MEPs
  2. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/stoa/cms/home/panel
  3. https://epthinktank.eu/about/

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