Several East European countries took part in the first meeting of a pan-European network of chief science advisers – people who advise governments on a range of issues based on scientific evidence – in Copenhagen, Denmark, yesterday.
The meeting took place at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF2014) conference with Eastern European representatives coming from Croatia, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Hungarian representative was scheduled to take part but did not attend, a press briefing at ESOF2014 was told yesterday (23 June).
Slovakia does not have a chief scientific adviser according to Stanislav Sipko, adviser for science and technology policy of the science ministry there.
“We are among the member states where [science advice] is less developed, unlike in the UK or Ireland, or other member states, where it is already at quite a high level,” Sipko told Balkan Science Beat.
“In Slovakia scientific advice [specifically] on science policy is more developed. About which priorities to invest into or how to establish research centres, etc. It’s more developed in that way than in giving scientific advice in order to have evidence-based policies.”
“I think this is something which will only come with practice in Slovakia, because majority of decisions in, for example energy and other issues, in Slovakia are mostly politically motivated rather rather than based on real scientific evidence.”
Sipko said the network could provide mutual learning on best practices and how to carry out scientific advice and use a variety of sources and data.
“It’s very important to have the possibility of immediate contact with our counterparts in other countries to ask them how this particular thing is functioning in their country.”
Anne Glover, scientific adviser to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, who spearheaded the network’s establishment, said that more than half of EU member states are “now saying they value science and they want to think of science advice as something quite high up the agenda”.
The new network will seek to identify “key topics” of interest they can work on together more closely. “Science becomes very powerful when we can speak with one voice,” Glover said.
She added this was not meant to signify that they will ignore uncertainty and disagreement within science, but rather seek what they can agree upon.
Glover said different models of providing science advice exist in different states – for good reasons – and that there is scope for learning from each other.
But she was vague on details. Also, interestingly, the members of the network were put forward by the individual governments, and it is not always clear how they relate to science advice structures in the country.
For example, Croatia has a scientific adviser to the prime minister (Neven Budak) and to the president of the state (Ankica Marinović), but the representative at the network was neither of those, but Ivo Družić, president of the National Council for Science, Higher Education and Technological Development, who, Glover said, was put forward by the recently fired science minister Zeljko Jovanovic.
Sir Mark Walport, chief scientific adviser to the UK government, told another meeting on science policy at ESOF yesterday that the job of a science adviser is “to underpin policy with the best possible evidence at the time” and “to find the best scientific expertise, wherever it is” by brokering advice and bringing the right people to the table.