Europe’s science for policy pathways

By Chloe Hill

Many scientists are motivated by a desire to make the world a better place and to use their expertise to help society and their communities. One way that scientists can increase the impact of their research is by engaging with policy. Euroscience’s Science for Policy Working Group recently outlined some of the do’s and don’ts for scientists who are motivated to engage in the policymaking process in the article Why should researchers get involved in science policy. This article will outline some European policy processes that scientists who are motivated to engage in science for policy can contribute to and put those do’s and don’ts into practice.   

You don’t need to understand the European Policy Institutions and processes completely to be able to engage with them and share your science. However, it is beneficial to have a basic understanding of which institutions are involved and when they use science during the policy cycle.  Today, we’ll zoom into the European Commission which proposes new policies and legislations for the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to pass.

Figure 1: A simplified view of the European Union’s legislative process

The European Commission gathers information and scientific evidence from numerous sources to assist in the prioritisation and drafting of legislation. 

European Commission Consultations 

Commission Consultations are generally the beginning of the European Union’s legislation process. They allow all interested stakeholders to provide expertise or submit their opinion on a particular topic or policy process via an online questionnaire.They also often call for the expertise or experience of a relevant group and allow attendees to upload additional information and sources. The information collected through the questionnaire is then analysed and fed into the decision-making process. 

Consultations are a great way for those who are less experienced with science for policy to be introduced to policy-relevant issues and may even highlight the policy-relevance of your research area. They also might provide you with some inspiration for future research.

European Commission Expert Groups 

European Commission Expert Groups are set up by the Commission and composed of individuals, organisations, the authorities of EU Member States, and other public entities. These groups provide a forum for discussion with high-level input from a wide range of sources and stakeholders that results in recommendations and reports. Specifically, they advise the European Commission in relation to: the preparation of legislative proposals, programmes and policies.

It is important to note that the European Commission gets information from many different sources. As such, any information given by European Expert Groups to the Commission isn’t binding and the Commission is able to make its own decision regardless of the group’s recommendations.

For transparency, the European Commission departments responsible for individual groups publish all relevant documents, including members, agendas and the meeting minutes on the Register or a dedicated website. Therefore, even if you aren’t able to join a European Expert Group, you can still look at what groups relevant to your area of expertise are working on. This may give you some insights into the policy relevance of your work, particular areas that will become important to policymakers in the near future or even spark some inspiration for future areas of research.

Figure 2: An example of a European Commission Expert Group

European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and Blue Book Traineeships 

Traineeships are a great way of learning more about what information policymakers need and how it can be used. It’s also a good way of creating a network that you can then use later in your career (regardless of whether you stay in science or work in another sector). 

Joint Research Centre (JRC) Traineeships 

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission’s in-house centre for scientific information. The JRC hosts two different types of compensated traineeships lasting between 3 and 5 months: 

  1. Training related to the preparation of a thesis for a university degree;
  2. Training after university education (or its equivalent) within 5 years after the last university degree.

These traineeships cover a range of different topics and can give scientists interested in getting more involved in science for policy an insight into Europe’s policy processes and experience communicating with policymakers. The JRC also has open calls for full time positions that may be of interest to scientists listed on their External Staff Recruitment Application website.

Blue Book Traineeships

The European Commission hosts their Blue Book Traineeships in EU Directorates, Institutions and agencies twice per year. These traineeships are compensated and are open to all EU citizens, regardless of age. There are also a limited number of places allocated to non-EU nationals. While Blue Book Traineeships don’t target scientists, your expertise may be valued in the department and projects that you are placed on.  Similar to the JRC’s traineeships, the Blue Book Traineeships is a good way to get a better understanding of Europe’s political system and how to effectively communicate with policymakers.

We hope that you’ve found this list useful! Lookout for our next article which will focus on the opportunities that exist for scientists to engage with the European Parliament!  If you have any questions about these pathways or would like the Euroscience Science for Policy Working Group to go into more detail on a particular aspect, please don’t hesitate to get in touch

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