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Science advice
By David Eldridge
Posted 11 September 2014
In July, Corporate Europe Observatory, a campaign group that focuses on corporate influence in EU policy making, called for the scrapping of the position of Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) to the President of the European Commission. The role was created by José Manuel Barroso when he appointed Prof Anne Glover as CSA in 2012, but in an open letter to Barroso’s successor, Jean-Claude Juncker, the campaign group said: “We hope that you as the incoming Commission President will decide not to nominate a CSA and that instead the Commission will take its advice from a variety of independent, multi-disciplinary sources, with a focus on the public interest.”
The group has objected to Glover’s public comments on genetically modified crops, and says the role of CSA “concentrates too much influence in one person”. It is interesting that these objections are being raised even though Glover has herself spoken out about the difficulties of commissioners wanting to use selective evidence to justify policy decisions. 
In May, she said: “What happens at the moment – whether it’s in Commission, Parliament or Council – is that time and time again, if people don’t like what’s being proposed, what they say is that there is something wrong with the evidence. So everybody blames the evidence and nobody is honest about the fact that in many cases, understanding the evidence is the best possible platform to make the logical extension into policy.”
This doesn’t sound like someone misusing their “influence” on policymakers. If anything, Glover seems to be saying that little has changed in policymakers’ glib attitude to scientific evidence. Her suggestion to Jean-Claude Juncker is to create a department for evidence gathering, which would operate with independence from policy making.
The science and policy scene in Brussels has intensified in recent years, and is full of accusation, mistrust and frustration from NGOs, corporates and politicians alike. In a situation that is likely to heat up further, surely having independent scientific advisers is better than not having them? Hearing a voice of reason may help the Commission make policy decisions that stand the test of time.

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