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Scientists meet parliamentarians: A relationship based on trust

Written by Nera Kuljanic and Zsolt G. Pataki

Scientists from all over Europe met with Members of the European and national parliaments on 15 September 2015 for ‘Science meets Parliaments’, an event co-hosted by the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel of the European Parliament (EP) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission. The event launched the 4th round of STOA’s ‘MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme’, which aims to promote a culture of science-based policy-making in the EP by helping create lasting links between scientists and MEPs. Matching the objectives of the new JRC initiative ‘Science meets parliaments’, which stresses the importance of science for evidence-informed policy-making, the project raises awareness of politically relevant, cutting-edge scientific issues, to create a structured dialogue between scientists and policy-makers.

Speakers at the opening session included Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth & Sport, whose responsibilities include the JRC; Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner responsible for Research, Science and Innovation; Mairead McGuinness, MEP, EP Vice-President responsible for STOA; and Jerzy Buzek, MEP, Chairman of the EP Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). The session was moderated by Paul Rübig, Chairman of the STOA Panel and Vladimír Šucha, JRC Director-General.

Speakers underlined the need for more effective use of existing EU institutional scientific expertise (e.g. JRC, agencies, EP research services) and the importance of better communication between policy-makers and scientists. Mairead McGuinness stressed the time constraints politicians often face, but also that technological developments facilitate ever faster access to information. She also reiterated Commissioner Moedas’ comments on the importance of trust among scientists, politicians and citizens. Jerzy Buzek added that the role of science is to provide evidence-based options to decision-makers, not final answers.

Eva Kaili, MEP and STOA Vice-Chair, presented the MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme, for which she is responsible within the STOA Panel, noting that the recently launched fourth round of the scheme sparked a lot of interest in the scientific community; with over 300 scientists and researchers from all over Europe applying to be ‘paired’ with an MEP. Members are now in the process of choosing their ‘scientific counterparts’, after which the pairs will meet in Brussels, probably during November 2015, when the scientists will accompany and possibly assist Members in their daily political activities. As a follow-up, the scientist-Member pairs will have the opportunity to organise an event with a European dimension on a topic of their choice.

The MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme launch was very well attended, the meeting room remaining packed from the beginning to the end of the event. A record number of 25 MEPs registered their interest, and most of them attended the sessions. If you were unable to attend in person, watch our video instead.

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About Scientific Foresight (STOA)

The Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) carries out interdisciplinary research and provides strategic advice in the field of science and technology options assessment and scientific foresight. It undertakes in-depth studies and organises workshops on developments in these fields, and it hosts the European Science-Media Hub (ESMH), a platform to promote networking, training and knowledge sharing between the EP, the scientific community and the media. All this work is carried out under the guidance of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA), composed of 27 MEPs nominated by 11 EP Committees. The STOA Panel forms an integral part of the structure of the EP.

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