Written by Sarah McCormack and Zsolt G. Pataki,
Ensuring that MEPs are informed about scientific and technological developments is crucial for their policy-making role and an essential part of the mission of the European Parliament’s Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel. STOA will host, on 8 November 2016, the second ‘Science meets Parliaments’ event, in cooperation with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). This has now become an annual event aiming to promote policy-making based on scientific evidence. The event enables open and direct communication by bringing together Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and European scientists to better understand each other’s needs and the challenges they face. This follows on from last year’s very successful ‘Science meets Parliaments‘ event which brought together over 150 participants, including 13 MEPs and scientific experts from the JRC and umbrella scientific organisations. During that event, pressing issues facing policy-makers and scientists alike, such as circular economy, resource efficiency, the Digital Single Market, and Industry 4.0 were discussed. Representatives of organisations such as UNESCO, CESAER, and the Leibnitz Association addressed the obstacles standing in the way of effective cooperation between the worlds of science and policy.
This years’ ‘Science meets Parliaments’ event will also see the launch of the 5th round of STOA’s MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme which is being led by the First STOA Vice-Chair, MEP Eva Kaili. The previous round of the MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme was successfully undertaken by STOA last year and received applications from over 300 scientists, who wanted to partake in the scheme. The scientists were required to be from either a public or private university/research institution, come from any of the 28 EU Member States and be award winners who have demonstrated excellence in their field. About one third of the applicants were considered eligible for participation in the scheme and 31 were chosen to be paired with a MEP.
Once paired, the scientists were given the opportunity to better understand the decision-making process and the work of their MEP counterparts by shadowing them in their daily parliamentary activities during ‘Brussels Week’. During that week, the scientists were able to attend committee meetings and experience the day-to-day lives of the MEPs. They also listened to presentations explaining the decision-making process and the work of the European Parliament. This is vital for both sides to find out how they can best profit from each other’s knowledge and experience. Follow-up visits for MEPs to see their paired scientists at work were also organised.
Given the huge interest the scheme attracted last year, no call for the expression of interest by scientists will be launched again this year, the pairs will instead be chosen from the existing pool of scientists who were deemed eligible last year. STOA recently contacted the 75 unpaired scientists asking them to confirm whether they wished to partake in the 5th edition of the scheme by 31 May 2016. So far, a great number of positive responses have been received from scientists seeking to be a part of the scheme this year.
To keep up to date about the activities linked to this round of the ‘Science meets Parliaments’ event and MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme check out the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) Blog or follow us on Twitter @EP_ThinkTank.