Rafael del Pino Foundation, the Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology and the British Embassy.
The Rafael del Pino Foundation, the Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology and the British Embassy organised the event "Scientific advice in the UK and Spain" on 22 June 2017.
The event took place according to the following programme:
12.40 Scientific advice in the UK Robin GrimesChief Scientific Adviser to the Foreign Commonwealth Office
12:35. Colloquium: "Scientific advice in Spain and the United Kingdom". Carmen VelaSecretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation and Robin GrimesChief Scientific Adviser to the Foreign Commonwealth Office.
13:05. Round table: "The future of scientific advice". – Emilio Lora TamayoPresident of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) – Antoni Esteve CruellaPresident of the Fundació Catalana per a la Recerca i la Innovació (Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation) – Chris TylerDirector of the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST) – Julie MaxtonChief Executive of the Royal Society – Cristina Gallardosenior editor at "Research" (moderator)
Scientific advice is understood as the set of processes, structures and institutions by which governments and policy makers take into account scientific, technological and innovation knowledge for policy decisions.
Broadly speaking, governments often rely on different structures or institutions for scientific advice: advisory councils or committees, national academies and learned societies, or chief scientific advisors. In relation to the latter, the UK has had a Chief Scientific Advisor attached to the Prime Minister since 1964, and since 2002, Chief Scientific Advisors have been appointed to different ministries.
Scientific advice is more necessary than ever in the face of the global challenges facing humanity, such as climate change, major epidemics, energy sustainability, cybersecurity, food and natural resource scarcity.
However, there is no perfect scientific advice mechanism. Often countries combine several of the above-mentioned structures to enrich the debate and provide as much information as possible for evidence-based policy decisions.
Therefore, there is a need to share good practices and solutions adopted to address the common challenges of science advice (keeping up with the fast pace of current policy developments, intermediaries in the process, differences between "science for policy" and "policy for science", interdisciplinarity, etc.).
What would Spain gain from a model of scientific advice that is more embedded in the executive and legislative spheres? What are the objectives and benefits of a greater scientific culture in policy-making? This debate will present case examples of science advice and existing structures in Spain and the UK to seek common ground and opportunities for improvement.
On 22 June 2017, a dialogue on "Scientific advice in the UK and Spain" took place at the Rafael del Pino Foundation. The event was opened by Robin Grimes, Chief Scientific Advisor at the Foreign Commonwealth Office, who spoke about the importance of creating a network of scientific advisors who can develop a real diplomatic activity. This is about ensuring that foreign policy is informed by the best available science and having access to appropriate scientific networks. Only a few countries have science advisors in foreign ministries. These are important because they create the conditions for the exchange of scientific knowledge. The UK has 90 such people in 31 countries. It has also set up the London Diplomatic Science Club, which aims to pass on scientific knowledge to diplomats. Science diplomacy aims to inform policy objectives, provide scientific evidence and access to scientific networks. Ultimately, it seeks to improve political, social and economic ties. Scientific advice can reduce the risks associated with crisis situations or disasters by analysing, establishing causes, estimating impact and anticipating consequences. Scientific advice was crucial in cases such as avian influenza, Ebola, volcanic ash, the Fukushima accident, the floods in the north of England and Zika. Our ability to respond to such situations relies on scientific value chains, which allow us to look at difficult issues from different angles. To work, scientific advice must be based on three rules: clear roles and responsibilities, independence, transparency and openness. To organise science advisory networks requires government collaboration, communication and support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, relations with the scientific community and access to scientific and technological equipment. Carmen Vela, Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation, pointed out that scientific advice in Spain is a desire because we believe it is good for our country. Although Spanish science is in its thirties, we are between tenth and eleventh in the world in terms of scientific production. We can say that we are a young, small and efficient system. Our experience in scientific consultancy began in 2014. We needed it to deal with Ebola. We have to learn how to plan for this kind of thing. What we need for this is a scientific community involved in including science in the political and public debate, channels of communication between both sides, the willingness of the executive and the legislature, and creating a culture of scientific advice for scientific decision-making. We already have a Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council, a Scientific and Technical Committee of the State Research Agency, training courses for scientists and government officials and exchange programmes between politicians and scientists. Finally, a round table discussion was held with the participation of Emilio Lora Tamayo, President of the Spanish National Research Council; Antoni Esteve Cruella, Director of Esteve and President of the Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation; Chris Tyler, Director of Public Policy at the University College of London, and Jo Dally, Director of Research at the Science Policy Centre of the UK Royal Society. Emilio Lora stressed that we need a system of scientific advice. We are talking about the use of scientific evidence to support government policies. The CSIC has the task of informing, assisting and advising. The Council provides 6% of the scientific community. A community that comes when called and even before it is called. This is why structures and protocols are needed to organise scientific advice. There is also a need for a kind of permanent on-call group, to intervene in emergency situations, and which can operate with criteria of excellence. For Antoni Esteve, it is important that scientists have the capacity to participate in and influence research policy. The private sector wants research to be productive. This requires a stable environment that allows them to invest. Such stability is complex and can be achieved when citizens believe that research will be beneficial. Such a framework can be created if there is an all-party commitment to the goals and the need to push research forward. Chris Tyler spoke about the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, which was set up 30 years ago because of the prevailing dissatisfaction with science. What the office does is to advise MPs on science, technology, health, environment and social science issues. It does this through written reports of no more than four pages that are reviewed by twenty to thirty people. These reports are complemented by the development of relationships between scientists and politicians. This is intended to help parliamentarians see the long term, beyond the next election. They also train parliamentarians in science. Finally, Jo Dally spoke about the goal of seeking international collaboration on science. What they do is think and then send the ideas to the government. Regarding the relationship between academics and politicians, what the Royal Society does is to promote communication between the two sides and to convey to the government what science is all about.
The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for the comments, opinions or statements made by the people who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their sole responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio González, are the result of the debates held at the meeting held for this purpose at the Foundation and are the responsibility of the authors.
The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for any comments, opinions or statements made by third parties. In this respect, the FRP is not obliged to monitor the views expressed by such third parties who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their own responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio J. González, are the result of the discussions that took place during the conference organised for this purpose at the Foundation and are the sole responsibility of its authors.