UK Chief Scientist Argues for More Science Advice in the EU.

Professor John Beddington, The U.K. Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, recommended in remarks with BBC News (H/T Nature News) that the European Union needs stronger scientific advice.  He specifically recommended following the American model, oddly enough, pointing to President Obama’s “dream team” as a good example for Europe to follow.  Professor Beddington was positive about the research support provided to the Commission, but feels that more “brutal” policy advice was needed.

Perhaps he didn’t want to appear self-serving, but it appears to me that the American model is not nearly as well suited to what Professor Beddington wants as the U.K. model is.  Throughout the BBC News piece you’ll note descriptions of the British system (which includes scientific advisers in 17 different departments) as independent, proactive and sometimes irritating.  While that certainly describes science policy advocates in this country, American science advisers are not set up to be independent or proactive.  At least not those advisers with formal government positions.  So I am a bit perplexed as why the less independent system would be advanced as the example to follow.

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3 thoughts on “UK Chief Scientist Argues for More Science Advice in the EU.

  1. Seems like there are a couple of issues:

    How many science advisors? (Is more better, up to a point after which utility diminishes?)

    Where are the science advisors? (giving advice to the President directly or to Secretaries of individual departments or both?)

    What disciplines do they possess and how do they take advantage of other relevant disciplines? (through advisory bodies or do they just take their own discipline’s view?)

    How independent are they?

    These all seems like arguments for advisory boards rather than individual science advisors. But perhaps that is part of our American culture, individual scientist as cowboy riding into town rather than part of a group (council of wise elders?).

  2. The UK advisers are scattered throughout various ministries, and advise those ministers. There is a greater expectation of independence, where MPs have complained about a lack of criticism from science advisers, most recently Beddington.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/jan/20/homeopathy-cannabis-john-beddington

    As the BBC News article indicated, the advisers in the UK are somehow expected to oppose their ministers if they think their policies are unworkable. This leads me to see the system as having an Inspector General quality to it. This is unheard of in U.S. government.

    As for boards vs. individual advisers, this seems to presume a situation where the individual advisers are the sole adviser. Individual scientists who act like cowboys in the U.S. don’t get political jobs.

  3. Pingback: European Commission President Seeks Science Adviser « Pasco Phronesis

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