A couple of updates to previous posts on science policy action in Europe, and on the level of the various Europe-wide entities.
The U.K. Chief Scientist pointed me (via Twitter) to this note that the search for his counterpart at the European Commission continues, more than 18 months after it was initially announced. The suggested reason is difficulty in finding the right person to take the job, which has not existed before at the Commission. Part of that difficulty may come from whatever is contained in the adviser’s job description, and whether there’s enough authority connected to the job to matter.
Also, the European Parliament acted on the recommendation of its Budgetary Control committee and voted to not approve closing the accounts of the European Medicines Agency for 2009. While there are other concerns of mismanagement of finances connected to the failure to approve the agency’s accounts, the one of most concern to readers is likely the issues with conflicts of interest policies. Essentially the European Parliament thinks the agency isn’t doing enough, and the agency disagreed. As I noted last month, it appears to be a case of an entity finding no wrongdoing but acting flat-footed with how the possible problem is perceived by others (Interior Department, I’m looking in your general direction). As the others in this case have authority over the agency, it seems like this could have been avoided with stronger actions. But given the lax standards of disclosing conflicts of interest in biomedical research, I’m not surprised at this disappointing outcome. Since this action preserves the European Parliament’s ability to conduct oversight of the agency for the year in question, I expect that some action is still to come. Per the official decision, the agency will have until 30 June to conduct (along with the Commission’s audit services) a thorough verification of the effectiveness of its conflicts procedures.