Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker almost immediately after his election to President of the European Commission brought controversy from many directions one of which was his decision to abolish the position of Chief Scientific Advisor.
Knowing that this was seen as a scandal amongst the scientific stakeholders at EU level and a blatant sign of giving in to Green NGOs who were disgruntled with the former Advisor’s views on GMOs, the Commission sought to placate researchers with the promise that the position of Chief Scientific Advisor had not been scrapped altogether.
Commissioner for Research, Carlos Moedas has been requested to present President Juncker with a list of options for ensuring independent scientific advice to the Commission. While Commissioner Moedas has talked at length about the value of research and “good science”, the reality is that the Commission is failing to make a distinction between science and science policy. Science policy is political. Science as a discipline knows no politics.
Although this is only the embryonic stage of this debate, there is a significant risk that the result will be what has already happened in the United States of America with the relevance of core scientific concepts such as evolution being determined by political persuasion rather than the results of scientific consensus.
The options that Mr. Moades develops will be a strong test for the new Commissioner and will provide the scientific community with a great deal of insight into how he intends to direct research policy. Will he stand up for science or swing to calmer political waters at its expense?