“If you want to get someone to talk about science, don’t bring a scientist”
On 21 January 2015 the European Commission played host to a large scale event to mark the 1st Annual meeting of the Scientific Panel for Health (SPH). This group was not initiated by the Commission directly but brought forward by the Alliance for Biomedical Research in Europe with the support of MEPs. Its overarching goals are to:
This panel’s activities are not funded and new schemes by the Commission which do not involve funding can receive mixed responses. The EIP on Active on Health Ageing conference was held two years previously (incidentally in the exact same room as the conference in question) and on the announcement that it was an unfunded initiative, half the delegates promptly walked out of the chamber and declared it a waste of time.
Something was quite different about this group however. The Commission has many scientific advisory bodies that inform the Commission in their policy making. The SPH however is not seeking to merely advise policy with science but actually create science policies themselves.
Such a notion of “science by the scientists for the scientists” may not seem unusual but it is surprising rare. The chasm between what makes sense to a scientist and what makes sense to a politician is so vast that it is often said in the Brussels bubble “If you want to get someone to talk about science, don’t bring a scientist”. Such has been the relationship between the scientific community and policy makers.
For those who know where to ask, there is talk that the Commission is not too thrilled at the notion of their policy actually being created rather than just advised. While the conference could be said to be a success this will be a tentative year for this new group. A combative approach with the Commission to push through policy will get them nowhere, yet nowhere is where they will remain if the Commission seeks to block their initiatives.