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Building a common database on scientific research and public decision on TSE in Europe


The experience of the BSE crisis in Europe reveals the needs of a better exchange of data within the scientific community and between this community, the policy-making area and interests groups. Have we had a tool to exchange these data, the research of tests to detect TSE pathogens could probably have lead to earlier results. But also, such a tool could have helped to identify weak signals that appeared before the crisis developed.
The kind of data base which we propose to construct does not yet exist on either a national or an EU-wide basis.
Indeed, the primary objective of this project is to construct an integrated relational data base which will include, in a detailed chronological form, information on the emergence of scientific information on BSE and other TSEs, and the responses to those developments in the form of research programmes and projects and in the form of expert and official advice and regulations ("SEPD" data base). This data base will be updated during the entire period of the project. It will be accessible on the WEB.
The second objective will be to analyse the data on the emergence of scientific evidence and the responses of various EU Member States to that evidence in terms of both regulatory and research policies, with a view to constructing a set of benchmarks by reference to which an early warning system will de designed and constructed.
Partners will be based in France (including overall co-ordination and co-ordination of scientometrics and databases), Netherlands (including co-ordination of the design of a monitoring and early warning system), the UK (including co- ordination of decision making analysis) and Portugal (including co-ordination of the analysis of national action systems).
Deliverables will include reports on national action systems, SEPD data base (which will be available on the WEB), a report on decision making procedures in contexts of scientific uncertainty, a report on the use of the SEPD database as a tool for an early warning system and an integrated overall report. We shall also organise an open seminar where the preliminary results of the research will be discussed with a large audience, including National and European Officials, members of the scientific community, associations and journalists.
The strength and novelty of this project lies in:
. the creation of a common chronological database including heterogeneous elements such as scientific references, newspapers articles, regulatory decisions, expert advisory committees recommendations. This will be made by the integration of different databases through a common electronic document architecture driven by the same software. The use of scientometric tools will allow to compare the lexical networks in order to better understand how information circulates between the different contexts of the study (the scientific, regulatory, advisory and open internet contexts).
. the use of such a data base as a tool in an early warning system: we will have to analyse precisely the links between the different informations, claims or decisions and the nature of networks within which they circulate. In this aim, the comparative nature of the project will be decisive to understand the interactions between the different signals, the nature of networks and the type of decisions or problems that arrive on the top of the agendas. A look back analysis researching the strength and shortcomings of such a system in the previous BSE crisis will be used as input for the design of a future early warning system.
For these reasons, it will provide a significant new contribution to the building of chronological data bases in areas which involve strong interactions between science and policy making. This contribution will be helpful for the specific area of TSE research but also for other areas where the same characteristics are present.


Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique
Centre De Recherche D'avignon
38040 Grenoble