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Science Advice for Policy by European Academies

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2020-10-31

The “Science Advice for Policy by European Academies” (SAPEA) project is part of the Scientific Advice Mechanism of the European Commission (SAM), which supports the College of Commissioners with high quality, timely and independent scientific advice for its policy-making activities. SAPEA brings together the five European Academy Networks: Academia Europaea, ALLEA, EASAC, Euro-CASE and FEAM. Through these Academy Networks, the SAPEA project pools the resources of around 100 individual science academies, each with hundreds of Fellows, in over 40 countries across Europe. While the individual Academy Networks are specialised in certain scientific areas, the SAPEA project combines these respective areas of expertise and ensures the inclusion of all scientific disciplines (social, human, natural, engineering and medical sciences). In addition, SAPEA includes Fellows of young academies and other early-career scientists in its activities.

In view of the increasing complexity of today’s societal challenges and the growing need for independent interdisciplinary scientific evidence to inform policymaking, the project’s core objectives are:
• to provide science-based policy advice and scientific inputs in different formats, in particular Evidence Review Reports, to inform the Scientific Opinion of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors of the European Commission and the wider public;
• to raise awareness of scientific evidence, especially the Advisors’ work and that of SAPEA, in policymaking and stimulate the debate in Europe on these issues; and
• to strengthen cooperation and foster synergies between the Academy Networks and their member academies, as well as to make the existing structures more sustainable.

The working groups comprising the academy Fellows and other outstanding experts are the key component in providing interdisciplinary scientific policy advice. Topics for SAM stem either from the European Commission when requesting scientific advice for a specific policy issue or may be proposed by SAPEA or the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors.
A dedicated communications office supports the communication and dissemination of the project’s results which are also published on the project´s website: SAPEA will contribute to tackling the COVID-19 related needs of scientific evidence.
One of the first tasks SAPEA undertook was to develop “Guidelines on advising policymakers and society” and “Procedures for quality assurance of scientific advice”. Further, a database of reports from individual academies across Europe and from the Academy Networks was established in 2017. It has been regularly updated and is publicly available on the website
In 2016 and 2017 Academy Fellows and experts, nominated by the academies, actively contributed to the following Explanatory Notes and Scientific Opinions of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors (the Group):
• ‘Cybersecurity in the European digital single market’, requested by Vice President Ansip and Commissioner Oettinger, Scientific Opinion published in March 2017,
• ‘New techniques in agricultural biotechnology’, requested by Commissioner Andriukaitis, Explanatory Note published in April 2017.

Between 2017 and 2020, SAPEA produced the following Evidence Review Reports which informed the related Scientific Opinion of the Group:
• ‘Food from the Oceans’, requested by Commissioner Vella, published in November 2017,
• ‘Novel carbon capture and utilisation technologies: research and climate aspects’, requested by Commissioner Cañete, published in May 2018,
• ‘Improving authorisation processes for plant protection products in Europe’, requested by Commissioners Andriukaitis and Moedas, published in June 2018,
• 'A Scientific perspective on microplastics in nature and society', proposed by the Group to the European Commission, published in January 2019,
• ‘Transforming the future of Ageing’, proposed by SAPEA, published in June 2019,
• ‘Making sense of science for policy under conditions of complexity and uncertainty’, proposed by the Group, published in July 2019,
• 'A sustainable food system for the European Union', proposed by the Group to the European Commission, published in April 2020,
• 'Biodegradability of plastics in the open environment', requested by Commissioner Karmenu Vella, published in December 2020.

In 2017, SAPEA organised two workshops on ‘Best practices of Interaction between Academies and with policymakers’ in Madrid and Bucharest. The workshops brought together 80 participants from 25 countries and 52 national academies and were the first opportunity for an inter-academy exchange of information amongst academies in Europe with backgrounds in humanities, medicine, science and technology.
SAPEA organised and participated in a series of public events designed to promote evidence about the topics mentioned above. The events proved to be very successful with regard to animating public debate. The overviews of the events and media coverage are published on the project website

Good examples of success include the organisation of three international conferences and the publication of the outcomes in three reports:
• ‘Crossing boundaries - new approaches to science for policy in Europe’, which took place as part of the programme of the Estonian Presidency of the European Council in October 2017 in Tallinn and was hosted by the Estonian Academy of Sciences,
• ‘Shaping European Science Advice: Insights and Experiences’ which took place as part of the programme of the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Council in May 2018 in Sofia and was hosted by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences,
• ‘The future of science advice in Europe’: The one-day event to discuss emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities for the future of science advice in Europe took place in Helsinki, Finland, on November 13, 2019. The event was hosted by the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, Academy of Finland together with the Science Advice Initiative of Finland, the Office of the Prime Minister of Finland and the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland.
SAPEA will continue to be a part of the Scientific Advice Mechanism of the European Commission (SAM) which supports the College of Commissioners with high quality, timely and independent scientific advice for its policy-making activities.

The results expected by the end of the project mainly include Evidence Review Reports on scientific topics requested either by the European Commission or proposed by the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors or SAPEA.
Examples of forthcoming topics include ‘Biodegradability of plastics in the open environment’, ‘A systemic approach to the energy transition in Europe’ as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the SAM, SAPEA will continue to serve the College of Commissioners as well as the wider public as an independent source of scientific advice and evidence. It will continue its communications, dissemination and outreach activities and actively promote scientific knowledge around past and future topics.

Further impacts may also result from the increasingly effective links between individual academies and the European Academy Networks, as well as from the stronger operational links between Academies and Academy Networks in their relationship and work with the institutions of the EU.
2018 WP5 Academies’ interaction workshop Madrid. Source: SAPEA
Nov 2019 SAPEA Helsinki Conference. Source: SAPEA/Tomi Setälä
Sept 2019 Handover MASOS ERR, European R&I days. Source: SAPEA
Summer 2019 Elements of the microplastics escape room, World Oceans Day, Sopot, Poland: Source SAPEA
Nov 2017 Handover FFO ERR and Group`s SO to Commrs Moedas and Vella. Source: EC
Dec 2019 SAPEA ERRS published to date. Source: SAPEA
Jan 2019 Handover NMP ERR. Source: SAPEA
Oct 2019 Handover TFA ERR. Source: SAPEA