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* Working Group
on establishing an independent, high-level advisory body for science, technology and innovation in Europe

Final report to Commissioner Busquin

1. Background and focus of this report

1.1. In May 2000, Research Commissioner P. Busquin took the initiative to set up an informal Working Group, whose mandate would be to draft the terms of reference for the establishment of an independent, high-level advisory body for science, technology and innovation in Europe. 50 experts coming from academia and industry were invited to join the group, and 43 of them accepted the task.

1.2. The Working Group Plenary met three times in Brussels: on May 2nd and October 23rd 2000 and on January 19th 2001. During these meetings, it considered issues that are central to the establishment and the functions of a future advisory body for science, technology and innovation in Europe. It has based its deliberations on work prepared by the Provisional Bureau (see below, 1.4) that also met in Brussels three times (on July 5th and October 22nd 2000 and on January 18th 2001).

1.3. When giving the mandate to the Working Group, Commissioner Busquin had stressed the fact that it was not in his intentions to implement a former October 1998 Commission Decision on establishing a "European Research Forum", a planned high level advisory body to the European Commission on Science and Technology Policy issues, that never materialised. However, recognising the need for such a body and prior to taking any decisions, he preferred to consult widely with the academic and industrial communities concerned. Among the many issues at stake for such a venture, four topics were considered of primary importance, namely, the reasons to have such a body, its impact in the long run on the planning, the structuring and the implementation of Community research activities, its working methods and its wider impact on other Community policy areas. It was thus suggested that this independent structure could help establish better future research priorities at Community level; propose concrete measures; identify needs and conduct appropriate analyses; reflect on the ways science is conducted today and the questions it raises (ethics, etc.).

1.4. The Group was asked to submit a report on the future advisory body by June 2001, but at the same time it was asked to be ready to submit opinions on other related issues, if asked for. To help structure the work of the Group, Commissioner Busquin, set up a Provisional Bureau, with members drawn from the Working Group's participants. The Secretariat of the Working Group and of the Provisional Bureau was ensured by the Commission services.

1.5. This is the final report of the Working Group as adopted in its Plenary session of January 19, 2001 (Brussels). It follows on the text of the Interim draft report, submitted to the Commissioner by the Bureau, in view of the Research Council of November 16, 2000. That text was itself based on a draft Opinion discussed by the Working Group in its October 23, 2000 Plenary session (Brussels).

2. Working Group Conclusions

2.1. Role and position of the advisory body. Requirements for success.

The advisory body should be broad in scope and enjoy the highest possible degree of independence. It should be given the trust and resources required to fulfil its mission.

2.2. Legal status and Secretariat

The preference of most Working Group Members is for the advisory body to be granted complete autonomy from the European Commission in legal terms. However, if the advisory body were to receive a financial contribution from the Community budget, this option would present difficulties under current rules. Consequently the advisory body could start in a pragmatic way with the Commission providing the secretariat and the costs of meetings. The Commission is in favour of strengthening the independence of the advisory body and will investigate further under which legal terms this could be achieved.

The advisory body should be given the necessary resources for delivering its work and fulfil its missions. The European Commission is prepared to do its best to support the advisory body's needs, within the limits of the European Union Financial Regulations and restrictions that apply. This could involve a Secretariat together with communication and diffusion services (like publications for example). The advisory body would be also able to hold workshops or conferences for advancing its work.

2.3. Composition and structure

2.3.1. The advisory body should have a single structure that would not prevent it to constitute working groups or task forces, as required, on particular policy issues.

The advisory body should have a maximum of forty five (45) members, appointed on their individual capacity. This number would allow for a fair balance between scientific and technological concerns as well as between Member States, Associated States and candidate countries, while at the same time keeping numbers to manageable dimensions.

It was also felt that qualified individuals from the world of finance, innovation, research users, European citizens and the media could play a helpful role

The advisory body should hold at least two (2) plenary sessions per year. A Bureau should prepare these meetings and act as a steering committee for the advisory body. The Bureau should meet at least four times per year.

2.3.2. Members of the future advisory body would be appointed by the European Commission on the basis of nomination proposals coming from the European Science Foundation and UNICE as follows:

  • the European Science Foundation (acting in co-operation with organisations like Academia Europaea, ALLEA, EUROHORCS, the Confederation of European Rectors Conference, CERN, EMBO, ESO etc. - for members of an academic focus) and UNICE (for members of a business and industrial focus in close co-operation with bodies like EIRMA, UEAPME and EARTO) will propose 20 names each.

  • The Commission could add 5 names coming from other areas (research users, finance, media etc.) in consultation with ESF and UNICE.

2.3.3. However, it is important to note that the choice of the members coming from the academic, business and industrial communities has to be an informed one, taking into account obvious criteria such as excellence and quality and balance among disciplines but also less obvious such as geographical and gender balance. This would ensure that the final composition of the advisory body would reflect the diversity as well as the richness of Europe. A minimum set of criteria, should be:

  • Excellence in research

  • Advisory experience on a European or international level

  • Balance among S&T disciplines including persons with specific university-industry experience

  • Geographical balance, as well as paying attention to the dimension of enlargement

  • Appropriate gender balance

2.3.4. The President of the advisory body, together with the Vice-President should be elected by the Plenary. Terms of service of members should be at least 3 years with a maximum of 6. Those of the President and of the Vice-President should be set at 3 years.

2.3.5. A Bureau of no more than 8 members should be appointed by the advisory body's Plenary respecting the same proportionality rules (as with the members).

2.4. Recipients of the advice

The advisory body could cover not only work by the European Commission, but extend its scope to other European institutions in the light of demand for advice on science and technology policy issues. Upon formal request of the advisory body the Commission Services are expected to give a formal response. As a general rule the advice would be made public and known to other institutions. A regular link with the European Parliament could also be established.

The advisory body should be free to examine the topics it wishes. The wide range of topics covered by the Commission's Communication on a European Research Area (January 2000) would constitute a reasonable basis for initial work. The links between science, technology and innovation should also receive appropriate attention.

2.5. Name for the advisory body

The Working Group proposes the following name:

European Research Advisory Board (EURAB)

2.6. Relationship of the advisory body to other academic and industrial organisations in Europe

The advisory body should hold a clearly stated independent position, in the sense that it would not represent scientific or industrial organisations. However it should take the views of such organisations closely into account. It could also forge links with organisations at the national level.

2.7. Current arrangements until the establishment of the advisory body.

The current Working Group will continue up to the formal establishment of the European Research Advisory Board, but not later than the 31st of July 2001. The current Bureau, that resigned during the October 23 Plenary meeting and has been re-installed by the Plenary, is to continue its tasks accordingly. Prof. Helga Nowotny will ensure the Chair of the Working Group (as agreed by the October 23, 2000 Plenary session).

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  Documents

Commission decision establishing EURAB

(pdf file 99kb)

Reports issued by EURAB

  

 

  Links

Members of EURAB - names, affiliations and CV's

Recommendations of the Working Group for establishing EURAB