A science policy closer to the citizens
2.1 Involving civil
The Commission is committed to improving transparency
and consultation between administrations and civil
society, as outlined in the White Paper on European
Governance. To this end, it will adopt a set of minimum
standards to be followed by its departments in all
policy areas, including research. If citizens and
civil society (1) are to become
partners in the debate on science, technology and
innovation in general and on the creation of the European
Research Area in particular, it is not enough to simply
keep them informed. They must also be given the opportunity
to express their views in the appropriate bodies.
The Commission has already called on Member States
to encourage stakeholder debates on innovation involving
scientists, industry, consumers and public authorities,
and pointed to the value of linkages between Members
States' measures in this direction.
Strengthening the democratic process
Some countries in the Union have established
technology assessment bureaux in their national
parliaments to facilitate parliamentary decision-making
and public debate.
At European level, the European Parliament's
technology assessment network (EPTA)
is made up of specialist organisations that
advise national parliaments on the possible
social, economic and environmental impacts
of scientific and technological progress.
The European Parliament has also set up its
own scientific and technological options assessment
which is a member of the EPTA network.
Procedures for the participation of civil society
Some Member States have a long tradition of organising
participatory procedures, such as the consensus conferences
and citizens' juries mentioned in the first chapter.
They aim to provide a space for scrutiny and informed
debate on important issues of public concern, bringing
together the public, interest groups and policy makers.
Scientists participate when the issue in question
hinges in one way or another on scientific assessments.
They complement the formal decision-making process,
and can help pave the way for sound policies. More
recently, Internet discussions have been launched
on various topics at both national and European level.
Various participatory mechanisms have been used in
shaping research policy. At the Community level, stakeholders,
users and the scientific community have been increasingly
involved in RTD policy development and implementation.
Systematic and structured participation has most recently
centred around EAGs (expert advisory groups - twenty
EAGs have been established for key actions under the
Fifth RTD Framework Programme) and advisory bodies,
for example, the newly established EURAB
(European Research Advisory Board - C (2001)531/EC,
EURATOM, 27.6.2001). Ad hoc arrangements such as platforms,
workshops and other dialogue mechanisms are also used
to enable interested parties to express their views.
These experiences, however, now need to be widened
and deepened to systematically include other sectors
of civil society at all stages.
The Commission will organise, through workshops
and networks, an exchange of information and best
practice between Member States and the regions on
the use of participatory procedures for national and
These exchanges may lead to additional measures for
addressing pan-European issues involving science and
technology. These could include interactions between
participants in national events, as well as the possibility
of organising participatory procedures at the European
level (2) .
Specific events for the European Research Area
The Commission itself often organises public consultations
in preparation of policy initiatives. A recent example
addressing both research and technological applications
is the preparation of a strategic vision for life
sciences and biotechnology. This consultation was
facilitated by publication of a detailed consultation
document, creation of an Internet dialogue platform,
and a stakeholder conference held in September 2001.
Shortly afterwards, the Commission established a GMO
Round Table in the context of the European Research
Area, bringing together European bio-safety researchers
and other stakeholders, such as consumer organisations,
national administrations and industry, to ensure that
up-to-date knowledge accompanies the safe use of genetically
The Commission will organise regular events enabling
civil society to participate (in the form of public
hearings, consensus conferences or interactive online
forums (for example on CORDIS, the Community Research
and Development Information Service: http://cordis.europa.eu/home.html)
in specific issues (biotechnology, environment, information
technologies, health, innovation, etc.), in cooperation
with the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee
of the Regions.
Civil society organisations have been defined as those
whose members have objectives and responsibilities that
are of general interest and who also act as mediators
between the public authorities and citizens. They may
include trade unions and employers' organisations ("social
partners"); non-governmental organisations; professional
associations; charities; grass-roots organisations;
organisations that involve citizens in local and municipal
life; churches and religious communities.
For example, on 22 June 2001 the Commission adopted
a proposal for a new action programme to financially
support between 2002 and 2006 European non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) primarily active in environmental
protection COM(2001)337. This also promotes systematic
involvement of NGOs at all stages of policy-shaping.