Hosted on the European Commission’s Europa site since 2005, SINAPSE (Scientific Information and Expertise for Policy Support in Europe) is a web communication platform that offers tools to promote better use of expertise in EU policymaking and governance. Among its functions is to allow members of advisory bodies to network, to provide support for expert groups, and to facilitate ad-hoc public consultations and e-debates.
There are currently more than 1 200 organisations and 10 000 members registered as SINAPSE users, including universities, academies of sciences, scientific associations, research councils, advisory bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and private companies.
The key activities of SINAPSE are directed towards the development of 'e-Communities'. The e-Community function allows groups of members with a common interest (e.g. a specific issue or a domain of expertise) to create a permanent platform for sharing and exchanging information.
The tools available for each e-Community includes a library of documents, a library of web links, a shared calendar, a focused web search, and the capacity to launch discussions or surveys based on questionnaires that are designed online. A notification system with enhanced filters facilitates community members' awareness of new activities in their area of interest (e.g. new documents posted on a certain topic, and new conferences). Some of the information can even be stored on public pages (e.g. public libraries and calendar), which provide the opportunity to conduct public consultations and debates.
The following are some examples of the e-Communities currently running on the SINAPSE site.
- The European Science Advice Network for Health (EuSANH) was created on the initiative of the Belgian and Dutch national health councils, and aims to share information and expertise between science advisory bodies in Europe active in the health field. The main objective is to avoid duplication of effort and facilitate an evidence-based health policy both within and between countries in Europe.
- The Forum of National Ethics Councils (NEC Forum) is an independent, informal platform for exchange of information, experience and best practices on issues of common interest in the field of ethics and science. It contributes to strengthening the coordination of ethics policies in Europe.
- The Group of European Customs Laboratories (GCL) provides the scientific expertise needed to enforce European regulations in all matters relating to customs tariffs, classification and nomenclature.
- The Justice Forum is a multidisciplinary and collaborative forum that was established by the European Commission to discuss EU justice policies and practice. The Justice Forum is a permanent platform on SINAPSE, and provides a mechanism for consulting experts and stakeholders to receive feedback, and review EU justice policies and practices in a transparent and objective way.
- Different e-Communities support the activity of EURAXESS-Links (e.g. China, Japan and the US), which allow for communication exchange with and between the European researchers working outside Europe. Another e-Community is designed to promote the implementation of European Charter for Researchers.
- The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has created several e-Communities to organise the exchange of information with experts from the 27 EU Member States and abroad. Their aim is to support the work performed by the agency in the field of regulation and standardisation, in particular by coordinating research activities in the fields of safety of design, manufacture, environmental protection improvements (noise and emissions), and so forth.