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Scientific INformAtion for Policy Support in Europe


Expertise, and more specifically scientific expertise, is increasingly becoming an element of critical importance in the design, implementation and assessment of public policies. As a result, the policy makers must be in a position to effectively consult the scientific community and give scientists the opportunity to share their concerns and knowledge. Consulting and listening under time pressure to an ever larger number of experts, on issues of growing complexity, is however difficult.

It is towards this end that the EC has, as foreseen in its Science and Society Action Plan (1), developed the SINAPSE e-Network (Scientific INformAtion for Policy Support in Europe). The main objective of this web-based communication platform is to offer a set of essential tools to promote and encourage the effective exchange of information between all stakeholders concerned by the use of science in European governance.

SINAPSE will help with the practical implementation of new forms of governance, facilitating the involvement of actors who are currently hard to consult, and enabling them to share their knowledge and viewpoints. The network will also contribute to improving the breadth and scope of information available to the

The registration phase has started in March 2005. During this phase efforts will be primarily targeted on building the SINAPSE community.

SINAPSE is open and freely accessible on


SINAPSE is a multi-purpose communication tool that offers the following functions for its members:

Who's Who and Yellow Pages

SINAPSE intends to become a repository of organisations and individuals who play, or could play, a useful role in scientific advice processes. The users are, in particular, able to use advance search functions to identify SINAPSE members with a specific expertise or profile. 

Library of scientific opinions and advice

The aim of the SINAPSE electronic library is to collect scientific opinions and advice produced across and outside Europe, in order to   increase their dissemination, use and impact. Based on their "notification preferences", members can choose to be alerted as soon as documents in their domain(s) of interest are posted. As the number of documents increases,  public authorities and advisory bodies seeking to investigate specific issues will be able to use an advanced search engine to check whether any relevant work has already been carried out. Access to the results of complementary exercises will benefit their work and contribute to reducing the risk of  unnecessary duplication of effort.

EC Consultation

SINAPSE will allow the European Commission services to support existing scientific consultation mechanisms, such as committee meetings. Scientific opinions, advice or background information in specific areas of expertise will be gathered with the help of the network's members. The informal nature of the process and the flexibility offered by the e-network will enable the Commission to tap into a wider reservoir of knowledge and to obtain rapid feedback.

Early-warning system

The members of SINAPSE can use this channel for sending early-warning signals and raising awareness of science-related scientific issues. This will not only help to better detect potential crises, but will also lead to the sharing of observations and experiences on a European scale.

Communication among members

SINAPSE offers a communication tool for intra- and inter-disciplinary discussions, as well as for conducting questionnaire-based surveys and consultations. For the latter, SINAPSE also provides a statistical overview of the results, and gives the possibility to export the data for further analysis. The initiators decide whether the debates are open or restricted to a group of selected participants, with the possibility of extending, on request, the right to participate to other members. Individual members, organisations or European Commission services, can therefore be excluded, so that restricted discussions can take place.

Sinapse Web search

SINAPSE will progressively offer the possibility to perform thematic and focused searches in its members' websites. One of the main objectives is to increase the visibility of these information sources. Another, is that it should give access to some resources that are not yet taken into account by other search engines. The fact that Sinapse searches will be performed on a limited number of identified and qualified sources will increase the pertinence of the search results and minimise the "information white-noise". Since the owners of the information are members of the network, the member will also be able to instantly get further details on the sources, and use filters to only display, for example, search results originating from certain categories of organisations.


SINAPSE aims to reproduce the way people traditionally exchange information. Most of the negative side effects of some internet-based tools, where the users are not fully aware of the identity of the people they are addressing, should be avoided.

Although it is an open network, SINAPSE intends to respect the level of confidentiality required and expected by its members. This implies that users are in most cases able to decide who has access to the information they publish (e.g. uploading advice in the library, sending out an early warning, or posting a contribution to a debate). This means they can determine whether their contribution should be accessible to everybody, or only by network members/organisations, a subgroup of them, or the Commission services.

SINAPSE members, whether they are individuals or organisations, can use different filters to help them control incoming messages. They can determine, for example, how frequently they are notified of new items matching their profiles and from which types of organisations they wish to receive messages and invitations to e-debates.

To guarantee the sustainability and manageability of the system, the type of functions to which a member has access depends on his/her profile (an unregistered guest does not have access to the same functions as a registered research organisation).

Membership and the use of SINAPSE are free and on a voluntary basis, and the functionalities currently offered will be adapted according to the evolving needs of the SINAPSE members.


SINAPSE will be as successful as its members make it. The widest possible membership is the most important factor in achieving the objectives of SINAPSE. Individuals and organisations with a scientific expertise or interest are invited to register and to actively promote the registration of their relevant network and professional contacts.

Registration per se brings a two-fold benefit:

  • On the basis of the information provided during the registration, the members have the possibility of being notified of new documents, early warnings, discussions or consultations, compatible with their preferences (scientific and policy domains of interest or expertise);
  • Since their expertise is referenced in the system, members can be contacted by other members who might be looking for such competencies, giving them the opportunity to share their opinions (e.g. in the case of consultations/debates launched by the EC or other public authorities);
  • The content of the registered organisations' websites (web sources) will be more visible and easily accessible by the interested public.

Through the active participation of its members, SINAPSE should a new and useful interface between the scientific community and policy-makers.

SINAPSE is now open for registration and use. It is not foreseen that during this initial phase the site will host many active debates and consultations, or contain large amounts of information and documents. However, activities and content will progressively increase and members will be promptly notified according to their profile and notification preferences.

(1) Science and Society Action Plan, COM(2001) 714 final, 04.12.01.

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