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Yesterday evening, the European Commission confirmed that its most senior scientific role, that of chief scientific adviser (CSA) to its president, has ceased to exist.

Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology said, “The announcement by the European Commission that the chief scientific advisor role has been abolished is an enormous blow to evidence-based policy making. It sends a signal that science and its role in policy making has been down-graded at a time when Europe needs to do all it can to support innovation in an increasing competitive global marketplace through an effective, realistic and evidence led policy and regulatory framework.”

The role has been occupied by Professor Anne Glover FSB since it was created in 2012 in response to repeated calls to strengthen scientific advice and evidence-based policy in Europe. This decision comes after months of uncertainty surrounding the future of the CSA role, and considerable efforts by scientists to support the need for the post.

In July 2014, a coalition of environmental groups, including Greenpeace, wrote to the incoming president of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, calling for the CSA role to be scrapped. Their letter argued that: “The post of CSA is fundamentally problematic as it concentrates too much influence in one person…”.

Soon afterwards, a response letter in support of the CSA role was sent to Juncker, signed by forty scientific organisations, including the Society of Biology, and 773 individuals. It said “we cannot stress strongly enough our objection to any attempt to undermine the integrity and independence of scientific advice received at the highest level of the European Commission.”

Professor Anne Glover FSB has commented that, “The new European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC) which ‘replaces’ the Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA) does not comprise a function ‘chief scientific adviser’.”

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