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10/12/2016

Juncker ignored chief scientific advisor’s meeting requests

Science & Policymaking

Juncker ignored chief scientific advisor’s meeting requests

Anne Glover lashed out at the Juncker Commission after leaving Brussels.

[Security & Defence Agenda/Flickr]

The incoming Juncker Commission snubbed Anne Glover’s requests to meet and discuss her role as chief scientific advisor to the executive, she revealed in an interview aired yesterday (2 February).

Professor Glover, hired by the outgoing Barroso administration in 2012, never got a response from the new team during the six months the Commission changed hands.

“They did not want to hear from me about what had worked and what had not worked in my role,” Glover told the BBC’s Hardtalk programme.

Asked if she ever got a meeting or an answer from the executive, she replied, “No, not at all.”

The microbiology professor at Aberdeen University was the first ever chief scientific adviser. But new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker did not extend the role.

The role was created to provide independent expert advice on any aspect of science, technology and innovation requested by the Commission President, usually in relation to major policy proposals being submitted to the EU executive. It was a response to repeated calls to strengthen scientific advice and evidence-based policy in Europe.

Glover told Hardtalk she did not want to stay on after former President José Manuel Barroso left Brussels. Despite reports to the contrary, she had not been sacked and left the executive of her own accord.

“I think I could have achieved very much more if more people had been open to the possibilities that my role would give to the Commission in strengthening and making in a way more transparent how scientific evidence and advice is used to underpin policy,” she told the BBC.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02j5nh3/player

EurActiv asked the Commission to comment this morning (3 February). At the time of this article’s publication, no response had been received. The story will be updated with any response.

EurActiv’s blog Heard in Europe revealed Glover’s plan to spill the beans over the controversial end to her Commission career last week.

Controversial role

Glover confirmed in November that her role had ceased to exist.

Read>> Juncker still mulling scientific advice role after Glover’s position axed

“President Juncker believes in independent scientific advice,” European Commission spokesman Mina Andreeva said at the time. “He has not yet decided how to institutionalise this independent scientific advice,” she told EurActiv.

In January, an MEP claimed that Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans told a meeting of the European Conservatives & Reformists that the role of advisor would be retained, despite Glover’s departure.

Read>> Anne Glover’s EU advisor role reinstated, MEP says

A Commission spokesman told EurActiv at the time that the EU executive’s stance had not changed, and that Timmermans was committed to the role of science in policymaking.

But Commissioner Carlos Moedas – responsible for research – was considering the issue, he said.

BusinessEurope, the EU employers’ association, has supported maintaining the position. In a letter sent in May to Barroso, it praised the “positive steps” that were taken under the outgoing Commission to encourage the use of “high quality science whenever officials develop policy, laws and rules”.

But Glover’s role at the European Commission drew criticism from transparency campaigners, who called on Juncker to scrap the position.

“The post of Chief Scientific Adviser is fundamentally problematic as it concentrates too much influence in one person,” wrote the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) in a letter to Jean-Claude Juncker.

She was accused by the NGOs of presenting  “one-sided partial opinions” in the debate over Genetically Modified (GM) crops.

Read>>NGO backlash to chief scientific advisor position grows

Read>>EU chief scientist: ‘It is unethical not to use GM technology’

Glover told BBC Radio 4, “I am not a strong advocate of GM crops. What I am saying is that the technology used to generate GM crops is safe – that is what the scientific consensus is.”

She said she had spoken out because those against GM crops made their arguments based on ideology and not evidence. 

Glover has been interviewed by EurActiv several times.You can read two of those interviews below.

Read>>Glover: EU chief scientist should stay in the shadows

Read>>EU twisting facts to fit political agenda, chief scientist says

Positions

Martin Pigeon, of the Corporate Europe Observatory, said, "We had much more fundamental problems with the position than just the GM crops issue. It had evolved into a lobbyist's dream: a position with strong political power and very weak institutional resources, able to bypass the rest of the EU's scientific evidence evaluation system. When we saw that this was not a mere possibility but had actually materialised, we decided to try to do something and sent the letter. 

"Ironically, all the noise produced by the pro-GM crowd gave this issue huge visibility, and probably played a big role in Juncker's decision not to renew the position. Anyway, we're glad the issue of scientific advice to the EU is now making the news because it is a fundamental issue, on which we have worked for a long time."
 

Background

Professor Anne Glover was appointed in December 2011 as the chief scientific advisor to José Manuel Barroso, then the European Commission President.

A trained biologist who holds a chair in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Aberdeen, she previously served a as chief scientific advisor for Scotland (2006-2011).

Under Glover’s watch, the Commission set up a special advisory group to provide the EU executive with independent information and advice on an array of scientific and technology issues.

Further Reading