On 24th June 2020, the European Commission’s independent Group of Chief Scientific Advisors (GCSA), the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) and Peter Piot, special advisor to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, published a joint statement on scientific advice to European policy makers concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said:
“Scientific advice is part and parcel of our policy-making, also in times of an emergency like the Covid-19 pandemic when uncertainty and complexity abound. The statement helps us to learn from experience in real time. As Europe gradually emerges from shutdown, scientific advice will continue to inform our approach to recovery and the EU’s preparedness for possible future crises.”
Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel said:
“As we recover from the Coronavirus crisis, we must be ready for the next pandemic, or crisis of another kind. The joint statement from the Advisors, European Group on Ethics, and Peter Piot gives clear guidelines on how to give scientific advice to decision makers and will help us to harness the full potential of our scientific knowledge in the fight against this and future pandemics.”
The statement provides guidance for the provision of scientific advice in pandemic situations that are characterised by complexity and uncertainty. To ensure efficient and effective policies, advice should be multi-disciplinary, and provided through early and frequent exchange with policy-makers. Transparency and openness are crucial. Clarity on what is known, what is not known, and what cannot be known is very important as illustrated by debate around the use of facemasks, the ability of children to spread the disease, or the maximum level of protection offered by a possible vaccine. Also critical is that there is a clear distinction between advice, decision making and implementation roles.
The statement also announces two forthcoming jointly authored scientific opinions that will make recommendations for better pandemic preparedness and management and on crisis resilience in general.
The statement draws on the principles described by the GCSA Opinion “Scientific Advice to European Policy in a Complex World” (September 2019) and the EGE Statement “European Solidarity and Protection of Fundamental Rights in the COVID-19 Pandemic” (April 2020).
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