Science Panel Will Advise Europe

Representatives of 17 European science academies have agreed to form a new Science Advisory Council to provide independent expert advice to policy-makers. The new council's chair, Swedish cell biologist Uno Lindberg, says that the London-based council plans to call on "Europe's best research scientists" for reports or advice on issues "with a scientific component."

The idea for the new council, which was pushed mainly by the science academies of the United Kingdom, France, and Sweden, arose from discussions about ways to better coordinate European research and science policy. Some of the issues that spurred the collaboration include health concerns such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) and environmental problems in the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas.

"One of our first tasks is to contact the European Parliament and other policy-making organizations to define a list of potential projects," says Lindberg, the foreign secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which hosted a meeting on 10 June in Stockholm to launch the council. In addition to fielding requests from European agencies, the new group will consider project ideas that come from member academies or other nongovernment sources. Scientists on the study panels will be expected to donate their time; expenses will be paid either by the agency that requests a study or by the participating academies.

Peter Collins, who directs science policy for The Royal Society in the U.K. and is the new council's acting executive secretary, says the European group will be much leaner than the National Research Council, which conducts studies for the U.S. national academies. "We'll [also] be much less of a contract agency and not be connected with any one government," says Collins, currently the council's sole staffer. The group plans to meet in September to discuss possible projects and how to bring Germany--which has no national academy--into the fold.

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