BRUSSELS—Statements of dismay poured in today after Anne Glover, the first chief scientific adviser (CSA) to the European Commission, confirmed that her post had “ceased to exist” on 31 October, along with the previous administration's mandate.
The London-based Science Media Centre relayed a series of comments coming mostly from the United Kingdom—which, unlike most other European countries, has a long tradition of having science advisers in government. Researchers and science policy leaders called the decision to let Glover's post expire “an enormous blow,” a “deep disappointment,” or a “backward step.” “Everyone—Europeans and the rest of the world alike—will rightly see this decision as the European Commission downgrading both the practical and the symbolic value of science in Europe,” said Imran Khan, chief executive of the British Science Association.
Meanwhile, the commission is sticking to its message that President Jean-Claude Juncker, who took office on 1 November, values independent scientific advice for policymaking and has just not decided yet how that role will be filled in his administration.
The collective anger was apparently triggered by an e-mail Glover sent to colleagues yesterday. In it, she wrote:
The European Commission confirmed to me yesterday that, all decisions on the Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA) [the commission's service that housed the CSA office] were repealed and so the function of Chief Scientific Adviser has ceased to exist. The new European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC) which “replaces” BEPA does not comprise a function “Chief Scientific Adviser”.
It is not up to me to comment on this decision, but I would like to express that I am proud of what this office has achieved in less than 3 years with very few resources. This has only been possible thanks to your continued support throughout this time and the hard work of the fantastic members of my team who will now seek new opportunities.
Today, Glover says she is still hopeful that Juncker will come around. “Where there's life there's hope!” she writes in an e-mail to ScienceInsider. “I hope that President Juncker will decide to have a well-supported CSA function in his Commission but that is up to him.”