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Proposed: Poobahs for European Science and Climate

Before he was re-elected Wednesday to a new 5-year term, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso outlined his future plans in a speech on Tuesday that included a call for two new science-focused positions within the EC. Here’s what he said:

I will set up a Commissioner for Climate Action, to reflect the fact that climate change is a challenge that needs to be addressed across the whole range of our policies. A dedicated Commissioner for Climate Action will also send an important signal to the world that, independent of the level of ambition that comes out of Copenhagen, Europe is serious about maintaining momentum for action.

We also need a fundamental review of the way European institutions access and use scientific advice. In the next Commission, I want to set up a chief scientific adviser who has the power to deliver proactive, scientific advice throughout all stages of policy development and delivery. This will reflect the central importance I attach to research and innovation.

Scientists so far have welcomed Barosso’s plans. The European Research Advisory Board  will issue a report next month on the future of research in Europe and John Wood, the board's chair, says that Barroso’s ideas of a European Chief Scientist and Climate Action Commissioner “resonate directly with our forthcoming report for the Commission and are desperately needed.” And Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, secretary general of the Human Frontier Science Program, told Nature News: "If the post is created properly it will be a great thing for Europe … Science creeps into all areas of policy and you need a strong personality to ensure that everything can be coordinated."