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Trans-European online seminar on science-based policy advice in agriculture, food, climate and environment

European governments are facing critical decisions on agriculture, food, climate and environment. Science based policy advice is in high demand, but varies across Europe. The aim of the first trans-European seminar in this area is to facilitate exchange of experiences, challenges and best practices in how to provide Science based policy advice.

2021.01.18 | Anja Skjoldborg Hansen

Date Tue 16 Mar Wed 17 Mar
Time 13:00    12:00
Location Online
Registration has closed

Governments in Europe has adopted ambitious goals on reducing greenhouse gasses and environmental pressure from agriculture and food production and on improving healthy diets. At the same time, an efficient and competitive agricultural sector is essential for rural economy and future food supply.

Decisions are complicated and sometimes conflicting. Agriculture, food, climate and environment are heated issues on both political and public agendas in Europe. In this situation, science based policy advice is in high demand, but often also subject of heated debates.

Diversity in organisation of Science based policy advice

The term “Science based policy advice” covers a variety of arrangements with the objective of providing political decision makers and their public servants with updated, verifiable and evidence based information and advice on issues relevant for regulation and policy making.

The organization, funding and responsibility for providing science based policy advice differs between countries and across subject areas/sectors. In some countries, the organization and long term funding of institutions responsible for providing scientific evidence in specific policy relevant areas is under pressure.

Regardless of the type of organisation, science policy advice should be based on a number of principles to ensure quality and trustworthiness. Thus, the principles of Independence of science from the actual decision makers and transperancy as regards the advice given and its scientific basis are key to the credibility. Other principles regards the scientific rigour and clear distinction between evidence and normative claims as well as consistency and timing of the advice given. While the weight given to different principles may vary with different settings, they are necessary preconditions for discussing the operational aspects of science police advice and when exchanging experiences and developing best practices.

Forum for exchange of experiences, challenges and best practices

There is a need for a forum for the providers of science based policy advice in the area of agriculture, food, climate and environment. The forum should facilitate exchange of information, experiences and challenges and provide inspiration for the future development of best practices with the aim of strengthening evidence based policy formulation across Europe. On this background, Aarhus University and the European Science Advisors Forum (ESAF) invites to the first trans-European seminar in this field as a webinar on 16 – 17 March 2021.

The expected outcomes of the workshop will be:

·       Exchange of information of national practices: good experiences, mutual learning in areas of organization, good processes vis-à-vis basic principles including practices for quality assurance, consistency of advice over time, recruitment and training

·       Building stronger networks among peers and organizations across Europe

·       Ideas for continued collaboration between interested institutions

Preliminary programme

16 March 2021

12:45 Web test and registration

13:00 – 13:30  Opening session

-          Welcome by Aarhus University

-          Welcome by ESAF. Tarmo Soomere, Chair / Terje Tuisk, Executive secretary

-          Presentation of the idea behind the seminar and todays programme. Director Niels Halberg, Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture, Aarhus University

14:00 – 15:30 Session 1: Principles and organisations

Principles for science-based policy advice in the area of agriculture, food, climate and environment and examples of organization, funding and linkages between research and policy in participating countries

-          Principles of Science Policy Advice and their Application in Different Organizational Settings: Advantages and Challenges for Evidence-Informed Policy Approaches. Prof. David Budtz Pedersen, Aalborg University, Denmark

-          From research to policy: how to provide scientific insights to policy makers dealing with controversial issues. Prof. Frank O’Mara, Director of Research, Teagasc

-          Motives and challenges for engaging in science policy advise in modern knowledge institutions, speaker to be confirmed (TBC). Dr. Patrick Flammarion, Deputy Director General in charge of Expertise and Public Policy Support, INRAE.

Group session with input from participants on the principles, structure and function of science-based policy advice in their country/institution, and discussions of weaknesses, advantages and challenges. Rapporteurs in each group to take note of national practices, differences, advantages and challenges for day 2.

15:30 – 15:45  Coffee break

15:45 – 17:00  Session 2: Procedures and methods

Procedures and working methods for science-based policy advice in participating countries/institutions: What are the critical challenges and the good experiences?

-          Organization of science policy advice in a sectoral research institution, how to ensure integrity, independence and consistency over time. Dr Pasi Rikkonen, Principal Scientist, LUKE, Finland

-          Guiding scientific policy advice to ensure integrity and independence. Dr. Lieve Herman, president of the Commission of Scientific Integrity of at the Flemish Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO), Belgium

-          Scientifically independent & close to politics – experiences of a federal research institute concerning communication, workflows, success factors and remaining challenges at the science-policy interface. Stefan Lange, Research Director of Thünen Institute – Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, Germany

-          Ensuring quality, integrity and transparency in science policy advice via ISO9001 certified quality assurance system. Director Hanne Bach, Danish Centre for Environment and Climate, Aarhus University, Denmark

Group session with input from participants on critical challenges and good experiences in relation to procedures and working methods, e.g. receiving tasks, delivering advise, quality assurance, collaboration with stakeholders, keeping the arms-length principle, ensuring continuity and consistency of advice over time, managing differences in scientific opinions. Rapporteurs in each group to take notes of critical challenges and good experiences for day 2

17:00 End of day 1


17 March 2021

9:00 – 10:30 Session 3: cross-institutional learnings

Characteristics for different national/institutional structures and practices: What are the challenges, and what are the successes?

Learnings from day 1: Rapporteurs from group sessions report the most important points from the discussions from day 1

Comments from the receivers: A panel of officials from ministries and agencies will give general requirements to science policy advice for efficient and evidence based policymaking and comment on the issues raised in the group discussions.

Plenum discussion on the possibilities for cross-institutional learnings

10:30 – 10:45  Coffee break

10:45 - 11:45 Session 4: Purpose and potentials for future collaboration

Potentials for direct collaboration between institutions in policy advice (Exchange of experience, formulating best practice, peer reviews, second opinions, exchange of staff, …)

Discussion openers:

-          Creating overview of institutions, types, processes and quality assurance schemes in European science policy advice. TBC

-          Ideas for continued trans-European collaboration in science policy advice, beyond the classical scientific collaboration. Director Niels Halberg, Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture, Aarhus University

Group discussion on the potentials for increased collaboration

11:45 - 12:00 Feedback and possible future of a network

Feedback from participants on the way forward and usefulness of a continuation of the network and a second workshop.

12:00 Closing of the seminar

Additional information

Expected participants

Representatives of organizations - as well as scientists in their own capacity - involved in providing science based policy advice within these thematic areas from across Europe. Furthermore, representatives from the European Science Advisors Forum (ESAF) and the EC Science Advice Mechanism (SAM) will attend.


The workshop is a joint initiative of the Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture (DCA) and Danish Centre for Environment and Energy (DCE) at Aarhus University together with the European Science Advisors Forum (ESAF).

The DCA/DCE are responsible for coordinating the science based policy advice under a contract with the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark, thus providing approximately 350 specific items of advice annually.

ESAF is committed to sharing relevant information, enhancing the exchange of best practices and building sustainable capacity and capability across a range of different national science advisory organizations and systems in Europe, and this workshop will be the first event focusing on a specific thematic area.


The seminar will take place at an on-line. A web link will be send to registered participants shortly before the seminar. Participation without registration is not possible.


If you wish to join the seminar, please register here  

Registration is free and without any obligations.

DCE, Staff, Public / media