The Scientific Advice Mechanism works on a very wide range of scientific topics. This page explains where those topics come from.
The initial request
Questions from the Commission
Any European Commissioner may request scientific advice from the Scientific Advice Mechanism at any time, on any policy field that is of interest to the Commission, the European Parliament, or the Council of the EU.
In each case, the request is first made to the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, and that Commissioner then officially makes the request to us.
Suggestions from the Advisors
Alternatively, the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors may also propose that the Commission might want to request scientific advice from us on a specific issue. This can happen, for instance:
- if the Advisors become aware of new scientific evidence or technological developments that are relevant to policy
- if the Advisors foresee an upcoming need for scientific advice
- if the scientific community, via SAPEA, proposes a topic that it considers important
Regardless of who first proposes the request, the final decision to request advice from us is always taken by the Commissioner of Research, Science and Innovation, working in consultation with the Advisors.
The role of the SAM secretariat
When an initial request is received, the SAM secretariat acts as the link between the Advisors and the Commissioners, via the Cabinet of the Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science. They also liaise with other parts of the European Commission through a dedicated inter-service group.
Defining the question
Drafting a scoping paper
Once an initial request has been made, the Commission draws up a scoping paper which specifies in more detail:
- why the request is being made
- the main issues at stake
- the EU policy context
- the evidence needed to answer the request
- the kind of advice needed (for instance, a scientific opinion, an explanatory note, or something else)
- the date by which the answer should be received
This scoping paper is developed by the Commission services responsible for the policy area in question, and other relevant parts of the Commission. This work is coordinated by the SAM secretariat, in consultation with the Advisors.
SAPEA can also be involved in the scoping process, if the Commission invites it to take part. This can happen, for instance, if the topic was originally proposed by SAPEA, or if particular expertise is needed from the scientific community to develop the scoping paper.
Discussion and adoption
The draft scoping paper is discussed by the Advisors in their next plenary meeting (or by email, if the request is very urgent).
In the end, the final decision to adopt a scoping paper is taken by the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, in consultation with the Advisors. This is true even if the request was originally suggested by the Advisors or SAPEA.
Once the scoping paper is adopted, it is published and used to guide all the subsequent stages of of our process, to ensure that the evidence we gather and the recommendations we make are focused on addressing the questions we were originally asked.