Shaping EU Missions: EGU’s annual science-policy event
25 October 2019
On 17 October 2019, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) hosted its second annual science-policy event, Shaping EU Missions: bridging the gap between geoscience and policy. Held in Brussels, the event brought together nearly 70 policymakers and geoscientists representing a wide range of sectors and fields of expertise to offer feedback regarding four of the five themes that will be addressed by the newly created European Union (EU) Mission Boards.
Announced by the Commission earlier this year as part of the EU’s next research and innovation framework programme, Horizon Europe, the themes include:
- Adapting to climate change, including societal transformation
- Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters
- Climate-neutral and smart cities
- Soil health and food
Each Mission Board is composed of 15 experts who will identify a set of priorities that are ambitious, interdisciplinary, cross-sectorial and inspirational. From this, the Mission Boards will create projects that focus on specific challenges with clear targets.
The discussions held during the EGU’s Shaping EU Missions event focused on outlining the problems and pathways to potential solutions within each Mission theme. A short report summarising the event’s key outcomes in relation to the Missions will be published and distributed in early November.
EGU President Alberto Montanari kicked off the event by highlighting the EGU as a source of policy-relevant scientific information due to its membership of more than 20,000 researchers organised into 22 different scientific divisions. He said that he hoped this event would promote greater science-policy collaboration between different sectors, disciplines and career levels and result in a productive discussion about the potential of the Missions.
This introduction was followed by a diverse panel of speakers who outlined the role of the Missions, how they are likely to function, and what can be done to bridge the gap between science and policy.
Gesine Meißner, member of the Mission Board for ‘Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal and Inland Waters’ and former Member of the European Parliament, highlighted the important role she believes science should play in the Missions. “Global challenges cannot be addressed without research,” she said. Meißner also stressed the need for future collaboration. “The Missions are related to each other. We should cooperate all together.”
Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the European Research Council (ERC), highlighted the need for synergy between the various components of Horizon Europe. “Missions can play a vital role, provided they stimulate new ways of doing research and collaborating as well as encouraging interdisciplinarity,” he said. Bourguignon also stressed that “policymakers should trust researchers more than they do at the moment” on the basis of the high and broad impact of projects selected by the ERC strictly on the basis of their scientific quality. Constantin Ciupagea, Head of Land Resources Unit at the Joint Research Centre, highlighted the role that other science-policy institutions currently play and how this is likely to change in the future.
During the panel’s Q&A, Martin Visbeck, a Professor at GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel and member of the EU Mission Assemblies, underscored the potential for the Missions to build a stronger shared knowledge interface. “The Missions shouldn’t focus on solving just one problem,” he stated. “They should work on the connectivity between different types of science, bringing all the types of knowledge generation together and making it available.”
The second half of the event focused on roundtable discussions involving all of the participants. These sessions provided participants with the opportunity to connect with others and discuss specific issues within the broad EU Mission themes.
The buzz from the room during the roundtable sessions signalled strong interest in the topics. Despite the varied themes discussed, a number of common issues emerged, including the need for long-term planning and coordination both within the Missions and between existing policies and projects. The need for more effective means of sharing knowledge that allows citizens, policymakers and science communities to engage and benefit was also discussed at several tables.
Establishing effective science-policy collaboration and identifying the Missions’ priorities are ongoing challenges, and both the EGU President and Vice-President believe this event was a positive step forward. “I am impressed by the useful suggestions that the participants provided,” Montanari said. “After the event, we are one step closer to understanding more about what policymakers need from scientists and vice versa.”
“It’s very encouraging to see that four of the five mission boards have a strong link to the geosciences,” said EGU Vice-President Jonathan Bamber, “As the leading geoscience organisation in Europe, EGU looks forward to working with the boards and helping shape the exciting goals of the missions going forward.”
A report highlighting the roundtables’ key discussion points regarding the Missions will be published in early November.
The European Geosciences Union is the leading organisation for Earth, planetary and space science research in Europe. With our partner organisations worldwide, we foster fundamental geoscience research, alongside applied research that addresses key societal and environmental challenges. Our vision is to realise a sustainable and just future for humanity and for the planet. EGU’s 20,000 members span many key scientific areas that can enhance the policy-making process including, but not limited to, natural hazards, energy resources, climate change, soil science, and raw-material sourcing.
The EGU promotes science for policy activities on a European scale to encourage stronger science-policy partnerships, inform geoscientists about relevant policy opportunities, and highlight policy-relevant research to both the public and policymakers. The EGU also publishes a number of open access journals and organises the largest and most prominent European geosciences event, an annual General Assembly that more than 16,000 scientists attend.