On Friday 13th October, a major symposium examined how global policy challenges are being addressed through evidence-based scientific advice. The event was organised by the SAPEA (Science for Policy by European Academies) consortium, with Academia Europaea Cardiff responsible for shaping the programme.
Hosted at the Estonian Academy of Sciences in Tallinn, it was designed as a complementary event to the international conference, European Research Excellence: Impact and Value for Society, held the previous day. Both took place as part of the programme of the Estonian Presidency of the European Council. Over 30 countries were represented.
Following a keynote by Professor Dame Helen Wallace of the British Academy, panel sessions provided four different stakeholder perspectives – citizens, policymakers, the academic community and the corporate sector. Media presenter Professor Brian Cox joined us for the first of these panels.
Key themes included:
The complexity of the European landscape for scientific advice
The importance of improving relationships and understanding between the main stakeholders
The need for scientists to be much better communicators and influencers, and
The advantage of establishing shared spaces for dialogue and services, most likely digital
Everyone recognised that the European Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) has a unique role to play and needs time to mature. In addition to the excellence of its expertise and its independence, SAPEA has significant opportunities make a real difference in areas like public engagement.
A briefing paper will be published by SAPEA shortly.
Following public events to promote the SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) project on ‘Food from the Oceans’ in Bergen and Cardiff earlier in the year, a third public event was hosted in the city of Hamburg, Germany on 5th October.
Members of the Academia Europaea Hubs played an active role at a workshop designed to strengthen relationships between academies, held at the Royal Academy of Engineering, Madrid, on 21st-22nd September. The workshops are an integral part of the SAPEA (Science for Policy by European Academies) project.
Louise Edwards and Esther Dorado-Ladera of the Cardiff Hub facilitated some of the sessions, as well as presenting Academia Europaea to the audience. Dr Ricard Guerrero, the Academic Director of the Barcelona Hub, gave a fascinating talk about its activities.
An identical workshop takes place in Bucharest on 16th and 17th November, where Professor Ole Petersen, Academic Director of the Cardiff Hub, and Esther Dorado-Ladera will have significant roles, along with Professor Tadeusz Luty, Academic Director of the Wroclaw Hub.
Can we get more food from the oceans? A public debate in Cardiff
With the world’s human population projected to grow to between 9 and 10 billion by 2050, should we look to the oceans to feed ourselves? This was the theme of a lively public debate held in Cardiff on 15th July, as part of the Food from the Oceans project, coordinated by the Cardiff Hub on behalf of SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies).
The Cardiff Hub organised a programme of public talks on the theme Food from the Oceans, in collaboration with SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies). The programme was hosted at the Norwegian Church on 14th and 15th July and took place alongside the Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival, which attracts around 80,000 people. It also featured a public debate on the theme of Can we get more food from the ocean?
Food from the Oceans was the theme of a programme of events hosted at the Norwegian Church. This open and free programme of events was the result of collaboration between the Cardiff and Bergen Hubs, together with SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies). We worked closely with other partners, including the SAM (Science Advice Mechanism) Unit, the Learned Society of Wales, the Hordaland County in Norway and Cardiff University.
Especially popular was the Food from the Oceans stall, serving a variety of seafood from Bergen, served by Norwegian catering students and chef Roberto Tanaia.
The highlight of a full programme of public talks on the theme of Food from the Oceans was a reception to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the restoration of the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay, supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and hosted in partnership with the Welsh Norwegian Society.
As part of the public event organised to mark UNESCO Sustainable Gastronomy Day (18th June), the Academia Europaea Bergen Hub hosted an open debate on the theme of Food from the Oceans. Food from the Oceans is a current topic within the European Scientific Advice Mechanism, with an evidence review report due by the end of the year. The work is led by SAPEA (Scientific Advice for Policy by European Academies) and is coordinated by the Cardiff AE Hub.
The debate was opened by Dr Matthias Kaiser of the University of Bergen. He set the scene by reminding the audience of the challenge we face of feeding a growing human population, estimated at nearly 10 million by 2050. The oceans can appear to offer a rich and endless resource. Yet, we are already overfishing and wasting far too much food. Since 1945, we have acted irresponsibly. New technology might be seen as a ‘quick fix’ but scientific progress has to be matched by moral and ethical progress too.
Climate change has meant that particular species are thriving as never before. It means we could be eating new types of seafood, like jellyfish.
Professor Røgnvaldur Hannesson of the Norwegian School of Economics contested the view of previous speakers. Fisheries are in good health, aquaculture is growing and we have been very well fed since 1945. The rate of population growth is slowing and stabilising, thanks to economic growth and the emancipation of women. Sustainability is a process that is changing constantly.
Ian Kinsey, a fisherman born in Wales and now living in Norway, agreed that sustainability is relative. The affordability of food is crucial and we have been too precautionary in our approach.
Amund Måge is the new marine director at the University of Bergen. He urged that it is too early to discard sustainability concepts like the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Only 2% of food comes from the ocean but it accounts for 50% of photosynthesis. Population growth continues in absolute terms. We will therefore need to go down the trophic levels to meet our requirement for food. Aquaculture can increase but fish feed should not be taken from the land. Ethics depend on good science.
Matthias Kaiser responded that he is not anti-science but ‘ethical scientists’ are essential, along with entrepreneurs with a strong sense of responsibility. Simplistic technological solutions do not work. There are costs upon nature and we should examine more broadly how systems interact. After all, humanity is part of these systems.
Inger Elisabeth Måren also criticised what she saw as the anthropocentric view adopted by some of the panellists. Biodiversity matters, she claimed.
Røgnvaldur Hannesson, in contrast, believed genetic engineering would be the next ‘green revolution’, giving us increased crop yields.
Matthias Kaiser responded that we must reduce our consumption of red meat and instead rely on a simpler diet from lower trophic levels. Aquaculture could also help, if managed properly. Ian Kinsey, however, did not believe in the aquaculture solution. Dr Arne Duinker of the University of Bergen spoke of the importance of sea plants. Kelp farming is just starting in Norway, for example.
In conclusion, a local councillor received a positive response from the audience for his intervention. Local politicians are looking at new job creation for their communities, he said. Scientists, for their part, should be humble and recognise that they should not take risks that could have largescale global impact. Matthias Kaiser reminded the audience that academics are always happy to take part in important public discussions such as this.