Large global audience joins interactive webinar on Science Advice and COVID-19, co-organised by the AE Cardiff Hub

Large global audience joins interactive webinar on Science Advice and COVID-19, co-organised by the AE Cardiff Hub

Over 240 participants attended the live session from 36 countries which was moderated by Professor Ole Petersen, Vice-President of Academia Europaea and Director of the Cardiff AE Hub, and hosted by SAPEA.  The discussant was Sir Mark Walport, the incoming Chair of the Cardiff Hub Steering Group.

The webinar, which took place on Wednesday 16th September, featured a distinguished panel of speakers, each contributing their perspectives on how effectively Europe’s science advice systems are dealing with the current coronavirus crisis. A number of the speakers are members of Academia Europaea including discussant Sir Mark Walport, Janusz Bujnicki, Pearl Dykstra, Tarmo Soomere and Christiane Woopen.

Each of the panellists made a brief opening statement, before responding to some of the questions submitted by the watching audience.

  • Ole Petersen, Vice-President of Academia Europaea, highlighted that national science advisers have different roles and have to operate in different ways in different countries, depending on the nature of the government and the political climate
  • Pearl Dykstra in her role as Deputy Chair of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors, addressed the pan-European perspective on science advice
  • David Mair, Head of Unit at the Joint Research Centre, spoke about the role of values and emotions in evidence-informed policymaking, with reference to the JRC’s report, Understanding our political nature
  • Christiane Woopen, Chair of the European Group on Ethics in Science and Technology, highlighted the importance of drawing on a wide spectrum of disciplines in tackling the current pandemic
  • Ortwin Renn, Chair of the SAPEA Working Group on Making Sense of Science for Policy, referred to the findings of his Group’s report, highlighting the four primary functions of science advice and the need to co-create knowledge and policy
  • Janusz Bujnicki, recent member of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors, provided a perspective from Poland on how policy towards the pandemic is being shaped in his country
  • Tarmo Soomere, Chair of the European Science Advisors’ Network, characterised the wide diversity of science advice models across Europe and reflected on whether these should be harmonised

Sir Mark Walport, acting as discussant, made a series of observations and reflections on the presentations made by the panellists.  He highlighted the complexity of the current crisis in terms of its nature and impacts, which requires that we look through many different lenses in order to view the situation holistically.  He made reference to the differing value systems across the world, which impact on a nation’s response to the crisis.  He also emphasised the importance not only of knowledge but also our ability to implement solutions, through adequate logistical support, for example.

Audience participation

The audience submitted a large number of questions to the panellists. The responses of the panel covered a wide range of topics, including:

  • Responding to so-called ‘black swan’ events that are rare in nature but serious in their consequences
  • The need for knowledge brokerage skills by which to collate research results into a coherent evidence base
  • The importance of open data and knowledge sharing across disciplines
  • The role of prudent judgement by experts, particularly in a situation of uncertainty
  • The diversity of response to the current crisis across different countries
  • The significance of public debate and deliberative democracy

“All the generals are preparing for the last war, we have to prepare for the next one.”

Tarmo Soomere

“Secrecy doesn’t pay off.  Hidden agendas backfire.  Bringing people into the policymaking process is the best way to get messages across.  Involve them.”

Ortwin Renn

The webinar was a satellite event of the INGSA Global Week of Dialogue entitled ‘Science Advice & COVID-19: What are we learning?’ which took place from 14th to 18th of September 2020.

More about AE Cardiff’s work in Science Advice

As a member of the consortium of European academies (SAPEA), Academia Europaea coordinated a major evidence review on best practice in science advice.  The report, Making Sense of Science for Policy, is available here.

Watch the webinar

If you missed the webinar, you can watch it on the SAPEA YouTube channel

22nd September 2020. For further information please contact

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