Skip to Content
Back to resources
Published by

Professor Arlene Holmes-Henderson MBE

28 November 2023, 8:18 UTC Share

Science for Policy in Europe: reporting from Brussels

By Arlene Holmes-Henderson MBE, Professor of Classics Education and Public Policy at Durham University.

In October, I attended the first Science for Policy conference hosted by the EU Science and Innovation team. It was held in a hotel in Brussels and attracted an audience of more than 500 people (from across and beyond Europe). Attendees included policymakers, science advisors, researchers, ethics experts, and other professionals in science for policy. For two days, we discussed and debated science-for-policy systems in Europe.

The event offered online attendance, but only the plenary sessions were live streamed. Plenary sessions included:

  • Challenges, trends, and opportunities for the future of Science for Policy in Europe
  • Challenges and opportunities for Science for Policy in crises
  • Science for parliamentary policymaking
  • Science advice in contested complexity: lessons from food policy
  • Policies and instruments to build capacity and skills
  • How to build Science for Policy capacity in national public administrations?
  • Reforming policymaking: What changes are needed to bring science and public administration closer together?
  • What can research policy do to support science for policy?
  • Incentivising and measuring Science for Policy impact
  • What are the ingredients for a successful advisory body?

Presenters included Maria Leptin, President of the European Research Council, Joanna Drake, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission for Research and Innovation and Jolita Butkeviciene, Director of the European Commission Joint Research Centre for Innovation in Science and Policymaking. National perspectives were also shared by the heads of national funding agencies and members of the European Parliament.

The sessions which I found most insightful and stimulating were the ‘cafe sessions’, limited to in-person attendees only. These were workshops in which conference attendees were given time and space to share ideas, disciplinary perspectives and previous experiences of policy engagement with research. Cafe Sessions included:

  • Collective brainstorming on Science for Policy challenges, trends, and opportunities
  • Ideas market: Building Science for Policy institutions and networks: examples from across Europe
  • How to build Science for Policy competences for early-career researchers?
  • Co-designing a code of practice on the uptake of scientific knowledge in policymaking

I learned that toolkits are currently in development across Europe (with EU funding) to formalise the process of researcher development for policy engagement. Discussions during the conference about funding, reward and recognition for policy engagement (with particular focus on early career researchers) mirror those which I have with colleagues in the UK. Our problems are shared; I would encourage UPEN members to consider joining these conversations. Towards the end of the event, the organisers suggested that they would like to repeat the conference in 2024, so keep an eye on @EUScienceInnov for details.

Details of the conference programme and speakers can be found here: alongside the recorded sessions.

Back to resources