MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme

 

 

Follow the event and get interesting insights into the work of pairs via webstreaming -  link to be announced a few days before

 
The MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme aims at enhancing mutual understanding and establishing a long-term, intensive cooperation between Members and researchers. STOA is currently organising the project for the 6th time.
 
©Photo Landa 2010
 

2017 - launch of the sixth edition of this project

We are drowning in information, but find it increasingly difficult to discern what is factual and what is not. We need to create spaces where knowledge can be exchanged with a fair degree of confidence and trust among interlocutors. In this spirit, STOA‘s MEP-scientist pairing scheme strives to facilitate better understanding of EU policies among scientists, to foster greater mutual understanding between scientists and parliamentarians, and to contribute to closing the gap between researchers and policy-makers.
 
Promoting dialogue between scientists and Members of the European Parliament is an essential part of STOA’s mission. STOA is now launching the sixth edition of its MEP-scientist pairing scheme, following a very successful fifth round in 2016. Both rounds were led by Eva Kaili (S&D, Greece), STOA Chair, and managed by the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA). The high point of the pairing scheme – ‘Brussels week’ – will take place this year from 28 to 30 November, beginning with the ‘Science meets Parliaments‘ event, organised jointly with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), on 28 November 2017 at the European Parliament.
 
During their time at the European Parliament, the paired scientists will learn about the work of EP committees and research services, and will shadow their MEP counterparts in their daily activities. This aspect of the scheme is vital for both sides to identify the areas where the partners’ knowledge and experience can be combined to feed into better legislation. Follow-up visits for MEPs to see their paired scientists at work will hopefully be agreed bilaterally during the scientists’ visit to Brussels.
 
Following a welcome by their host, Eva Kaili, and the ‘Science meets Parliaments’ event, the scientists will have the opportunity to learn about the EP’s services, and to present their research activities to participating MEPs and fellow scientists. The first day will close with a networking reception for all participants. Scientists will then shadow their partner MEPs, including attending parliamentary committee meetings. A world science café, a dynamic participatory session organised by the JRC, will follow, with scientists continuing their shadowing activities on the third day. The week concludes with a meeting to reflect on the experience gained.
 
To keep up to date on the activities linked to this and future rounds of the ‘Science meets parliaments’ initiative and the MEP-scientist pairing scheme, see information on the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) blog, or follow us on Twitter @EP_ThinkTank. The scheme is open in this round to scientists who are grantees, at the time of application, with the Joint Research Centre; Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie fellows; EU-ANSA members; or ERC grant recipients. Application to be made via the institution responsible for the grant programme.
 

Past editions

The EP ran two rounds of a MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme, in 2007 and 2008. These were jointly organised and managed by STOA, on behalf of the EP, and the European Commission’s DG Research. In 2011, STOA decided to reintroduce the Pairing Scheme to further develop and improve its role in engaging and building relationships between European scientists and parliamentarians. The 2011 scheme took place over two stages and paired 13 MEPs who possessed both a thorough interest in science and who sit on relevant committees (such as ITRE and ENVI) with 12 scientists that were experienced in fields matching the areas of focus of the Members and also had an interest in the policy-making process within the EP. In 2015, during the 4th round of the project, 33 MEPs selected 33 researchers to be paired with. They met and worked together during the 'Brussels week' which took place from 25 to 27 January 2016. Check the video clip on the right to see what they said.
 

The previous edition (2016)

 

2016 edition (EP, 2016)

The European Parliament must ‘produce results which are evidence-based’. This is how Paul Rübig, Chair of the STOA (Science and Technology Options Assessment) Panel, set the scene for this year’s round of the MEP-scientist pairing scheme. The objective of the scheme is to foster better connections between the European Parliament and the scientific community, with a view to improving how science is used to guide policy-making. To achieve this goal, part of STOA’s mission, ensuring that MEPs have regular access to reliable information is essential. For this reason the very successful fourth round of the scheme is followed by this fifth round.
 
The launch event, ‘Science meets Parliaments’, was jointly organised by STOA and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) on 8 November 2016. Two sessions were moderated by Vladimír Šucha, Director-General of the JRC, and Eva Kaili, First Vice-Chair of STOA, respectively. The sessions featured statements by high-level representatives of major stakeholders (Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport; Jerzy Buzek, Chair of the ITRE Committee; Henrik Wegener, Chair of the SAM (Scientific Advice Mechanism) High Level Group; and Markku Markkula, President of the Committee of the Regions), and a number of personalities working in the public sector and academia (Pavol Šajgalík, President of the Slovak Academy of Sciences; Francesco Russo, Italian Senator; Lidia Borrell-Damian, Director for Research and Innovation at the European Universities Association; Sabine Ehrhart, Professor, University of Luxembourg; and Kostadin Kostadinov, Professor of Robotics, Municipality of Sofia. Discussion focused on how best to build bridges between the scientific and the political community.
Given the huge interest in creating a scientific forum within the European Parliament, participants and organisers agreed to continue with the tradition of ‘Science meets Parliaments’ events next year, and to involve even more stakeholders and institutions.
 
The pairing scheme itself ran from 8 to 10 November, with 15 scientists from across Europe engaging with MEPs. Following the launch event, the scientists discovered the workings of Parliament through a series of presentations, and then had the opportunity to present their research to interested participants.
 
 The following day, the scientists began shadowing their MEP counterparts. The purpose of this was to develop a mutual understanding between the scientists and the MEPs, and for them to get a better idea of how best to communicate with one another. It also allowed the scientists to get acquainted with the way in which policy is developed in the Parliament, while giving MEPs the chance to learn from the scientists’ expertise.
 
There is often a lot of uncertainty among MEPs and scientists as to how the other community carries out its work. Many of the visiting scientists said that this was a major motivation for their participation in the scheme. The affects of European legislation on the progress or application of scientific research, or failure to take into account the results of this research, sometimes appears confusing or frustrating. Moreover, many MEPs have little knowledge of how scientific research is carried out, and how best to tell scientists how they can help guide policy-making.
Through extended contact over two days, the pairs of MEPs and scientists were given the opportunity to learn about one another’s work. By shadowing their paired MEPs in committee and other meetings, the scientists experienced first-hand how parliamentary decisions are made. The MEPs were able to question their paired scientists at length about their work in an informal setting, and even ask for scientific input on issues on which they are currently working.
 
Another important aspect of the scheme was to help the scientists better communicate the results of their research to MEPs, in order to better inform policy-making. In a workshop organised by the JRC, the scientists were asked to consider what factors influence policy decisions, and how provision of evidence could be facilitated on both sides. The resulting discussion looked into the challenges faced by MEPs, as well as to how information should be presented in a policy context.
 
In a stock-taking meeting at the end of the week, the scientists described their experience as ‘fascinating’, ‘insightful’ and ‘a pleasure’. They have now returned to their research institutes, where they will hopefully apply what they have learned and share their experiences with their colleagues. The pairs of MEPs and scientists are encouraged to keep in touch and arrange visits to the scientists’ institutions, to maintain the connections forged during this week.
 
To keep up to date on the activities linked to the ‘Science meets Parliaments’ initiative and MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme, see information on theEuropean Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS), or follow us on Twitter @EP_ThinkTank
 
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The relationship between scientific expertise and policy-making continues to develop and expand as scientific knowledge underpins many aspects of public policy and legislation, from healthcare and the ageing population to nanotechnology, food and energy production and climate change. Running the MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme is another example of how STOA works to enhance connections between policy and science.