Science, politics and society. A pending dialogue.

On 29th September, El Día Después and ISGlobal organized a multi-stakeholder workshop on how to improve interaction between science, politics and society, in particular regarding decisions related to the environment and its relation to health. People from all fields took part: research and science, public administrations, private sector, social organizations and individuals.

The aim of this meeting was to reflect together on how to build effective channels to connect scientific evidence and the point of view of society (citizens, NGOs, private sector, academia) with decision-making related to the environment and health. The conclusions reached from the work carried out will contribute to enhancing the approach that the government of Spain intends to prioritize, with regard to these matters, at the next Conference on the Future of Europe, which is scheduled to begin at the end of 2020.

In order to understand the situation of science, politics and society interaction in the European Union, the workshop began with a dialogue between María Cortés, Vice-President of SDSN, Manolis Kogevinas, Scientific Director of the División Severo Ochoa at IS Global and Coordinator of the HERA European Project and José Moisés Martín Carretero, Expert in Public Policies, Sustainability and European Funds. 

María Cortés emphasized the need to improve the dialogue between science, politics and society, being aware of the obstacles we must face: different languages and times (science requires long terms, politics moves according to the time limitation of mandates and citizens demand urgent answers), or the uncertainties that affect each sector. As pointed out, opportunities are opening up, such as the historical moment that the European Union is experiencing, with an aid package that will not be repeated and that will be closely aligned with the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.

This pandemic shows us that the path we are on involves unaffordable losses. A thorough transformation is urgent.

María Cortés

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Manolis Kogevinas referred to some of the findings of the HERA Project, which is shaping the Health and Environment Research Agenda for Europe 2020-2030, through a consultation exercise with more than 300 European counterparts. In particular, the scientific community’s concern was highlighted about how to improve their interaction with decision-makers and with society, in order to implement the results of their research in a useful way for citizens.

HERA's consultation with 400 European scientists has shown great interest in strengthening the interaction between science, politics and society.

Manolis Kogevinas

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José Moisés Martín also referred to this interaction between science and political management in Europe. He also added that the European Union has a clearer attitude to specialized knowledge than some national governments, and has participation systems such as expert groups (of which more than 700 have been constituted since its origins) or spaces, such as the Joint Research Centre, the think tank integrated into the management of Horizon Europe funds. He said that the threat is today is the recovery of national power and intergovernance.

Supporting evidence-based and transparent policies today is to believe in the European community.

José Moisés Martín

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Aurora Díaz-Rato, Ambassador to the UN office in Geneva, ended the first part of the workshop by recalling that the Conference on the Future of Europe is an opportunity to promote multilateralism and stressed that, in the face of the double impact of climate change and COVID-19, we cannot forget the concept of justice as a central element and guarantor of sustainability.

The workshop was then divided into two simultaneous discussion rooms where participants were able to explain their proposals, ideas and suggestions. Two specific examples were given on science and society participating in environmental and/or health decision-making: European missions of Horizon Europe and the citizens’ assembly for climate. The rooms also had representation from the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities and the Office of Climate Change of the Ministry for Ecological Transition, which enabled attendees to listen to ministerial points of view on both issues. David González, representing MCIU and Francisco Heras, from OECC, were able to hear reflections and proposals first-hand that emerged during the debates. The use of digital idea boards, organized around specific questions, facilitated the participation of all attendees.

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