Science at the Forefront of Policy: A Reflection on the decision by EU Innovation Ministers

In Blog, Science, Science by Denis Naughten

As someone who has advocated for the greater use of science in decision making, it was really positive to see the decision taken by Ministers across the EU last week at the Council of the European Union meeting with regard to the integration of research and innovation into the policymaking process.

This decision, in my view, marks a significant stride towards a future where science and policy are not just aligned but are inextricably linked.

The Council’s conclusions revolve around three pivotal dimensions:

  • the incorporation of scientific knowledge into policymaking,
  • the strengthening of regional and local innovation ecosystems and,
  • the impactful role of investment through the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) in shaping research and innovation policies.

This comprehensive approach promises to enhance the quality and effectiveness of policies, ultimately benefiting citizens and democracy alike.

The decision underscores the symbiosis of science and policy. Robust policymaking is reliant on the insights and discoveries of science. By infusing policy with scientific evidence, we not only make it more effective but also more responsive to the challenges facing our societies – from structural issues to unexpected crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another aspect of the Council’s decision is the emphasis on regional research and innovation ecosystems. The approach here is to foster cooperation and cohesion, particularly focusing on less innovative regions. This could bridge gaps in innovation and bring about a more balanced and inclusive growth across the Union, and I hope that such a model can be extended outside the EU to ensure that there is a North-South flow of knowledge also.

The Recovery and Resilience Facility’s influence in shaping Europe’s research and innovation landscape post-COVID-19 is noteworthy. It’s a clear demonstration of how targeted investments and reforms can synergize with broader policy objectives, such as gender equality and green initiatives. This is a template that can also be applied by other Countries in targeting investment in specific areas, similar to the approach taken by Ireland through Science Foundation Ireland.

Science as a Democratic Pillar

Having served on Council of the European Union I believe that this decision has broader significance in promoting science as a democratic pillar though a science-informed policymaking process. It paves the way for policies that are not only scientifically sound but also more attuned to the needs and aspirations of citizens. In essence, it’s a step towards a more enlightened, democratic governance model where decisions are made based on robust, transparent, and ethical scientific advice.

I believe that this decision is a harbinger of a new era in policymaking – one where science is not just an advisor but a partner in shaping a better future for all.


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