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SAPEA Reports

Making sense of science
for policy under conditions of complexity and uncertainty

SAPEA Evidence Review Report No 6

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sapea-report06Now more than ever, policymakers need good quality science advice to inform their decisions, and the very policy issues for which scientific input is most needed are the ones where the science itself is often complex and uncertain.
 
What the report says
The report highlights the fact that many of the world’s most pressing problems are also incredibly complex — including climate change, environmental pollution, economic crises and the digital transformation of societies. What’s more, the scientific knowledge around these areas can often be uncertain or contested.


 

- Science is one of many sources of knowledge that inform policy. Its unique strength is that it is based on rigorous enquiry, continuous analysis and debate, providing a set of evidence that can be respected as valid, relevant and reliable.
 
- Science advice supports effective policymaking by providing the best available knowledge, which can then be used to understand a specific problem, generate and evaluate policy options and monitor results of policy implementation. It also provides meaning to the discussion around critical topics within society.  The advice works best when it is guided by the ideal of co-creation of knowledge and policy options between scientists and policymakers.
 
- The relationship between science advisers and policymakers relies on building mutual trust, where both scientists and policymakers are honest about their values and goals.
 
- Scientific knowledge should always inform societal debate and decision-making. Citizens often have their own experiences of the policy issue under consideration and should be included in the ongoing process of deliberation between scientists, policymakers and the public.

  
 

  

  

Transforming
the future of ageing

SAPEA Evidence Review Report No 5

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sapea-report05In Europe and around the world, people are living longer than ever before. This is one of the greatest achievements of the past century, but it also brings challenges for European societies and the EU as a whole.

We must adjust to an ageing and shrinking workforce, and find financially viable ways to deliver high-quality health and social care for all.
 
What the report says
SAPEA’s evidence review report shows that the ageing process needs to be transformed. Europe must tackle the challenges presented by ageing in every generation.

- When it comes to predicting how people age, evidence indicates that genetic factors are relatively minor compared to lifestyle behaviours such as a healthy diet and physical activity. Policies to promote these behaviours from early childhood, and even in unborn children, contribute directly to a healthy ageing process across people’s whole lives.
 
- Ageing in the future will take place in a very different context from the past and will be profoundly affected by phenomena such as climate change, air pollution and antibiotic resistance, as well as ongoing social changes. Policies will only be successful if they accommodate these changes.
 
- Technology is already changing the experience of ageing, including wearable and assistive devices and the advent of AI. But barriers of acceptance and practicality must be overcome.
 
- Education improvements at a young age are vital not only to improve individual health, but also to equip our future workforce with the skills it needs to support an ageing population in a rapidly changing society.

  
 

  

  

A scientific perspective
on microplastics in nature and society

SAPEA Evidence Review Report No. 4
 

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sapea-report04The best available evidence suggests that microplastics and nanoplastics do not pose a widespread risk to humans or the environment, except in small pockets. But that evidence is limited, and the situation could change if pollution continues at the current rate.
This is the verdict of SAPEA’s Evidence Review Report on micro- and nanoplastic pollution, published in January 2019. The report is written by a group of world-leading experts nominated by academies across Europe, and informs Scientific Opinion 6 from the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors.

What the report says:

The report comprehensively examines the best available evidence from the natural sciences and computer modelling, as well as social, political and behavioural sciences. Its key conclusions are:

– Microplastics — tiny particles under 5mm in length — are already present across air, soil and sediment, freshwaters, seas and oceans, plants and animals, and in several components of the human diet.

– These particles come from a variety of sources, including plastic products, textiles, fisheries, agriculture, industry and general waste.

– In controlled experiments, high concentrations of these particles have been shown to cause physical harm to the environment and living creatures, including inducing inflammation and stress.

– However, the concentration levels measured in many real-world locations are well below this threshold — though there are also limitations in the measurement methods currently available.

– Meanwhile, in other parts of the environment, there is no reliable evidence about the levels or effects of these particles. This is true especially of nanoplastics, which are very difficult to measure and evaluate.

  
 

  

  

Improving authorisation processes
for plant protection products in europe

SAPEA Evidence Review Report No. 3
 

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sapea-report03This report examines the methods and procedures for assessing potential harmful effects on human health from the use of plant protection products, and the ways in which the current authorisation processes could be improved from a scientific perspective.

SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) has published its third Evidence Review Report titled Improving authorisation processes for plant protection products in Europe: a scientific perspective on the assessment of potential risks to human health. The report examines the methods and procedures for assessing potential harmful effects on human health from the use of Plant Protection Products (PPPs), and the ways in which the current authorisation processes could be improved from a scientific perspective.

As an integral part of the Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM), SAPEA was asked to produce this Evidence Review Report as one of the documents that informs the Scientific Opinion of the European Commission Group of Chief Scientific Advisors, in response to a request from Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis..

  
 

  

  

Novel carbon capture and
utilisation technologies

SAPEA Evidence Review Report No. 2
 

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sapea-report02SAPEA has published its second Evidence Review Report titled Novel Carbon Capture and Utilisation Technologies: research and climate aspects. The report explores whether Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) technologies have the potential to contribute significantly to mitigating the effects of climate change.
As an integral part of the Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM), SAPEA was asked to produce this Evidence Review Report to inform the Scientific Opinion of the European Commission Group of Chief Scientific Advisors in response to a request from Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete.
CCU technologies aim to extract carbon dioxide from either concentrated sources or directly from ambient air, and then use it as a raw material for carbon-containing products, such as fuels, chemical products, and building materials.

The report identifies a need for innovation in policy domains, and from systemic and technology perspectives. Some main recommendations in these areas are as follows:
- Measures, regulations and incentives should be used to examine the energy system (including CCU) in a holistic, integrated, coordinated and transparent manner.
- A systemic approach is required when evaluating the energy system and CCU systems, and further development is needed in stakeholder awareness and consistency of definitions.
- Key technological challenges must be tackled in the areas of collection and purification of CO2 from different sources, synthesis of green-hydrogen and technologies for carbon dioxide conversion to fuels and chemicals.
To produce the CCU Evidence Review Report, SAPEA brought together experts from across Europe, via the European Academy Networks. The experts formed a working group which was chaired by Professor Robert Schlögl (Fritz-Haber-Institute, Germany), and Professor Marco Mazzotti (ETH Zürich, Switzerland).

Professor Bernard Charpentier 2018 Chair of the SAPEA board said:
“SAPEA is delighted to present its second Evidence Review report. This report is the result of hard work and commitment from our working group, who have shown dedication to explaining what current knowledge can tell us about potential future developments in the field of CO2 management, energy and climate action. This topic is another example of successful collaboration with the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors and we are pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute to policy making in this important area.”

  
 

  

  

Food from the oceans

SAPEA Evidence Review Report No. 1
 

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sapea-report01SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) has published its first Evidence Review Report titled Food from the Oceans, which examines the question of how the ocean can help satisfy the global demand for food.
As an integral part of the Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM), SAPEA was asked to produce this Evidence Review Report to underpin the Scientific Opinion of the High Level Group (HLG), in response to a request from Commissioner Vella (DG MARE). The request asked for advice on the question: “How can more food and biomass be obtained from the oceans in a way that does not deprive future generations of their benefits?”

The Evidence Review Report warns that in our extraction of food from the oceans, ‘business as usual’ is not sustainable from social, economic and environmental viewpoints. The report suggests a number of options, which inform the recommendations of the HLG Scientific Opinion. It states that the only way to obtain significantly more food and biomass sustainably from the ocean is to harvest seafood that on average is from a lower trophic level (lower in the food chain) than we currently harvest.
To produce Food from the Oceans, SAPEA worked with academies across Europe and the European Academy Networks to bring together experts in a range of disciplines. The experts formed working groups which were chaired by Professor Poul Holm (Trinity College Dublin) and Professor Dag Aksnes (University of Bergen). Academia Europaea led on this topic.

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said:

“This substantive opinion and comprehensive evidence review shows that the Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism is going from strength to strength. I am confident that the value of this opinion will be recognised not just by European policy makers, but also by national governments and all those who care about the future of our oceans.”

Professor Günter Stock, 2017 Chair of the SAPEA board said:
“Interdisciplinarity and world class expertise from across Europe are SAPEA’s core strengths, and this report has successfully incorporated these under the leadership of Academia Europaea. I look forward to SAPEA’s future collaborations with the SAM High Level Group, ensuring that scientific advice is informed by expertise from academies across Europe.”

Professor Sierd Cloetingh, President of Academia Europaea said:
“In Food from the Oceans, we believe we have established an attractive model for future SAPEA projects. I would like to thank the academies across Europe and their experts who have contributed their valuable knowledge to this report. I express my gratitude to everyone involved in making Food from the Oceans a success, ensuring that the Evidence Review Report was delivered on time and to an excellent standard.”