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« Deben admits the pause | Main | The murky past of the German greens »

The EU dispenses with its CSA

The European Union has decided that it is going to abolish the role of chief scientific adviser. The usual suspects are outraged but in reality I can't see why this should be a problem for policymakers. There is no particular reason why the advice of a cell biologist like Anne Glover - the last incumbent of the role at the EU - should be important in the debate over, say, climate change. Many readers of this blog could lay claim to as much or more expertise than the good professor, brilliant individual though she may be in her own field.

Moreover, much of the demand for CSAs in government is driven by a wish to keep pressure on policymakers to fund science and scientists. CSAs end up as public-funded shop stewards, a shameful thing.

If policymakers want advice on particular subjects, let them go to experts in the area concerned.

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Reader Comments (22)

I agree. If DECC had gone out for engineering advice from experts in the field, rather than relying on green blob scientific advisers, our energy situation wouldn't be in the current mess.

Nov 13, 2014 at 9:37 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Brilliant, Bish! "Public-funded shop stewards".

You have in a few short words summarised the corruption at the heart of big green "science".

Nov 13, 2014 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

"If policymakers want advice on particular subjects, let them go to experts in the area concerned."

Like Professor Myles Allen, or Professor Stefan Rahmsdorf perhaps? Or even Sir Paul Nurse. He is now an expert after appearing on an Horizon program discussing Climate Change.

Nov 13, 2014 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterColin Porter

Pure speculation here: the problem Glover created in her position could have been owing to her position on genetically modified organisms, which is well within her expertise. The EU with its precaution-mongering regulation-expansionist tendencies is served best when surrounded by know-nothing NGOs that rely on the EU for their own sustenance. It might have found itself uncomfortable with a knowledgeable scientist looking over their shoulder laughing at them for listening to superstitious wittering emanating from ignorant gloomsters like Greenpeace.

Nov 13, 2014 at 9:59 AM | Registered Commentershub

Colin: Whatever system is put in place, the Government of the day will go for advice from people it knows will give it the answer it wants to hear.

Nov 13, 2014 at 9:59 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Her role in the Commission was not so much giving the President specific advice, no CSA can do that across the whole portfolio, but trying to ensure that a wide range of scientific advice was sought and heard in making policy decisions. Science is of course not THE determining factor in such decisions but is often an essential part of the discussion. Anne Glover did a really good job of broadening the evidence base to include all shades of scientific opinion, especially in controversial areas, that is why the Green Blob hated her and has now managed to get the post abolished leaving the way clear for them to insinuate their "scientific" opinions into the willing ears of the Commission as the only advice they will hear.

Nov 13, 2014 at 10:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

Couldn't this scientific advisor have been the one to point out that electrical appliances that are half as powerful but take twice as long to do the job don't save energy?

Nov 13, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

Arthur Dent: spot on, BBC radio 4 were hinting this morning that this was a victory for Greenpeace, as they failed (in their terms) to influence Anne Glover, i.e. she was being swayed too much by "vested interests" (i.e. anyone who doesn't agree with Big Green).

The point about her being a biologist shouldn't matter, if you regard the post as a function (involving a team of people) rather than a person.

Nov 13, 2014 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

@ Stonyground at 10:07 AM

"Couldn't this scientific advisor have been the one to point out that electrical appliances that are half as powerful but take twice as long to do the job don't save energy?"

You're too kind.

Correct is: Electrical appliances such as kettles that are half as powerful but take twice as long to do the job use more energy, because of heat losses during the process.

Nov 13, 2014 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

"Public-funded shop stewards". Ahh - a glorified 'Pilgrim', then. (h/t Guido).

Nov 13, 2014 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

These days, I find it difficult to believe that they are there to actually give helpful scientific advice. They are there as a politicians decorative bauble, a tool to convey the politicians intent to the public with a veneer of credibility.

Some other names also come to mind here. Ultimately, IMO, their use in the global-warming scandal will be seen as a period of diminished public respect for scientists.

Nov 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Now that the climate extremists think they have what they want they have no further need of a sciencey person to ratify their demand.

Nov 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Greenpeace shoot the science-based messenger
8.50am the Today prog of all things said that "The post of EU chief scientist has been abolished due to pressure from Greenpeace & other environmental groups" ..they said that quite openly
Ann Glover the present one has just retired..and no new one will be appointed ..this EUactiv page gives good background

In recent months, there have been several attacks on the Precautionary Principle and how the principle has been used in the EU. For example, the scientific advisor to the President of the European Commission, Ann Glover, has accused Commissioners of having “crazy ideas” about the safety of nanotechnologies, genetically modified organisms, shale gas, endocrine disrupters, etc. .. See EU twisting facts to fit political agenda, chief scientist says
NGO backlash to Chief Scientific Advisor position grows 19/08/2014
EXCLUSIVE / More European non-profit groups have thrown their weight behind a call by Greenpeace and HEAL for the European Commission to scrap the position of its Science Tsar, Anne Glover, in a letter sent to the incoming EU president, Jean-Claude Juncker, which EurActiv has seen.

Nov 13, 2014 at 11:48 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Harrabin, Lynas and Deben all in on this one:

Dear @greenpeace - #Climatechange Act would not exist without Bob May and David King as CSOs

Nov 13, 2014 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

'If policymakers want advice on particular subjects, let them go to experts in the area concerned.'
Careful what you wish for, has this means Mann and the Team !

Frankly they be better off going to the cell biologist who at least has some integrity and knows good science when they see it.

Nov 13, 2014 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

Anne Glover did make this statement a little while ago seeking that there be clarity and explanation where there is bypassing of evidence contrary to eventual policy making. Maybe not helpful for her position. :)

"At the end of 2014 I would like there to be an understanding that, if the evidence is not adhered to in policy making, there would be a statement to say that we accept the evidence, that it is robust and that the evidence is true, but for various reasons we are reducing our reliance on evidence; and that could be social, economic, ethical or whatever. We need that transparency and also accountability so that, if people vote against something where clearly the evidence supports it, there should be a degree of accountability there, and then, for me, we would be in a much better place. At the moment, I think, sometimes evidence is disregarded in policy and, quite rightly, citizens would feel that there is something wrong with the evidence then, and that is not the case in many instances. For me, that is a very important thing.

Nov 13, 2014 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterMick J

Christopher Snowdon reported on a remarkably candid interview with Anne Glover. To me it seems like she was saying that the whole process is a joke.

Nov 13, 2014 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterharold

My html skills are not good...

Nov 13, 2014 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterharold

@Harold's link : Bishop wrote a post based on that article

Professor Anne Glover, who is bemoaning the attempts by politicians within the commission to, ahem, "commission" scientific evidence to support their political goals
- I will list below the criticisms of her other statements/naivity

Nov 13, 2014 at 3:53 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Bottomline : she talked the talk about scientific rationalism, but it was on her watch the EU did not turn , but instead continued with wacky policies, possibly cos her views on climate come from being stuck in the middle of the science establishment ("couldn't see the woods for the trees") ..BHcommenter @NBY points out that her 2013 Steps video shows "she has probably never been presented with, nor examined, detailed sceptical arguments on climate science and the associated policy measures"
@lapogus said in 2011 "Prof Glover .. sounded uncertain of even the basics (of cli-sci); and to be fair mentioned that there were sceptics. But she didn't rebuff them with any science, instead she simply stated that the consensus view was undoubtedly correct, because the sceptics were so out-numbered."

Wacky things she has said on Climate/enviro (Despite sitting on NERC Natural Environment Research Council (the main body for funding climate science in the UK)
- Bish criticised : "former Chief Scientific Adviser to the Scottish government, now to the entire EU, who once claimed that global warming would increase day length"

Another list some of the things she said

The EU cannot use the economic slowdown as an excuse to delay action on fighting climate change, the bloc's first-ever chief scientific advisor has warned.
“It has been extremely disappointing to see many member states cut back on their emission reduction efforts because they say 'we're going through a recession',” she said.

“Make no mistake, if we had unabated man-made climate change, we would go through an absolutely horrible period of conflict and migration, until the world's population started diminishing very rapidly.”

As Europe's leaders begin to switch their focus from spending cuts to boosting growth, constraints on natural resources also mean that governments cannot just spend their way out of recessions as in the past.

Dwindling resources
“The simplest way to think about increasing jobs is to make more stuff and get people to buy more stuff. But my point is that we can't do that, because we're running out of resources,” Glover said.

She pointed to estimates from scientists and campaigners that if EU consumption patterns were adopted globally, the equivalent of almost three planets would be needed to keep pace with the current rates of resource depletion. (DING A LING she believes Paul Erlich's discredited "Limits to Growth" book)

“We have to think about alternative ways of using science, engineering and technology to live on the planet,” she said. “I think it's the biggest challenge for humans.”

“If you look at President Barroso's advisors, currently most of them are economists, and that is understandable. But now he has a scientist there too, which was something he decided, and I think that is very healthy.” she said after being appointed after 2009 pledge by Barroso to improve the way the EU gathers and uses scientific advice
.. Be interesting to see that pledge and understand why his successor has backtracked.

Nov 13, 2014 at 4:00 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

José Manuel Barroso 15th Sep 2009 pledge for science advisor post “We also need a fundamental review of the way European institutions access and use scientific advice. In the next Commission, I want to set up a chief scientific adviser who has the power to deliver proactive, scientific advice throughout all stages of policy development and delivery. This will reflect the central importance I attach to research and innovation.”

- Others have pointed out that individual sections have always had science advisors eg food safety... it's just that the politicians don't like following the advice. So 2014 we are back to that I guess

Nov 13, 2014 at 4:15 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Andrew, your readers might be interested to see what Richard North has posted on this on EUReferendum:
EU politics: the "blob" has spoken,

Nov 14, 2014 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Booker

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