A BioMed Alliance update on EU research policy

By EASL EU Public Affairs November 24,2015

On 13 November, the BioMed Alliance held its General Assembly Meeting.

The Alliance, representing 21 leading biomedical societies, aims to promote the best interests and values of research across all medical disciplines in Europe. The meeting, amongst other things, provided an overview of past and upcoming developments in research policy.

With regard to the EU research and innovation program, there are several issues worthy of monitoring. To begin with, there is the upcoming mid-term evaluation of Horizon 2020. The related Commission report is foreseen for 2017. With a view to developing an advocacy plan to influence the mid-term evaluation, the BioMed Alliance recently circulated among its members a survey on researchers’ experiences with Horizon 2020.

Given the very low response rate of hepatologists, EASL strongly urges members who have not yet filled out the survey to do so. In addition to a mid-term review, the Regulation governing Horizon 2020 also provides for the establishment of the Scientific Panel for Health (SPH), a science-led stakeholder platform that has been tasked with helping to achieve better health and well-being for all. The SPH, which is chaired by Professor Karin Sipido, held its first plenary meeting in January 2015.

On 21 January 2016, the panel will host a conference with a view to presenting its global outlook and work. Another development discussed at the BioMed meeting is the ex-post evaluation of FP7 (the previous framework program). Dr Philippe Cupers (DG Research and Innovation) presented some preliminary findings with regard to the health theme in FP7. These suggest that the large majority of projects achieved the objectives. On 20 November, the independent high-level expert group charged with the evaluation of FP7 handed its report to Research Commissioner Moedas. The Commission is scheduled to publish its response to the report at the beginning of next year. Dr. Cupers also presented the preliminary findings of the online survey on simplification in Horizon 2020. The main suggestions for simplification coming out of the survey reveal a preference for more 2-stage calls, shorter proposals and a simplified time recording and project reporting. The preference for 2-stage calls also figured prominently in responses to the BioMed Alliance’s survey.

Another noteworthy development in EU science and research policy is the recently established Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM). The latter’s mandate consists in delivering relevant scientific evidence to support decision making by the European Commission on specific policy issues. In doing so, the SAM will draw on the wide range of scientific expertise available outside (e.g. the European scientific academies) and within (e.g. the Joint Research Centre) the Commission. The SAM will be led by a high-level group, the members of which were appointed on 10 November 2015.

An important regulatory issue at EU level concerns the proposed Data Protection Regulation (DPR). In response to the European Parliaments’ amendments that impose disproportionate limits on the use of personal data in health research, medical societies have called upon EU policy makers to adopt a compromise position that enables vital research to continue. The EU institutions are currently in ‘trilogue’ negotiations to agree on a comprise text before the final vote in Parliament and Council.  Sophia In’t Veld, an MEP (ALDE) speaking at the meeting, is confident that the final text will not represent a barrier to research. This optimism is shared by Marju Lauristin (S&D), the shadow rapporteur on the DPR who recently spoke at the ‘Data Saves Lives’ event in the European Parliament.

If you are interested in following these and other developments in European research and science policy, follow me on twitter (@laura_capitaine).