Author Archives: Margit Lehis

New WRR publication: Acquiring, assessing and weighing. The use of knowledge in policy advice in times of crisis

Essay “Acquiring, assessing and weighing. The use of knowledge in policy advice in times of crisis”.

Preparing for the next crisis means being aware that it will inevitably come. This is the conclusion drawn by the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), the Health Council of the Netherlands (GR) and the Council for Public Administration (ROB).

The role of scientific advisors in crisis situations
In crisis situations, scientific advisors play an essential role in the timely acquisition and interpretation of relevant knowledge. It is then the task of politicians and administrators to assess and weigh the knowledge and, on that basis, to decide how to tackle the crisis. The essay highlights three key lessons:

  1. Adaptivity: crises require politicians, administrators and advisory bodies to demonstrate adaptability. During a crisis, scientific advisors can proactively formulate questions and provide guidance to strike upon answers that will help mitigate the crisis. In addition, they can provide policymakers with greater manoeuvrability by looking further ahead.
  2. Multidisciplinarity: Advisory boards are composed of different scientific disciplines that can share areas of overlap, but that can also sometimes clash. It is absolutely vital in a crisis in which far-reaching decisions must be made that the full range of perspectives receive due consideration. This requires practice, which can be achieved when advisory bodies endeavour to collaborate more often when crises are not at hand.
  3. Division of responsibility: tasks and responsibilities are distributed between science, advice and decision-making. Advisory bodies should guard against these responsibilities becoming too intertwined. This becomes particularly vital the longer the crisis persists and the more prominent the role of politics and governance becomes.

The essay is the result of a conference convened by the three bodies to examine the role of knowledge in dealing with an acute, chronic or predicted crisis. During the conference, scientists from a range of disciplines, politicians and administrators discussed these issues.

About the WRR
The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) is an independent advisory body for government policy. The task of the WRR is to advise the Dutch government and Parliament on strategic issues that are likely to have important political and societal consequences. More information about the WRR can be obtained here.

New WRR publication “Money and debt: The public role of banks”

The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) and the international publisher Springer have published: Money and Debt: The Public Role of Banks. This Open Access book can be downloaded free of charge (as an ebook) or can be ordered as a deluxe hardcover book via the Springer website.

An analysis of banks’ role in money creation

This book offers a thorough yet very accessible analysis of the functioning of our current financial-monetary system. While we focus on the situation in the Netherlands, it contains insights that should be of interest to policy-makers and researchers in other (EU) countries and at the EU level:

  • We explain how money creation works, showing how it is inherently linked to the creation of debt;
  • We show that in our current system money and debt can more easily get out of hand; and
  • We argue that due to banks’ central role in money creation and their impact on financial stability has given banks (and particularly systemically important banks) a quasi-public status.

An evaluation of monetary reform

Money and Debt is a translation of a report written in response to a formal request by the Dutch government to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of alternative monetary systems. This request was made after a citizens’ initiative (Ons Geld) had successfully called for a public debate on monetary reform. In this book:

  • We systematically evaluate proposals for fundamental monetary reform, in particular the citizens’ initiative’s idea of a ‘sovereign money system’ in which money and credit are separated;
  • We argue that such an alternative system in theory would not necessarily be preferable to our current system, and would introduce many practical problems; 
  • We argue that the sovereign money system nevertheless exposes several key flaws in our current system, and contains clues for less sweeping, but still significant reforms.

Policy recommendations

The book contains several policy recommendations to address the excessive growth of debt and the public dimension of banks, including:

  • We argue that alternative payment options such as Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) can contribute to financial stability and safeguard money as a public good;
  • We suggest to take more direct action to reduce the dominance of the systemically important banks, while supporting smaller institutions and newcomers;
  • We propose to level the playing field between equity and debt finance in national tax policies to limit excessive incentives to go into debt;
  • We call on policy-makers to strengthen the EU’s macroprudential policy framework, which specifically target systemic risks, and to better align it with the ECB’s monetary policy;
  • We stress the importance of taking losses in a timely manner after a crisis, as it creates room for recovery.
  • We propose to investigate the viability of a mandatory general recapitalization of banks after a crisis to facilitate a swift recovery;
  • We argue that the public dimension of the banking sector must be better safeguarded, in particular by better incorporating societal interests in banks’ corporate governance policies.
  • We suggest to improve citizens’ ‘exit’ and ‘voice’ options, by providing an alternative payment and saving option and by ensuring that both banks and supervisors pay more attention to citizens’ ideas and expectations.

Follow-up studies

This book has contributed to Dutch debate on reforms to the banking sector, and has for example led to studies on Central Bank Digital Currency by the Dutch central bank (DNB) and by the Dutch Parliament (available only in Dutch). In its formal response to the Dutch Parliament, the government acknowledged the importance of the report and its analysis and welcomed many of the recommendations. Additionally, Members of Parliament of both the House of Representatives and the Senate discussed the report with the authors, the citizens’ initiative and other financial sector stakeholders. To further facilitate the transmission of our ideas, the authors of the report are currently working on a shorter follow-up study. In due time we hope to also send you this study.

Springer Book Series: Research for Policy

In this series, we publish internationally relevant studies of the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy. Many of the cross-cutting issues that affect Dutch policymaking, also challenge other Western countries or international bodies. By publishing these studies in this international open access scientific series, we hope that our analyses and insights can contribute to the policy debate in other countries.

More information about the Springer Series can be obtained here.

About the WRR

The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) is an independent advisory body for government policy. The task of the WRR is to advise the Dutch government and Parliament on strategic issues that are likely to have important political and societal consequences. More information about the WRR can be obtained here.

Joint webinar addresses the strengths of different national and regional science advice systems in Europa. June 17, 2021

ESAF (European Science Advisors Forum) and SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) will organize a joint webinar that addresses strengths of different national and regional science advice systems in Europa on 17 June, 15:00–17:00 CEST. The webinar will be held in Zoom. For joining please use the link.

This event is meant inter alia to mark that Antonio Loprieno, the president of the federation of European academies of science ALLEA, will take over the chairmanship of SAPEA from 15 June 2021. It is thus particularly convenient time for ESAF and SAPEA to discuss strong sides of different versions of science advice systems in Europa, and to search for common basis for cooperation.

Advice systems in different countries are based on greatly different institutions (chief scientist office, research council, academy of sciences, government officer, or single expert). On the one hand, all such systems have their strong sides that could be illuminating to others. On the other hand, there is no fit-for-all solution and diversity of systems of science advice is an extremely valuable asset.


14:50–15:00 Login to the Zoom
15:00–15:05 Opening words.
Tarmo Soomere, ESAF chairman and Antonio Loprieno, SAPEA chairman
Jacques Verraes, acting Head of Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) unit, the European Commission
Prof Nicole Grobert, the Chair and Prof Nebojsa Nakicenovic, the Deputy Chair of the Group of Chief Science Advisors (GCSA) to the European Commission
15:15–15:35SAPEA: how to make European scientists become advisors
Prof Antonio Loprieno, President of ALLEA and chairman of SAPEA
15:35–15:50National science advice system based on chief scientist’s office.
Prof Peter Halligan, ESAF, Chief Scientist to Wales
15:50–16:05National science advice routine in Spain.
Prof Enric Banda, ESAF, Spanish Advisory Council on Science, Technology and Innovation
16:05–16:20Sectorial science advice systems: an example in the field of food and agriculture.
Dr Niels Halberg, Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture
16:20–16:35Insight into national science advice systems in Europa.
Kristian Krieger, Unit H1: Knowledge for Policy (Concepts and Methods), Joint Research Centre of the European Commission
16:35–16:55Strength via diversity: Discussion on developing resilience of national and regional science advice in Europa
16:55–17:00 Wrap-up and closing

JRC online workshop “Science for policymaking in Latvia”. May 19, 2021

On May 19, 2021 (13h30–16h30 CET) the JRC is organising a workshop on “Science for policymaking in Latvia”. Deadline for registration: 9 May.

The workshop aims at bringing together professionals from national, regional and local governments and public administrations, the scientific community, Academies of Science, and other organisations with an interest and experience in bringing scientific knowledge into the policymaking process at all governance levels.

Concretely, the workshop provides a mix of plenary interventions and highly interactive break-out groups that aim at understanding what works (and what does not), for what reasons, and how can we improve the eco-system of science for policy in Latvia.

Seminar is a part of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre’s project “Strengthening and connecting eco-systems of science for policy”.

JRC online workshop “Science for policymaking – EU financing programmes”. May 6, 2021

On 6 May 2021 (14h30–16h15 CET), the JRC is organising a workshop on “Science for policymaking – EU financing programmes” in which various services of/affiliated to the European Commission (including REFORM, REGIO, RTD, COST, JRC) present some funding programmes of relevance to science for policy activities.
Deadline for registration: 2 May.

The workshop aims at bringing together professionals from national, regional and local governments and public administrations, the scientific community, Academies of Science, and other organisations with an interest and experience in bringing scientific knowledge into the policymaking process at all governance levels.

Science Advice to Government – Why is it Relevant? 2nd Workshop. 18th March 2021

The panel members will reflect on existing processes, mechanisms and structures providing scientific advice to governments in Europe. In doing so it will discuss how to increase the demand and uptake of evidence generated by these structures, and more in general, in political decision-making. What are the challenges and guiding principles of providing scientific advice to policymakers? Are they evolving with time? Are they different in a context of complexity and uncertainty as illustrated by the Covid-19 pandemic?

18th March 2021 | 9-11am (GMT)

Renzo Tomellini, Head of Unit, Scientific Advice Mechanism, DG Research and Innovation EC
José Manuel MendonçaPresident of the Board of Directors of INESC TEC, President of the National Council of Science, Technology and Innovation (CNCTI)
Peter Gluckman, Chair of the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA)
Carole Mundell, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office FCDO Chief International Science Envoy

MODERATOR: David Budtz Pedersen, Professor of Science Communication and Director of the Humanomics Research Institute in Copenhagen

Event Webpage – programme, speakers, registration etc.

Trans-European online seminar on science-based policy advice in agriculture, food, climate and environment. March 16-17, 2021

Following the seminar, we have prepared an article describing main points from the seminar, and providing a glimpse of the challenges across Europe in science-based policy advice. You are very welcome make use of the article at your own website or to forward the article to anyone who might be interested in your institution or country. The article can also be shared via Twitter link.

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Aarhus University and European Science Advisors Forum (ESAF) invite stakeholders to participate in a trans-European seminar to create synergy and knowledge sharing among researchers across Europe. The aim is to heighten further the quality of the European science-based policy. The seminar takes place online on the 16th and 17th of March, 2021.

European governments are facing critical decisions on agriculture, food, climate and environment. Science based policy advice is in high demand, but varies across Europe. The aim of the first trans-European seminar in this area is to facilitate exchange of experiences, challenges and best practices in how to provide Science based policy advice.

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly revealed how important flexibility is in the advice system. It is therefore crucial for the development, sustainability and resilience of countries and regions to learn from successful cases of science-based advice and policy recommendation. It is equally important to discuss together the reasons for failures”, says Professor Tarmo Soomere, who is the chair of ESAF.

Online workshop on “Science for policymaking in Estonia”. March 9, 2021

This virtual event is the sixth of the workshop series “Strengthening and connecting eco-systems of science for policy in Europe” launched by the JRC in September 2020.  Organised by the European Commission jointly with the European Science Advisors Forum (ESAF).

Date/Time: The virtual workshop will take place online on 9 March 2021 between 13h30 and 16h15 CET (14h30 and 17h15 EST). The video-call will be opened at 13h10 CET / 14h10 EST to ensure a smooth start.  

Registration: You can register for the workshop via this registration portal until 1 March 2021. We will confirm your participation on 3 March at the latest. Please note that we may not be able to accommodate all requests for participation in order to keep the workshop interactive and participatory.

Objectives: The workshop pursues three objectives: first, mapping Estonia’s science for policy eco-system and science advice institutions and processes; secondly, analyse drivers and bottlenecks/challenges experienced in science for policy eco-system of Estonia; and thirdly, collectively creating projects and solutions to overcome identified challenges/bottlenecks.   

Workshop process/Content:  The ~3 hrs programme consists of a mix of short introductory interventions, a break-out group session (what works?; what’s needed/helps?), and a wrap-up plenary. Introductory reflections are provided by: Jüri Ratas, former Prime Minister of Estonia; Prof. Krista Fisher, Member of the National COVID-19 Science Advice Group; Prof Tarmo Soomere, Chair of ESAF and President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences; Dr. Liina Eek, Estonian Research Council; and Prof. Mark W.J. Ferguson, Director-General of the Science Foundation Ireland, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland. Please find the draft agenda.  

Technical Platforms/Instructions: The workshop will be run through MS Teams, specifically via this channel. Since the first workshop revealed some problems with connecting via Teams, please read the instructions attached. In these instructions, you will also find slots for test calls with MS Teams to test your connection ahead of the workshop, which we strongly encourage you to take advantage of.  Read MS-Team instructions.

Survey Participation:  As preparation to the workshop, we would like to kindly ask you to participate in our short 5-minute survey on the “qualities of your country’s science for policy eco-system”. The results will be presented briefly during the workshop.

Coronavirus: Advisors provide joint opinion on pandemic preparedness and management

The European Commission’s independent Group of Chief Scientific Advisors (GCSA), the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) and Peter Piot, special advisor to the President Ursula von der Leyen on the response to COVID-19, published a joint Opinion on Improving pandemic preparedness and management.

The advisors provide a set of recommendations that will help to prevent and pre-empt the emerging infectious diseases globally, enhance coordination across EU Member States and internationally and strengthen systems of preparedness and management. Additionally, the advisors look at how we can best uphold fundamental rights and social justice in times of a pandemic. Finally, they advise the Commission to address systemic issues linked to health crises, most notably in the fields of sustainability and social justice.
See the EC News here.