Organised by SciCom
Brussels 29 June, 2012

High-Level Science for Policy Consultation Event

Evidence-based policy versus policy-biased evidence. The challenge of feeding scientific advice into policy-making.

CSA Workshop
Twenty-seven eminent European, African and American-based speakers from fifteen countries gathered in Brussels to offer first-hand advice on best practices
and pitfalls encountered when formulating policy in the emerging area of harm reduction science.

Dear Participant,

On behalf of myself and all those indirectly involved in bringing this initiative together, I would like to sincerely thank you all for your personal commitment.

Having helped organise similar high-level, science-for-policy consultation events when working at the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre, it struck me that the impetus given by the appointment of a new Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission, allied to the legislative topicality of an increasing number of government’s focus on addressing issues of harm reduction, offered the perfect opportunity to bring you together for this unique, prestigious and hopefully rewarding occasion.

The 28th June pre-dinner event also serves as a platform to invite a larger group to celebrate Euroscience Open Forum, a pan-European initiative close to my heart as the 2012 Dublin Bid Coordinator and a Media & Marketing Committee Member.

In this regard, I would like to thank Irish Chief Scientific Adviser and ESOF 2012 Champion, Professor Patrick Cunningham, for agreeing to Chair this workshop and share his wisdom with us.

As an expert group of individuals with pertinent experiences of real-life scientific support to policy-making, you represent all stakeholder groups and stages of science-policy interaction from conception and development to implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

In my planning, you may have noted a deliberate attempt to avoid a top-down approach and pre-judging the outcomes. The emphasis is on equality, open discussion and the harvesting of ideas.

Regardless of political allegiances or personal standpoints, this consultation event is specifically designed to allow us to take a step back, to debate with and to learn from each other and, most importantly, to acknowledge best practices and pitfalls.

The emphasis will be on identifying similarities and differences, while reaching firm conclusions about the challenge of “evidence-based policy versus policy-biased evidence”.

I hope that in our common recommendations we may succeed in charting new thinking on where harm reduction science for policy might, and perhaps should, develop next.   

Yours sincerely,

Aidan Gilligan, CEO
SciCom – Making Sense of Science


  1. Mr. Pierre-Olivier Bergeron (French), Secretary General, The Brewers Association of Europe (Observer)
  2. Professor Klaus Bock (Danish), Chairman of the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF) and Champion, ESOF 2014 Copenhagen (Panelist)
  3. Professor Jim Bridges (British), Professor of Toxicology and Environmental Health and Dean for International Strategy at the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK; Chair of the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), (Panelist)
  4. Dr. David Budtz Pedersen (Danish), Strategic Adviser, Ministry of Science, Innovation & Higher Education; Bid Coordinator ESOF 2014 Copenhagen (Observer)
  5. Dr. Wilson M. Compton (American), Director, Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research, US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), (Panelist)
  6. Professor Patrick Cunningham (Irish), Chief Scientific Adviser to the Irish Government; Professor of  Animal Genetics, Trinity College Dublin; Champion, ESOF 2012 (Chair)
  7. Mr. Alberto da Ponte (Portuguese), President of The Brewers of Europe; Board of Directors of the European Foundation for Alcohol Research (Panelist)
  8. Mr. Daan Du Toit (South African), Minister Counsellor (Science & Technology), South African Mission to the European Union (Senior S&T Representative to the EU, South African Department of Science & Technology), (Observer)
  9. Professor Dr. Karl Fagherstrom (Swedish), Founder, Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco; Former Editor-in-Chief, Scandinavian Journal for Behavioural Therapy; Director, Smokers Information Center (Panelist)
  10. Mr. Aidan Gilligan (Irish), Event Organiser & CEO, SciCom – Making Sense of Science (Rapporteur)
  11. Professor Anne Glover (British), Chief Scientific Adviser to José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission; Chair of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Aberdeen; Former Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland (Panelist)
  12. Professor Helmut Greim (German), Chair of the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) & Former Chair of the Institute of Toxicology and Environmental Hygiene at the Technical University of Munich (Panelist)
  13. Dr. Richard Horton (British), Editor-in-Chief, The Lancet; Formerly First-President of the World Association of Medical Editors & Past-President of the US Council of Science Editors (Panelist)
  14. Dr. Delon Human (South African), President & CEO, Health Diplomats; Secretary-General of the Africa Medical Association (AfMA); Formerly Secretary of the World Medical Association; Formerly Adviser to the WHO Director-General and UN Secretary-General (Panelist)
  15. Professor Martin Ingvar (Swedish), Dean of Research, Professor of Integrated Medicine, Karolinska Institut; Professor of Integrative Medicine; Leader of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine as well as the MR/MEG Brain Imaging Center at Karolinska Institutet (Panelist)
  16. Dr. Theodoros Karapiperis (Greek), Head of Unit, Scientific and Technical Options Assessment Panel (STOA), European Parliament (Panelist) 
  17. Professor Michel Kazatchkine (French), Professor of Immunology at Université René Descartes, Paris; Former Executive Director, The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria (Panelist)
  18. Dr. Susan Kentner (American), Director of the Brussels Office of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres (Observer)
  19. Mrs. Sophia Kuhn (Swedish), Communications Manager at the European Food Information Council (EUFIC); Formerly European Science Foundation (Observer)
  20. Dr. Bogosi Mogale (South African), South African Mission to the European Union (Senior Health Representative to the EU, South African Department of Science & Technology), (Panelist)
  21. Mrs. Nathalie Moll (British), Secretary General, EuropaBio (Panelist)
  22. Dr. Jan Marco Mueller (German), Assistant to CSA Anne Glover; Former Assistant to the Director-General, European Commission, Joint Research Centre (Rapporteur)
  23. Professor Riitta Mustonen (Finnish), Vice President, Academy of Finland; Former Director of the Academy’s Health Research Unit (Panelist)
  24. Mr. Anders Olauson (Swedish), President, European Patients Forum; Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Agrenska Centre (Panelist)
  25. Dr. Martin Seychell (Maltese), Deputy Director General, European Commission, Health and Consumers; Former Head of Directorate at the Malta Standards Authority & Director of Environment (Panelist)
  26. Dr. Peter Tindemans (Dutch), Secretary General, Euroscience; High-Level Research Policy Consultant to the World Bank, UNESCO and various governments (Panelist) 
  27. Mr. Frederik Wittock (Belgian), Senior Director, Cross-Pharma R&D Communications, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development (Panelist)


Pierre Olivier Bergeron
Mr. Pierre-Olivier Bergeron
"Europe’s brewers are part of the solution to support Member States in reducing alcohol-related harm. A key ingredient for positively impacting European’s well-being is the multi-stakeholder approach. Experience shows that whilst different stakeholders may propose different strategies, positive outcomes can be achieved when a common, clear objective has been set, also taking account of Europe’s cultural patchwork."

Alberto da Ponte
Mr. Alberto da Ponte
"The alcohol challenge is not just having the simple rhetoric that alcohol is not tobacco and the target is harm not consumption per se, but also policies that are clearly targeted at alcohol abuse and the vulnerable minority who misuse alcohol, and whereby population level per capita consumption is not used as the ultimate indicator."

Professor Dr. Karl Fagherstrom
Professor Dr. Karl Fagherstrom
"The biggest challenge is with tobacco because it causes the most harm. It also provides the biggest opportunity since nicotine by itself is not that harmful. Thus the challenge for the policy is to design systems so that people chose to use the least harmful tobacco and nicotine products. The effects of drugs and alcohol may be more disturbing for society, but in terms of monetary costs to society, death and disease, they fade in comparison to tobacco smoking."

Dr. Delon Human

Dr. Delon Human:
"In public health, the goal is to prevent disease or premature death in a whole population, whereas the goal of health care is to care for individuals. One of the greatest challenges of public health is to ensure that these two goals are not mutually exclusive. For example, noncommunicable disease, ageing, pandemics, maternal and child health, under- and over-nutrition are probably the greatest challenges to populations, but access for individuals to health care services and options, such as harm reduction in alcohol, drugs and tobacco, should not be neglected."

Mr. Aidan Gilligan
Mr. Aidan Gilligan
"Harm reduction, particularly in drugs, alcohol and tobacco, is the greatest preventable public health challenge we face today. I look forward to bringing together some of the best minds around to look at the science underpinning current approaches and challenging policy-makers to do better."



Professor Anne Glover
Professor Anne Glover
"Harm reduction science is a newly developing area - all the more reason the workshop should be interesting and valuable."

Professor Martin Ingvar
Professor Martin Ingvar
"The conglomerate of non-communicable diseases all related to eating-habits and sedentary life-styles with its impact on health equity is the most important health challenge. Health research has to improve its ability to deliver better descriptions of complex problems to politics and society."

Professor Michel Kazatchkine
Professor Michel Kazatchkine
"For me, the greatest challenge remains that drug policies in most countries in the world remain based on concepts generated before the AIDS epidemic that are largely ideology-driven, and ignore or do not prioritize harm reduction. Although Europe has been one of the leading voices in harm reduction in the last 25 years, there is a perceptible trend to focus again on repressive policies and leadership on re-thinking drug policies globally, seems to not belong to Europe anymore."

Mrs. Sophia Kuhn
Mrs. Sophia Kuhn
"Obesity is my biggest harm reduction concern. With half the adult population overweight (Body Mass Index (BMI) 25-29.9) or obese (BMI ≥30), Europe has a weight problem. Several behavioural and environmental factors, including falling food prices and more time spent physically inactive, are likely to have contributed to this situation. Obesity rates have doubled in the last 20 years with the highest levels found in the UK, Malta and Ireland, where over 20% of adults are obese. On average across EU countries, 15.5% of the adult population is obese. As obesity increases the risk of chronic diseases, it was estimated that total healthcare costs linked to overweight could increase by as much as 70% between 2007 and 2015. We clearly need to act."

Dr Riitta Mustonen
Dr Riitta Mustonen
"There is a need for a more multidisciplinary approach to public health in general and a focus on children and adolescents. Just to enumerate a couple of examples: Mental health disorders: these problems may have a biomedical basis but may also be linked to societal issues, e.g. changing conditions in working life, society and economy.

There is a need for harm reduction science, knowledge and understanding on prevention and intervention. Some examples: mood disorders, anxiety disorders, attention / learning disorders, amnesia, psychotic disorders, dementia, addictions (substances, gaming) etc. Health inequality: even though the quality of life (in terms of living standard, medical care etc) is increasing it seems that health and wellbeing differences between different population groups are increasing. Rich get healthier and poor get sicker.

Societies need research data that can be used to strengthen welfare systems. This problem has many dimensions. E.g.”shutdown” of the public health sector vs. raise of the private sector. At the same time preventive and personalized medicine, including tailored drugs and new diagnostics, are becoming more and more expensive and will soon be available only in private sector. People have to assume more responsibility to take care of their own health insurances and medical care. On the other hand, if citizens are not guaranteed to have proper medical services from the public sector, their willingness to contribute to the common wealth by paying taxes may be questioned."

Dr. Peter Tindemans
Dr. Peter Tindemans
"My experience with public health is through research policy. Priority setting for overall R&D in the Netherlands; establishing a National Programme for Health Research with focus on clinical and epidemiological research; official interlocutor for the National Advisory Council for Health Research; leading the merger of the organisation responsible for funding applied health projects in the Ministry of Public Health with the medical research division of The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research NOW. More recently, I have had a strong involvement in the policy discussions on research infrastructures (such as bio banks, or the collaboration of Europe’s largest Comprehensive Cancer Centres for large scale clinical trials)."