History and Future of Knowledge – Interview With ALLEA President

How is the nature of knowledge changing? What is the impact of the digital revolution on the roles of universities, academies and science advisors? Is the democratisation of knowledge always a good thing?

Professor Antonio Loprieno, ALLEA President, discusses these questions with Toby Wardman of SAPEA. They also discuss how to digitally unwrap an Egyptian mummy, whether there is such a thing as objective truth, and how loudly Toby can scream when his audio is muted.

Listen now

New Evidence Review Report: Can Biodegradable Plastics Help Reduce Plastic Pollution?

SAPEA, one of ALLEA major projects, just published a new evidence review report presenting the latest scientific evidence on biodegradability of plastics in the open environment. What does ‘biodegradable plastic’ mean?  Can biodegradable plastics help reduce plastic pollution? What policies should be in place to ensure that biodegradable plastics are beneficial to the environment, compared with non-biodegradable plastics? These questions are in focus of this new evidence review report.

In the report, a working group of leading experts nominated by academies across Europe conclude that biodegradable plastic has a role to play in reducing the accumulation of plastics in the environment. However, its role is limited to some specific applications. In other cases, including single-use packaging and plastic bags, it would be better to reduce the amount of plastic we use — or to re-use it, recycle it, or, where we can, compost it in industrial plants.

The SAPEA experts also stress that calling something ‘biodegradable’ does not mean that it will biodegrade in all conditions. Whether an item will biodegrade harmlessly depends not only on the item itself, but which environment it ends up in, what it breaks down into, and how long that takes.

SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) brings together outstanding expertise in engineering, humanities, medicine, natural and social sciences from over 100 academies, young academies and learned societies across Europe. It is part of the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism.

Read the evidence review report

SAPEA Science for policy podcast

In September, SAPEA – one of ALLEA’s flagship projects – launched a series of podcasts on science advice for policy. Invited experts and science advice practitioners reflect on how far we should rely on science to make political decisions,  what makes a good science advisor, what to do when the evidence is incomplete or controversial,  what happens when science advice goes wrong,  and other questions on science-policy interactions.

So far, six episodes have been published. They feature:

  • Clarissa Rios Rojas, a research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge.
  • Mark Walport, a member of the SAGE committee, and former chief scientific advisor to the UK.
  • Vladimír Šucha and Marta Sienkiewicz, editors of the Joint Research Centre’s new science advice handbook.
  • Bart Koelmans, a chair of the advisory groups on microplastics pollution for the UN and EU.
  • Rolf Heuer and Pearl Dykstra, respectively the chair and deputy chair of the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors.
  • Peter Gluckman, the chair of the International Network for Government Science Advice, and a former chief science advisor to New Zealand.

The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube.

Covid-19 and our food: How is the current crisis affecting how we eat?

The Covid-19 pandemic has altered many aspects of our daily lives, including our trip to the supermarket, the access to food at times of uncertainty or how we eat when we spend more time at home. SAPEA just started a webinar series dedicated to “Sustainable food system” and the first webinar opened the discussion asking how Covid-19 has changed the way we eat. Experts debated the shifting consumers’ attitudes towards food as a public good instead of as a commodity, and confronted the conclusions of a recent SAPEA report with the challenges observed during this crisis.

 

 

Webinar series

Co-hosted by Europe’s academies and other partners, the webinar series will explore different aspects of Europe’s food system following the publication of SAPEA’s major evidence review report A sustainable food system for the European Union and the scientific opinion of the European Commission’s Chief Scientific Advisors. Future webinars in the series, planned for the autumn, will examine the EU’s new Farm2Fork strategy (co-hosted with the EU Food Policy Coalition) and the role of agroecology and technology in sustainability (co-hosted with a European academy). 

ALLEA is involved in SAPEA as one of the five academy networks in Europe. SAPEA is part of the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism.

For more information visit SAPEA website.

Check out the report here.