Tallinn conference delves on the Advisory Role of Academies in the Information-Rich Society

While the production of new knowledge has been and remains a cornerstone of the Academy, a rapidly growing task of a contemporary academy is providing scientific advice.

The conference “Advisory Role of Academies in the Information-Rich Society”, which took place on 22-23 October at the Estonian Academy of Sciences in Tallinn, provided a platform for academicians, scientists, policy-makers and educators to discuss the changing roles of academies at a time when the sociopolitical European landscape is taking new turns. The Estonian Academy of Sciences invited attendees to further articulate on the options, challenges and mechanisms of advice on scientific matters in a contemporary society that is oversaturated by information. The event opened with remarks from Mr Eiki Nestor, Member of Parliament of Estonia, and Professor Tarmo Soomere, President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences.

Picture by Reti Kokk.

The conference was inspired by the Tallinn Call for Action and the outcome of the subsequent SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) workshop “Crossing Boundaries: New Approaches to Science for Policy in Europe,” held during Estonia’s EU Council Presidency in October 2017.

The message from the scientific perspectives was presented, among others, by ALLEA President Professor Antonio Loprieno, who delivered a talk on the roles of academies in bridging the production and the implementation of science, taking into account their less institutionally biased stance when compared to universities, which are increasingly concerned with their own scientific visibility. Additional speakers included Professor Sierd Cloetingh, President of the Academia Europaea, and Dr Katrien Maes, Deputy Secretary-General of LERU, who provided the perspective from research intensive universities.

An important aspect that the conference sought to ponder on was how excellent science can be converted into useful policy advice. This rapidly-growing field was commented on by high-level experts, among which was Professor Janusz Bujnicki, member of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors. Their messages were complemented by an insight into problems that academies in other parts of the world are facing, taking the example from the Academy of Sciences of Nicaragua, as presented by Professor Jorge Huete.

ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno deliver his speech at the Estonian Academy of Sciences. Picture by Reti Kokk.

In order to strengthen the mechanisms and channels through which research is communicated, and also through which it provides advice to policy-makers, the viewpoint of the recipients of science advice were presented. This session had the presence of top-level decision-makers, including Dr Robert-Jan Smits, Former director-general of the DG Research and Innovation (RTD) at the European Commission, and Professor Marju Lauristin, former Minister in Estonia and former member of the European Parliament.

Speaking on the relevance of this event, Professor Loprieno emphasised that “it is vital, in the present moment of European science history, that academies reflect on their role and become involved more intensively in stressing the role of science in society.”

This conference marked the 80th anniversary of the Estonian Academy of Sciences as well as the centenary of the Republic of Estonia. The full programme of the conference can be accessed here.

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Pictures by Reti Kokk