Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has welcomed Government approval to appoint a Government Science Advisor and to establish a National Science Advice Forum.

The Government Science Advisor will chair the National Science Advice Forum and provide cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary science advice to the Government.

The new science advice structures will assist in informing responses to complex and challenging policy issues like climate change, food sustainability, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and emerging technologies and to needs identified by Ministers and Government Departments.

Speaking today Minister Harris TD said:

This new role will offer a science advisory service to all of those engaged in the development and review of Government policy areas, as a valuable input to decisions.

It is coming at a time in our history when science, innovation and technology have never been more important

Science can drive job creation, grow the economy, help us tackle significant societal challenges, and ensure Ireland is at the cutting-edge of new technologies and industries. As a Government, we have drawn on the outcome of a public consultation and have now agreed to strengthen science advice structures and align it with other Government actions.

As we have seen over the past few years, science advice is invaluable, and we will continue to draw on the existing sources of expertise within the country. Ireland has a rich science base to draw on, including the higher education and research sector, and a range of expert bodies already under the aegis of Government Departments.

The National Science Advice Forum will assist the Government Science Advisor and its composition will be drawn from those with established scientific expertise in a range of key disciplines, along with experts in the policy making process.

The Forum and the Advisor will ensure that good working relationships are built between those engaged in policy and those providing scientific advice, and will initiate new lines of communication between existing sources of advice available to Government and the wider research community.

The National Science Advice Forum will have an annual work programme which will be reported to Government. Delivery of the work programme will be evaluated after an initial three-year period.

A public consultation was held in September 2022, and the outcomes from this, along with international models, have been considered formally as the new Science Advice Structures. The new Science Advice Structures will be integrated in the general public policy making process and complement existing Government actions.

These new Science Advice Structures will bring Ireland in line with countries in Europe and beyond who have also tailored advisory structures to meet their needs and will maximise Ireland’s participation in international science advice organisations.

Welcoming the news, Minister Rabbitte said:

Science generates solutions for everyday life and helps us to answer the great mysteries of the universe. In other words, science is one of the most important channels of knowledge. It has a specific role, as well as a variety of functions for the benefit of our society: creating new knowledge, improving education, and increasing the quality of our lives.

Science must respond to societal needs and global challenges. Public understanding and engagement with science, and citizen participation including through the popularisation of science are essential to equip citizens to make informed personal and professional choices.

Governments need to make decisions based on quality scientific information on issues such as health and agriculture, and parliaments need to legislate on societal issues which necessitate the latest scientific knowledge. National governments need to understand the science behind major global challenges such as climate change, ocean health, biodiversity loss and freshwater security.

and she concluded:

To face sustainable development challenges, governments and citizens alike must understand the language of science and must become scientifically literate. On the other hand, scientists must understand the problems policy-makers face and endeavour to make the results of their research relevant and comprehensible to society.

Challenges today cut across the traditional boundaries of disciplines and stretch across the lifecycle of innovation — from research to knowledge development and its application. Science, technology and innovation must drive our pursuit of more equitable and sustainable development.

 

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