Europe Searches For A Chief Scientist

The European Union, or is that the European Commission, or maybe it’s just it’s President, well whoever it is wants to appoint a Chief Scientist for the European Commission/Union/etc but it’s unclear exactly why. The candidate should “be able to make a television appearance the moment something scientifically important happens — such as an outbreak of infectious disease, or when there is a political debate with scientific content such as genetically modified crops.”

It’s a worthy and worthless idea at the same time. While it’s good that science gets a seat at the high table, the assumption by politicians that ‘it’s all just science’ can lead to consequences just as disastrous as assuming that all politicians are the same. Asking a Chemist to sort out a veterinary science issue was hardly a success in the UK, and unless there is a polymath like Sir Isaac Newton or James Burke (who could always be relied on to make a television appearance the moment something scientifically important happened) lurking in the wings, we’d probably be better off giving the job to Jeremy Clarkson.

Europe has no shortage of scientists, and some very good ones too, but the idea of appointing just one of them to oversee all scientific issues is rather short sighted, and, given the bitter academic feuds that fester across the continent, will be messy and unpleasant too.

Comments 1

  1. Aaron Small

    Hi Tim,

    I enjoy reading TNTlog very much. New Zealand has just this year appointed a Chief Scientist. For a country as small as ours I believe this is a worthy idea, as it re-examines the role of science in New Zealand’s economic decision making. Those of us in science and the business of science are very optimistic that this appointment may go a long way to lobbying the Government to increase the drastically low levels of science and technology investment (below the OECD average) in NZ.

    I understand that in a large science system like the European Union with such breadth of quality scientists and research, such an appointment could be fraught with difficulties!

    Aaron

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