About our scientific committees
The Agency is advised by eight scientific committees (SACs), comprising more than 120 independent experts appointed through open competition. These scientists provide independent advice and challenge that is fundamental to the Agency’s work and reputation.
The work of these independent committees helps make sure that the Agency's advice is always based on robust analysis of the most recent scientific evidence.
Seven of the committees cover specific food and feed related issues such as microbiology, social science and toxicology. The General Advisory Committee on Science has a broader, more strategic role for advising on our science and bringing together the work of the other committees.
Several other scientific committees advise the Agency, if needed.
How the committees work
Most scientific advisory committee holds three to six meetings per year; most are held in London. Committee meetings are usually held in open session to increase the visibility and transparency of the committee's work, and to enable interested parties to hear the committee's discussions. The presumption is that meetings are held in open session. However, reserved business sessions may be held in some circumstances. You can find out when meetings are being held and register to attend via the committees' own websites.
The committees operate to a common set of standards, and the Agency also expects members to adhere to the Universal Ethical Code for Scientists. You can find out more at the link below.
In addition to the work undertaken by all members, the committee chairs may also advise the FSA Chair and Board, and act as spokespeople for the committees if issues become of public interest.
Each committee has at least one lay member whose role is to challenge the committees to consider the needs of non-specialists and to ensure effective communication of the risk assessment advice. These lay members help make sure that committees address our core value of putting the consumer first and are made aware of issues being discussed that are most of interest to the public. They also help ensure committees present their advice in clear and understandable language.
Role of assessors
Meetings of committees (and working groups) may be attended by assessors. The assessors are nominated by, and drawn from, the agencies and government departments that sponsor the committee, receive its advice, or have other relevant policy interests.
Assessors are not members of the committee or of its secretariat, and do not participate in committee business in the manner of members.
The role of an assessor is to keep their parent department or agency informed about the committee's work and act as a conduit for the exchange of information.
Scientific advisory committees review programme
The Agency made a commitment to commission reviews of its scientific advisory committees (SACs) at least once every five years, to make sure they are operating effectively and properly in advising the Agency.
The reviews assess:
- if the committee is still needed
- whether the role and remit of the committee is clearly defined and appropriate
- the methods of operation and effectiveness, including each committee's terms of reference and composition
- the openness and transparency of the committee’s procedures
- the relationships between the committee, the commissioning department and other bodies with related responsibilities (in particular, the other scientific advisory committees that advise the Agency)
The lessons and good practice identified from each of the reviews will be shared as widely as possible across our network of scientific advisory committees. The review reports will also be used by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser in his annual report and as part of his monitoring and evaluation of SACs.
The SAC below will each be reviewed as part of the programme during the financial year 2012/2012:
- Social Science Research Committee
More in this section
Friday 7 September 2012
This framework sets out objectives and boundaries for dialogue between the Agency and its scientific advisory committees (SACs). It aims to ensure that this dialogue is effective, transparent, and respects the different roles and responsibilities of risk assessment and risk management.
Tuesday 22 May 2012
The Agency’s scientific advisory committees have drawn up good practice guidelines to assist them in their work. These guidelines are based on the Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees produced by the Government Office for Science.