Science Council meets in London

Our independent Science Council met in London this week as we work towards putting science at the heart of everything we do.
29 June 2018

At the third convening of the group, Chair Sandy Thomas was joined by FSA Chair Heather Hancock and Chief Scientific Adviser, Guy Poppy, as two working groups delivered their final reports and a third working group reported on progress made during 2018.

Working Group one, chaired by Laura Green, has assessed FSA science capability and assurance and the second Working Group, chaired by Mark Woolhouse, produced best practice principles and recommendations on establishing and communicating risk and uncertainty.

In making a series of recommendations, both groups were confident that the FSA has well developed science capabilities and already follows best practice in risk analysis, whilst also noting that there is an opportunity for continuous improvement and for the FSA to be more strategic and consistent in clearly demonstrating this.

The Council valued the expert and candid input from a wide range of FSA staff and the FSA’s Scientific Advisory Committees in developing and delivering the Working Groups’ reports and recommendations.

Working Group three, chaired by John O’Brien, is advising the FSA on global food systems risks and horizon scanning capability and plans to deliver its recommendations to the Council’s next plenary in December 2018.

While putting science at the heart of all our activities comes with its challenges that will require buy in from right across the agency, the working groups’ recommendations include both simple changes and long-term, wider changes.

Key recommendations from Working Group one include making better use of field data and forging better links with and between science and users of science, with all parts of FSA and with key partner organisations. Council experts also advise further development of assurance frameworks and publishing scientific evidence trails for evidence used in making decisions to ensure food is safe and is what it says it is.

Noting that the field of risk analysis is constantly evolving, Working Group two advised that FSA keeps under review the best practice principles for risk analysis and the way the principles are implemented to ensure that they reflect changes and remain fit-for-purpose.

The Working Group advised that risk assessors, managers and communicators need to be familiar with all steps in the risk analysis process and risk analysis should involve dialogue with the public, industry and others affected by the analysis and outcomes.

The two working groups will formally hand over their recommendations to the executive with a request to FSA to report back within 12 months on implementation. The papers discussed at the open meeting are available to read on the Science Council website.