Framework for dialogue between the FSA and the SACs

Last updated:
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.

The SACs provide independent expert advice on risk assessment and other scientific issues that inform risk management decisions. The FSA is responsible for policy and decision making.

At the start of a task

  • ensure that SACs are aware of the context of requests put to them by the FSA (including whether the SAC advice will feed directly into a Board decision or update an assessment that underpinned a previous decision)
  • where the SAC is initiating a task itself, to ensure that the FSA and the SAC are clear on the rationale and the expected use of the outcome by FSA
  • ensure that the question to be considered by the SAC(s) is clear and appropriate (in turn helping to ensure that outputs of SACs will be useful for the FSA)
  • ensure that the approach proposed is appropriate and proportionate to the issue and the intended use of the SAC's advice
  • ensure that SACs are not asked, and do not attempt, to address issues that are not part of their remit, for example decisions on risk management
  • help the FSA to identify at the outset the factors it will need to consider in weighing up options for risk management, and to select appropriate means to address these: issues for risk assessment by the appropriate risk assessors (if more than one is relevant, the respective tasks can be planned in a co-ordinated way); other factors to be addressed through other processes, and as far as possible by other types of evidence-based analysis

At handover of an SAC opinion to the FSA

  • SACs to give indications of the certainty of scientific evidence and to address any variation in that evidence and the basis of 'unorthodox' opinion among experts (so that risk managers are aware of the confidence attached to the SACs' assessments and advice)
  • SACs to help to identify and assess risks associated with different risk management options (if not identified at the start, for example if options arise or develop after the original task for risk assessment is defined, or if new or unintended consequences of different risk management options emerge)
  • SAC to highlight any wider issues raised by their assessment that they feel should be considered (distinguishing clearly between issues on which the SAC has an expert capability and remit, and any other issues)
  • SACs to highlight any evidence gaps, minority scientific opinions and/or needs for research or analysis and give an indication of their priority; to help to develop detailed research requirements; and to contribute to interpretation and evaluation of research results
  • to help ensure that the risk assessment is understood by the risk managers, and used accurately in weighing and communicating risk management decisions

Feedback and review

  • ensure SACs are informed in a timely manner on how their advice and recommendations (including on risk assessment or research needs) have been acted on, or not, and the reasons behind this, and that SACs can comment on this, especially when the action deviates from any explicit advice provided by SACs
  • provide feedback for both sides to help to improve procedures and practices