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Horizon 2020 advisory boards strike a balance

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation has enhanced the transparency and balance of the expert groups advising on Horizon 2020, according to the European Public Health Alliance.

Details of the first advisory groups have emerged in the past fortnight, with the names of some individual advisers appearing on a register produced by the Commission. At least 14 advisory groups are to be set up to help guide the project calls in Horizon 2020’s work programmes.

Leonardo Palumbo, policy coordinator for EU affairs at the EPHA, says that the Commission appears to have appointed groups with a better balance of individuals from industry, academia and civil society than it did for Framework 7. The Commission issued a public call for interested individuals to take part in the groups, which Palumbo says was a welcome move: “It’s a really good sign of progress.”

However, the groups contain several lobbyists who are listed as acting in a personal capacity, says Palumbo. The European Parliament, in its four recommendations on lobbying issued in September 2012, said that this should not be permitted.

In addition, the Commission has not listed the names of individuals involved in some of the groups, such as the societal challenge of transport, because, it says, the groups are made up of representatives from the 28 member states.

That is likely to frustrate researchers who want to feed into the advisory process. Some have told Research Europe of their concerns about names of individuals not being released earlier despite several of the groups having met in September and October.

The EPHA’s comments come in light of a report released by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation on 6 November, which evaluates eight research advisory groups formed in the past year as part of a Commission-wide analysis. The evaluation, which does not feature the Horizon 2020 groups, identifies DG Research as a “serial offender” in failing to issue a public call for applications and instead appointing advisers from a list of those used before.

The report also highlights what it describes as an overrepresentation of industry interests in research groups related to the Framework programme.