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Blog Post | Last updated: 06 Jun 2024

Science Europe Guidance on Science for Policy: Enabling Dialogues for Decision Making

Science Europe, the European association of national research funding and performing organisations, has published new guidelines that emphasise the importance of the institutional mandate in Science for Policy (S4P) activities. Quality, integrity, transparency, resources, and multidisciplinary approaches for promoting, supporting, and enabling science-informed decision making are crucial elements. This Guidance includes definitions, examples, and operational steps for designing and implementing S4P activities.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the blog articles belong solely to the author of the content, and do not necessarily reflect the European Commission's perspectives on the issue.


Interactions between policy and research communities are complex. In a turbulent time of fake news and misinformation, decision-makers must often deal with knowledge-demanding challenges for which simple solutions do not exist, while researchers are increasingly called on to contribute to policy processes. Building on the experience of the COVID pandemic, several S4P initiatives are being developed to further improve science–policy interactions. The December 2023 EU Council Conclusions has been  the most recent milestone in this process.


Science Europe’s  2021–2026 Strategy Plan set the priority to “strengthen the role and contribution of science in tackling societal challenges.” This priority involves fostering research-policy interactions and advocating science-informed policy making. The Guidance on Science for Policy offers definitions, principles, actions, and examples from Science Europe members to research organisations that want to engage in research–policy dialogues. 

These guidelines draw from the 2023 report ‘Science–Policy in Action: Insights for the Green and Digital Transition’, which mapped the activities of Science Europe's member organisations to promote, support, and enable science-informed policy making. Key messages from this survey-based report include the call to specifically recognise S4P activities, develop long-term visions with adequate resources, expertise, data and methods, and promote science–policy interactions in all fields, not just to support the green and digital transition. 

This Guidance focuses on the role that research funding and performing organisations can and should play in enabling bidirectional interactions between the policy and research communities. This organisational angle aims to complement other contributions specifically focused on the skills of researchers (see JRC's ‘Competence Framework ‘Science for Policy’ for researchers’) or the recently published ‘Evaluation framework for institutional capacity of science-for-policy ecosystems in EU Member States’. All these contributions base their conceptual framework on the 2022 EU Commission’s staff working document ‘Supporting and connecting policy making in the Member States with scientific research’ and the December 2023 EU Council Conclusions.

Defining Science for Policy Activities: principles and values

The Guidance defines S4P activities as the set of actions that aim to enable science-informed decision-making. These interactions require trust among the parties involved and include, but are not limited to, the following types:

  • “Identify policy-relevant research questions, co-designed with policy organisations. 
  • Present usable synthesis of research findings (briefings, reports, policy-oriented studies). 
  • Organise research–policy events (workshops, seminars, conferences) to exchange scientific results and policy priorities, aligning policy and research agendas. 
  • Co-design policy-oriented research programmes and funding instruments. 
  • Offer training and exchange programmes to facilitate interactions between policy and research experts.” (see Guidance, page 11).

Research organisations, such as Science Europe's members, can and should serve as intermediaries and facilitators of these activities. Two specific factors should be considered when conceiving S4P activities:

  1. Contributions should not be prescriptive, but rather aim to inform decision-makers by rigorously synthesising scientific knowledge and assessing the likely implications of policy options.
  2. Collective, multidisciplinary approaches are needed to minimise individual biases and bounded rationality while aiming to provide systemic perspectives.

Based on this definition and prerequisites, the Guidance identifies four fundamental values for the organisations engaged in S4P activities.

  • Institutional mandate.
  • Quality, Integrity and Transparency.
  • Resources.
  • Options, more than advice. 

The first principle refers to the need to “have an explicit institutional mandate given by policymakers to a dedicated body, properly recognised by the scientific community” (p. 14). This mandate is needed to mobilise both policy and research communities and engage institutional leadership. The quality, integrity, and transparency principles aim to ensure the good level of the processes for gathering scientific evidence and assessing policy options. All these activities require dedicated resources, including qualified personnel, sufficient funding, and adequate organisational settings. The allocated resources should be aligned with the given mandate. Finally, S4P activities “should aim to contribute to policymaking as ‘one of the sources’ for decision makers [...] rather than prescriptive recommendations” (p. 15). The objective is to mobilise multidisciplinary perspectives, helping decision-makers navigate complex, knowledge-demanding challenges. 

Based on these principles and values, the following steps are proposed for organisations that want to set up and develop S4P activities.

Designing & Operating S4P Activities

Setting up S4P activities.

  1. Define the institutional mandate for the selected research organisation. 
  2. Gather policy-relevant questions to be addressed. 
  3. Set up a system to gather scientific and evidence-based contributions. 
  4. Allocate specific resources (funding, personnel, and infrastructure) aligned with the given institutional mandate. 

Ordinary activities

  1. Organise regular interactions between policy and research communities (discussions, briefings, workshops, and events). 
  2. Deliver regular and/or ad hoc outputs. 
  3. Ensure quality, integrity, and transparency. 
  4. Follow up with policy makers about the input provided. 
  5. Monitor scientific trends. 
  6. Disseminate publicly the activities to develop a credible, transparent, and reliable institutional profile. 

Long-term activities

  1. Create a repository of relevant experts. 
  2. Build up data repository infrastructure to facilitate policy-oriented research studies. 
  3. Develop specific training and staff exchanges.
  4. Network for S4P Activities.
  5. Evaluate the S4P Activities.

The Guidance presents six examples from Science Europe’s Member Organisations to provide more practical information on how these steps can be implemented and the 2023 report ‘Science–Policy in Action’ provides a more detailed mapping.

Open challenges and next steps

The Guidance identifies the following points of attention to integrate previously presented elements. 

  • Scientific evidence should go beyond the funded or performed research to include all available scientific knowledge, from other research funders/performers and other countries. 
  • Not all scientific research must have policy relevance. 
  • When possible and relevant, S4P activities should be integrated into research and innovation policies to strengthen science’s role in tackling societal challenges. 
  • Incentives and rewards should be implemented and developed to promote research activities addressing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. 

The following questions are proposed as open challenges to continuing to work on the organisational angle of S4P activities. 

  • How to adapt S4P activities to the different national settings? 
  • How to monitor the effects of S4P activities? 
  • How to evaluate S4P activities? 
  • How to develop the relevant expertise among policy makers and researchers? 
  • What are the implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) emerging on S4P Activities? 

The Guidance aims to support research funding and performing organisations in promoting and developing S4P activities. It is publicly available on the Science Europe website.