31 Jan 2017   |   News

Nobel laureate Paul Nurse joins top EU science panel

UK representation restored to EU Scientific Advice Mechanism

Paul Nurse, geneticist who received the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and Director of the UK’s Francis Crick Institute, will be joining the EU’s Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) in March, the European Commission announced on Monday.

Nurse will replace outgoing chair Henrik Wegener, who is leaving to concentrate on his new duties as rector of Copenhagen University. Rolf-Dieter Heuer, former Director General of CERN and SAM member, will now lead the panel.

In tapping Nurse to replace Wegener, a British voice returns to SAM – the UK lost its representative last November when Julia Slingo, chief scientist at the UK Meteorological Office retired. Her position was filled by Carina Keskitalo, professor of political science at the department of geography and economic history at Umeå University.

In 2014, Nurse was one of the leading voices criticising the executive for the poorly-handled departure of chief science adviser Anne Glover, after her role was abolished by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. That move was seen as a clear victory for several NGOs, who had long sought her dismissal.

At the time Nurse said, “If the Commission has a plausible plan for ensuring that scientific evidence will be taken seriously they need to start sharing it with people soon.”

The answer came in the form of SAM, which was established by EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas in 2015.

Alongside Heuer, Nurse and Keskitalo, the other members on the panel are: Janusz Bujnicki, head of the laboratory of bioinformatics and protein engineering at Warsaw’s International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology; Pearl Dykstra, professor of sociology at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam; Elvira Fortunato, professor in the materials science department of the Faculty of Science and Technology at NOVA University in Lisbon; and Cédric Villani, director of the Henri Poincaré Institute, in Paris.