In January 2024, the Government will formally appoint a new independent Government Science Adviser, a measure which aims to bring Ireland in line with most other European countries.
The adviser role will no longer be linked to the position of Director General of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the main funding body for research in the State. The dual role had been carried out by Mark Ferguson, whose term leading SFI finished in 2021, but was an point of controversy among academics.
The president of one of Ireland’s leading academic bodies, the Royal Irish Academy, argued after the SFI position was advertised in 2021, that the role of chief scientific adviser should not be combined with any other role.
In their capacity in the new role, the Government Science Adviser will be tasked with chairing the National Science Advice Forum, and with that the task of providing cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary advice to the Government.
The National Science Advice Forum will have an annual work programme which will be reported to Government. Delivery of the work programme will be evaluated after an initial three-year period.
These new science advice structures will assist in informing responses to complex and challenging policy areas like climate change, food sustainability, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and emerging technologies and to needs identified by ministers and government departments.
The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science has stated that the new science advice structures will bring Ireland in line with countries in Europe and beyond who have also tailored advisory structures to meet their needs. It further stipulates that the new science advice structures will maximise Ireland’s participation in international science advice organisations.
A public consultation was held in September 2022, and the outcomes from this, along with international models, have been considered formally as the new science advice structures. The Department states that new science advice structures will be integrated in the general public policy making process and complement existing government actions.
The Government Science Advisor will be selected as part of the new science advice structures that aim to assist in informing quick responses to complex and challenging policy needs.
At the time of print, applications for the role have formally closed, and an announcement is imminent in early 2024.
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, said: “It is absolutely essential government is guided by the best evidence available when addressing key challenges such as climate change and future pandemics.
“The role of the Government Chief Science Advisor will be fundamental in ensuring government policy decisions are informed by quality science advice.”