SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
18 June 2015
Volume 16 Issue 6

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SETAC Europe Horizon Scanning Workshop

Joke van Wensem, Paul van den Brink, Violaine Verougstraete, Workshop Tri-Chairs

The Global Horizon Scanning Research Prioritization Project aims at collecting and prioritizing the most important future research questions as suggested by scientists from around the globe working in government, academia and business. The approach followed by the SETAC steering committee is that SETAC members, within their own geographic unit, are first asked to submit research questions. After the collection of questions and establishment of a local steering committee, SETAC members are invited to take participate in a workshop in which the aim is to review all the questions and highlight the most important and urgent questions as identified by the collective group.

For SETAC Europe, the collection of questions and the subsequent workshop was combined with the annual meeting in Barcelona. The call for questions was placed on the meeting website, and the workshop was held in parallel with the annual meeting on 6–7 May.

As it was the first workshop within this SETAC initiative, the SETAC Europe steering committee, supported by the global steering committee, had to figure out the best modalities for running the workshop process. The steering committee choose to actively invite the members who had submitted questions to the process and all advisory group chairs, in addition to those who were self-nominated for the workshop. The steering committee also emphasized that participation in parts of the workshop would be possible if attendees could not participate for the entire workshop in order to overcome conflicts with other annual meeting activities. Ultimately, 35 experts participated in the workshop, many of them for the entire time.

In total, 183 questions were submitted for the workshop. The steering committee checked these for quality and redundancy and thereby reduced the number of questions to 91, a manageable number for the workshop. Next, the questions were grouped, in line with the themes of the SETAC Barcelona meeting. It appeared the questions were unevenly distributed over the topics, but the steering committee agreed on the following nine groups of questions to be discussed in breakout groups at the workshop:

  1. Aquatic and terrestrial ecotoxicology: Ecology and field
  2. Aquatic and terrestrial ecotoxicology: Tiered testing
  3. Analysis, fate and behavior of contaminants
  4. Ecosystem responses and services under multi-stress: Multi-stress
  5. Ecosystem responses and services under multi-stress: Mixtures
  6. Exposure and effect modeling & predictive toxicology (environment & human)
  7. Risk assessment, regulation and public perception: Validity of assessment
  8. Risk assessment, regulation and public perception: Methods and standards
  9. Characterization, fate and effects of nanomaterials

Each of the nine breakout groups was asked to select the two most important questions, and one alternate question. This resulted in 22 priority research questions, which were discussed in a plenary workshop session. During this plenary session, research areas that were not covered by the questions were proposed and discussed.

This summer, all SETAC Europe members will be invited to view and rank these questions online. In the meantime, the workshop participants have the opportunity to add contextual information to the priority questions. The output from the workshop will result in a multi-authored publication in one of the SETAC journals. In addition, SETAC is developing a strategy on how to bring the results of this workshop, and future workshops in the other SETAC geographic units, to the attention of research funding organizations and policy makers.

At the end of the workshop the feedback from workshop participants was enthusiastic. They felt it was hard work, but also interesting and fun to work on priority research questions in this way.

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