SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
10 August 2017
Volume 18 Issue 8

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Summary of the SETAC Europe Horizon Scanning Stakeholder Discussion

Annegaaike Leopold, SETAC Europe Council Member, GHSP Outreach Committee, and Gertie Arts, Incoming SETAC World Council Vice President

The SETAC Europe Horizon Scanning Project (SE-HSP) stakeholder meeting, which was held on the last day of the SETAC Europe 27th Annual Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, was an important first step to using and implementing the findings of the SETAC Global Horizon Scanning and Prioritization Project (GHSP) in Europe. The discussion brought together 25 invitees from a range of stakeholder groups, including risk assessor and risk manager representatives from government, business and academia. This SE-HSP stakeholder meeting is an important first step to using and implementing the findings of SETAC’s GHSP in Europe. Carried out over the last several years, the purpose of this foundational effort has been to identify priority research questions, which were then ranked by the membership. SETAC Europe is the first Geographic Unit (GU) of SETAC to have a meeting to provide stakeholders a forum to give their perspective on the SE-HSP questions and discuss how addressing these priority questions might be moved forward.

The participants held a constructive dialogue across stakeholder groups, and everyone found improvement of science and risk communication to and among stakeholders the highest priority as the most significant outcome of the discussion. This was somewhat different from the SETAC membership, which had given top priority to complex research questions. This shows how valuable these interactions with our stakeholders are. The participants also felt that the meeting was valuable and necessary, and they suggested a follow up. They made proposals for future actions to stimulate scientific research efforts associated with the SE-HSP questions, to improve and organize the communication of science and risk to and between different stakeholders, and to implement research projects emerging from the questions.

The opening morning session, which immediately preceded the round table discussion, featured the 22 questions that were prioritized during the SE-HSP workshop held in Barcelona in 2015, and presenters explained their background in a series of four platform presentations. This session provided the round table participants the necessary background information.

Prior to the stakeholder meeting, invitees to the HSP Round Table were asked to prioritize the 22 research questions in a survey. During the meeting, invitees joined three different stakeholder groups:

  • Industry: Industry association representatives (40% of invitees)
  • Government: Legislative and policy implementing risk assessors and risk managers, and international organizations (40% of invitees)
  • Academia: Academic representatives (20% of invitees, which was the smallest group and was joined by SETAC officials who attended the meeting)1

Each group was then asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the prioritization given in the survey, whether there was consensus in their group, and what the rationale was for their rankings. 

Stakeholders offered their personal experiences and views, which may not represent the views of their organizations. Among the stakeholders the most important priority areas to address were:

  1. Creating awareness through better communication of science and risk to stakeholders and a better understanding of perspectives among stakeholders. All stakeholder groups prioritized this.
  2. Data sharing was a priority for government and academia and that we need to address how we can manage, use and share data generated from existing testing strategies to develop more sustainable and safer products. Timely access to well- documented raw data is important for policy makers to be able to verify findings and carry out their own analysis.
  3. Evidence-based decision making on risk management needs was a priority for academia. The public must have confidence that these decisions are based on a realistic risk assessment of environmental stressors, which means the science needs to be communicated well. This will lead to policy decisions that have value and are relevant.
  4. Clearly laying out protection was prioritized by industry. We need to go beyond the individual chemicals and seek for outcomes that help address problems that are dealt with in the global discourse (e.g., plastics in the oceans). It was recommended to look at groups of economically and environmentally relevant activities rather than at groups of chemicals and to take the lifecycle of chemicals into consideration.  
  5. Industry and academia prioritized the need for improved risk assessment to account for multiple stressors and to allow for better prediction across increasing environmental complexity and spatio-temporal scales.

Everyone agreed that there is a need to continue these types of cross-fertilizing discussions between stakeholder groups and the SETAC membership, using forums offered by SETAC as a vehicle and connecting with other groups (ECETOC, EUROTOX, sector-specific groups, such as the shipping industry).

The attendees of the SE-HSP stakeholder round table proposed to:

  1. Look into the establishment of an (online) horizon scanning forum, which invitees of this stakeholder event would be asked to join. This could facilitate discussion of how to improve and organize the communication of science and risk to and between different stakeholders and how to implement research projects emerging from the horizon scanning questions.
  2. Follow up on actions identified in the round table discussion and report on progress in the horizon scanning forum proposed above. Considerations include:
    • Grouping the HSP questions together and create overarching questions, with detailed questions branching out
    • Creating discussion forums for the topics identified in the meeting through use of SETAC Interest Groups
    • Discussing broad topics related to economically and environmentally relevant activities and all stakeholders involved in these
    • Working together with other initiatives that are synergistic with the HSP priorities of SETAC Europe
    • Developing an implementation plan for the coming years to move the SE-HSP forward

Next steps are:

  • All SETAC GUs have held horizon scanning workshops and will organize subsequent stakeholder meetings, similar to the one reported here. Immediately following the meeting in Brussels, a stakeholder meeting was held on 13 May in Guangzhou, China. Once all stakeholder meetings have been held across the globe, SETAC will prepare a summary and share this with all participants. Stakeholder meetings in other GUs are scheduled later in 2017.
  • SETAC will follow up on the actions proposed in this stakeholder discussion listed above, starting with an internal discussion in August and September 2017. The GHSP will keep stakeholder participants informed of the progress regarding the implementation plan.

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