Assessing the Impact of Specific Measures Aimed at Increasing Transparency and Engagement in the EFSA Risk Assessment Process
To promote trust and confidence in the European Food Safety Authority's risk assessment process, RAND Europe and partners VVA and ADAS created an impact assessment methodology and identified at least five measures EFSA should pursue.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is responsible for carrying out independent risk assessments that provide the evidence base for European food safety legislation and policies. EFSA is committed to ensuring a high level of openness and transparency in its work as part of its role as risk assessor.
In recent years, EFSA has introduced initiatives aimed at better meeting societal expectations and increasing stakeholder engagement to promote confidence and trust in the risk assessment process. These initiatives are organised under EFSA’s Transparency and Engagement in Risk Assessment (TERA) project.
Following extensive public consultation conducted in the context of the TERA project, a set of potential measures was identified that EFSA could implement as part of wider efforts to improve transparency and openness. These measures would support EFSA’s long-term transformation into an open science organisation.
EFSA commissioned RAND Europe, with the support of partners VVA and ADAS, to assess the potential impacts of implementing the identified measures, to help the authority choose those measures that are most likely to be effective.
The team developed an impact assessment methodology that could be applied to all of the potential measures and conducted a full impact assessment on a sub-set of prioritised measures. The study methods included document review, key informant interviews and multi-criteria mapping, or MCM (a form of multi-criteria analysis).
Specifically, 35 measures were defined and preliminary costs and benefits were identified through desk research and interviews with 41 EFSA staff members. A full impact appraisal was undertaken for nine measures based on an additional 50 interviews with EFSA staff members, Scientific Committee and Panel Members, Member State representatives, industry representatives, non-governmental organisation and consumer group representatives, and academics. MCM was used to assess seven of the measures.
Findings and Recommendations
The results show that:
- Measures on framing the mandate, consultation on risk assessment methods, consultation on data, publishing meeting minutes, and transparency of the weight of evidence approach were generally assessed optimistically and there was agreement amongst interviewees on the implementation approach. These measures could be pursued by EFSA.
- Commenting on opinions could result in increased transparency and use of evidence, but there was no agreement on the implementation approach. EFSA could conduct a feasibility study for this measure.
- Publishing application information and proactive release of data were supported by most respondent groups but industry stakeholders expected this measure to perform poorly compared to the other measures.
- Pre-submission engagement with applicants received widely divergent views about implementation and likely impacts. EFSA should investigate this issue through active engagement with industry to determine whether there is sufficient support to warrant the expenditure.
- Overall, MCM offers an open and transparent way to compare the different conditions and framings which are likely to affect performance of the measures should they be implemented in line with the TERA objectives.