The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has launched an open consultation on a discussion paper titled “Transformation to an Open EFSA,” which sets forth “a conceptual framework, a step-by-step methodology and a plan for the transformation of the [agency] into an Open Science organization over the next five years.” Launched in January 2013 after the Corporate European Observatory (CEO) raised concerns about the agency’s ties to industry, the Open EFSA initiative seeks to ensure that citizens can participate in a decisionmaking process that is “clear, obvious and understandable without doubt or ambiguity.” Additional details about the CEO report and its aftermath appear in Issues 399 and 439 of this Update.

More specifically, notes the discussion paper, the advent of societal trends such as crowd sourcing and open innovation—coupled with technological advances that foster the growth of global information networks—have presented new opportunities and challenges for civic engagement within EFSA’s current legal framework. In service of sound public policy, the agency thus aims to improve “the overall quality of available information and data used for EFSA’s outputs” while “complying with normative and societal expectations.” Adopting a proactive disclosure policy, Open EFSA plans to maximize its use of internal and external resources in addition to engaging citizen scientists through the innovative use of information technology tools.

To this end, the agency seeks feedback on the following questions, among others: (i) “Are you satisfied that EFSA has identified the societal and normative expectations it has to comply with or would you suggest additional ones that the paper does not capture?”; (ii) “How can EFSA increase its openness to meaningful contributions from individuals and organizations beyond its Panels and Committee?”; (iii) “How can EFSA ensure that commercially sensitive information and data are protected while providing access to key information, data and documents necessary to make its assessments reproducible?”; (iv) “How can EFSA foster even further an environment of creative debate amongst its experts while striking the appropriate balance between availability and quality of information?”; and (v) “Would you identify any other strategic drivers, contextual elements or policy options for the Authority to consider when implementing its vision of becoming an Open EFSA?.” The agency will accept comments on the paper until September 15, 2014.