This Project Report summarises the work of the Focal Points carried out in 2009, including the collection and sharing of information, the uploading of documents onto the Information Exchange Platform, the sharing of annual, strategic and multi-annual work plans, the development of national networks, the support to the Expert Database and Article 36, the organisation of national workshops and conferences, and the dissemination of information on EFSA. The report concludes with recommendations for priorities for the work of Focal Points for 2010.
Following the positive evaluation of the work of the Focal Point Network by members of the Advisory Forum and EFSA, Focal Points continued their work in 2009 with the support from EFSA. Overall, the new Focal Point Agreements signed in 2009 provided for a slightly increased funding and allowed for a more permanent character of the Focal Points. All 27 EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland continued their active participation in the work of the Focal Point Network and its meetings. In addition, representatives from Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey, the three EU Candidate Countries, joined the Focal Point Network in September 2009 as observers.
During 2009 Focal Points continued to collect and share information amongst themselves and with EFSA on various topics and issues. Six questionnaires and specific requests, such as those on Bisphenol A, nanotechnology or maximum levels of uranium in food and water, supported the work of EFSA’s Scientific Committee and Scientific Panels. In other cases, the information requested and compiled was crucial to decide on further cooperation activities between Member States and EFSA (e.g. national training initiatives and the exchange of planned activities in the area of risk assessment of food and feed). Cases where Focal Points reacted on requests from other Focal Points increased compared to 2008, which also demonstrates the consolidation of the Network.
In the course of 2009 the scope of the Information Exchange Platform has been modified and narrowed to share the following documents: (i) risk assessment outputs and requests; (ii) work plans; and (iii) country specific information. Focal Points have collected and uploaded a total of 516 documents by the end of November 2009.
Many Focal Points have shared annual, strategic and multi-annual work plans as well as planned activities with other Member States and EFSA, thus contributing to a more coordinated planning of risk assessment activities and avoiding duplication of work.
Focal Points have further strengthened their networks with Article 36 organisations, via dedicated meetings with (potential) Article 36 organisations. They supported EFSA in ensuring that the Article 36 List is up-to-date and functional, both in terms of contact details and structural changes in the Article 36 organisations themselves. Focal Points also encouraged the organisations in their country to apply for published Article 36 calls. Nearly all Focal Points participated in a training organised by EFSA on how to apply and take part in Article 36 grants, thus enabling them to support organisations in their countries in the application process as well as throughout the project cycle.
The population of the Expert Database continued to grow in 2009 with, amongst others, the support of Focal Points. In addition to presenting, distributing or publishing information on the Expert Database, Focal Points have been active in identifying national expert databases and network of experts, in order to inform and encourage scientists to apply to EFSA’s Expert Database.
Focal Points continued to increase awareness, understanding and outreach of EFSA’s, the Advisory Forum’s and the Focal Points’ work by disseminating information through a variety of communication channels, newly developed communication tools and through extending target audience networks within Member States.
Focal Points have organised over 35 events in their countries, ranging from targeted workshops to international conferences. At many of them other Focal Points as well as EFSA staff presented their work and cooperation activities. Focal Points have also contributed to 75 national and international events with presentations, posters and written contributions, thus raising the awareness of the Focal Point Network as well as of EFSA.
To further strengthen the scientific cooperation between EFSA and Member States, a set of priorities for the Focal Point Network for 2010 is proposed. These are to:
- maintain the Article 36 List of competent organisations up-to-date, thereby ensuring its functionality;
- stimulate Article 36 organisations to apply for Article 36 calls, in particular in the context of the mid-term planning of the scientific cooperation between Member States and EFSA;
- foster the Network of Article 36 organisations by using the newly developed IT tools (database of Article 36 organisations, Extranet space for Article 36 organisations);
- further develop the Information Exchange Platform and upload all relevant documents, including planned activities in the area of risk assessment;
- facilitate the cooperation between EFSA and national lists/databases of scientific experts with a view to enlarge EFSA’s Expert Database, in particular in scientific and geographical areas currently underrepresented;
- continue efforts in 2010 to further leverage the cooperation with the Advisory Forum Communication Working Group and EFSA to support communication plans for 2010;
- organise national events to raise the visibility of Focal Points’ and EFSA’s work, to address (scientific) issues of concern in their countries, and to foster the various scientific cooperation projects between Member States and EFSA.