EFSA Scientific Panels to trial uncertainty toolbox

EFSA’s experts are to begin trialling draft guidance proposing a toolbox of methodologies for analysing, explaining and accounting for uncertainties in scientific assessments. 

“This is a work in progress. The trial phase and a related EFSA research project on communicating uncertainty will help to shape the final guidance document, which is scheduled for finalisation by the end of 2017,” said Prof Anthony Hardy, Chair of EFSA’s Scientific Committee and of the working group that has developed the draft.

EFSA is liaising with national and European authorities to position this work in the decision making process and is providing training on assessing uncertainty to its scientists so they are fully equipped to conduct the trial phase. In parallel, a current EFSA research project aims to test messages and establish best practice for communicating scientific uncertainties to recipients of EFSA’s scientific advice (e.g. decision-makers, media, public).

Feedback from a public consultation has helped experts to revise and clarify key aspects of EFSA’s draft guidance on assessing uncertainty, first made public in July 2015. The revised version is now available on the EFSA website from a dedicated topic page on Uncertainty assessment. A report on the public consultation details how the feedback was systematically evaluated and used to strengthen the revised draft.

Understanding uncertainty

A new EFSA video (see above) explains how providing information on uncertainties helps people to better understand the likelihood of different outcomes and can support informed decision-making, both in food safety and in everyday life.


EFSA’s Scientific Committee is developing this guidance document to offer a toolbox of methodologies – both quantitative and qualitative – for analysing scientific uncertainties in all its scientific assessments.

The approach aims to be sufficiently flexible to adapt to the circumstances of each assessment, e.g. from an urgent situation where advice could be needed in a matter of hours to longer-term comprehensive reviews of all available scientific knowledge, and from well-studied issues to those at the forefront of scientific knowledge where evidence may be lacking.

Through the application of these tools EFSA aims to give decision-makers a clearer picture of the scientific uncertainties affecting each assessment.

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