Implementation of PROMETHEUS 4‐step approach for evidence use in EFSA scientific assessments: benefits, issues, needs and solutions
In 2014, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) started the PROMETHEUS (PROmoting METHods for Evidence Use in Scientific assessments) project to improve further and increase the consistency of the methods it uses in its scientific assessments. The project defined a set of principles for the scientific assessment process and a 4‐step approach (plan/carry out/verify/report) for their fulfilment, which was tested in ten case studies, one from each EFSA panel. The present report describes the benefits, issues, needs and solutions related to the implementation of the 4‐step approach in EFSA, identified in a dedicated workshop in October 2017. The key benefits of the approach, which was deemed applicable to all types of EFSA scientific assessment including assessments of regulated products, are: 1) increased ‘scientific value’ of EFSA outputs, i.e. the extent of impartiality, methodological rigour, transparency and engagement; 2) guarantee of fitness‐for‐purpose, as it implies tailoring the methods to the specificities of each assessment; 3) efficiency gain, since preparing a protocol for the assessment upfront helps more streamlined processes throughout the implementation phase; 4) innovation, as the approach promotes the pioneering practice of ‘planning before doing’ (well established in primary research) for broad scientific assessments in regulatory science; and 5) increased harmonisation and consistency of EFSA assessments. The 4‐step approach was also considered an effective system for detecting additional methodological and/or expertise needs and a useful basis for further defining a quality management system for EFSA's scientific processes. The identified issues and solutions related to the implementation of the approach are: a) lack of engagement and need for effective communication on benefits and added value; b) need for further advances especially in the field of problem formulation/protocol development, evidence appraisal and evidence integration; c) need for specialised expertise in the previous aspects; and specific needs for d) assessments of regulated products and e) outsourced projects.