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Note: This article is part of the Special Issue: EFSA's 2nd Scientific Conference Shaping the Future of Food Safety, Together
This opening session of EFSA's 2nd Scientific Conference Shaping the Future of Food Safety, Together provided an opportunity to reflect on societal information needs in public decision-making processes and how scientific advice can most usefully contribute to this goal. Around 2003 when EFSA became operational, several researchers were already calling for a reflection on the relationships between decision-makers, scientific experts and citizens. Some commentators called for contextualisation as the key to producing science to meet public needs. They argued that science that draws strength from its socially-detached position is too frail to meet the pressures placed upon it. They imagined forms of knowledge that would gain robustness from their embeddedness in society. Others argued that the credibility of regulatory science ultimately rests upon factors that have more to do with accountability in terms of democratic politics than with the quality of science as assessed exclusively by scientific peers. More than 10 years on, there is merit to reflecting again on how much progress has been made in the world of assessment science to address these challenges and what lessons can be learned from the experience gained thus far. The objective of this plenary session was to reflect on general developments that affect the work of assessment science. These themes provided a basis for further discussion in subsequent breakout sessions.