Openness to society, one of ANSES's core values
The Agency’s founding texts stipulate that its mission is to "supply information, provide training and distribute scientific and technical documentation, as well as to contribute to public debate, which it fosters and encourages."
In September 2011, along with four other public research and expert appraisal agencies, ANSES adopted a charter on openness to society (see below); this was extended to two new establishments in December 2016.
In practical terms, the forums for exchange and interaction with "stakeholders" set up within ANSES operate at two levels: that of governance and during the expert appraisal process.
The first level includes the participation of stakeholders on the Board of Administrators, and on the Thematic Steering Committees covering the Agency's areas of activity (food safety, occupational health, environmental health, plant health, animal health and welfare). These five committees, which have an advisory role, help in defining the Agency's policy orientations and determining needs in terms of risk assessment and research.
The system was supplemented by the creation – respectively in 2011 and 2012 – of two dialogue committees: "Radiofrequencies and health" and "Nanomaterials and health". The creation of these bodies was an important step towards establishing lasting exchanges on these controversial subjects, between the Agency's scientists and experts, citizen groups, trades unions and industry players.
Lastly, a process of dialogue on activities related to marketing authorisations for plant protection products was initiated in late 2017. The establishment of a platform for dialogue in 2018 should help maintain trust and improve understanding of assessment methods, access to data and changes to the regulatory framework.
The second level of stakeholder involvement concerns the expert appraisal process itself and covers both the framing of the work and its dissemination (hearings, public consultations, presentation of the work, etc.). Such an approach should contribute to the scientific robustness and social relevance of the opinions and reports produced by the Agency, by taking into account questions and expectations liable to guide the way the expert appraisal is carried out, and collecting information and knowledge held by these stakeholders. In addition, while most of its work is conducted in response to formal requests from its supervisory ministries, ANSES may issue internal requests on its own initiative, or receive requests from organisations such as state-approved associations or employee trades unions.
These different participatory bodies, supplemented by societal monitoring activities, are managed by the Social Sciences, Expertise & Society Unit.
The charter on openness to society
Signed in December 2016, the Charter on openness to society commits its seven signatories to improving the transparency of their work and the methods used to undertake it, fostering the sharing of available scientific knowledge and the uncertainties surrounding this knowledge, and supporting players from civil society in acquiring the skills needed for their involvement.
One of the missions of these bodies is to provide the State with scientific and technical support on health and environmental risks to facilitate the public decision-making process. The charter is intended to promote shared understanding with civil society of risk situations and methods for dealing with them. It contributes to enhancing the quality of the work undertaken by these institutions for public policymakers, as well as the confidence in which society holds the decision-making process.