Research: what do the cards say?

by Roberta Palumbo 13.05.16

Where are we? Where are we going? What do we need to get there? These were some of the burning questions considered at the EU scientific workshop on bee health and sustainable pollination held in Parma recently.

Experts from EU institutions and agencies, and academics involved in EU-funded research projects exchanged views on priorities for research under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 framework. The discussions, which are captured in a report available on the EFSA website, should further support the efforts EFSA is making to develop a holistic approach to the risk assessment of multiple stressors and bees.

A main discussion point was the identification of research gaps in the areas of bee health and pollination. The results of an online survey provided the basis for an interesting debate on how research recommendations should be prioritised.

The expert knowledge elicitation (EKE) tool was used to gather information. The purpose of EKE is to gather information in order to solve a problem, make a decision or to obtain greater understanding of a phenomenon (you can find out more from EFSA’s guidance document on EKE). In this instance, we used the tool to try to reach consensus on research priorities for bee health and pollination. 

The EKE allowed members of each group to reflect on their problem framing. At the same time, everyone in the group could compare their judgements and attitudes with others in the group.

Using “priority cards”, the experts then ranked the proposed research recommendations according to two criteria: (i) to promote apiculture and sustainable pollination and (ii) to increase understanding of bee biology and interactions at the ecosystem level.

The results were processed using the R statistical software environment. Summary statistics (e.g. median, deviations) were generated and visual outputs (e.g. boxplots) were provided summarising the results of the ranking exercise for each of the two criteria. These visualisations formed the basis for a final discussion.

The research area with the highest average priority score was the need for data to conduct chemical risk assessments (i.e. residue levels in bee matrices, species sensitivity, dose-response relationships, toxicokinetics, toxicodynamics for chemicals, contaminants and veterinary products, and metabolites) in different bee life stages/castes/sexes and under different conditions (e.g. diet, temperature).

Please take a look at the report and let us know what you think.

Roberta Palumbo is a trainee in EFSA’s Assessment and Methodological Support Unit.

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