In addition to the five Scientific Review Groups, ESF hosts five Expert Boards and Committees (EBCs) that provide in-depth and focused scientific expertise in selected disciplines. The SRGs provide the scientific backbone and the breadth required for realising the mission and operation of ESF in a general sense, whereas the EBCs address more specific scientific needs and provides high-level targeted expert advice in areas of research, policy, infrastructure, environment and society in Europe. This two pronged structure of expertise has served the scientific communities and the portfolio of ESF activities very well over the past years. The EBCs currently operate under the strategic guidance of either ESF Member Organisations or European agencies and research entities. They are composed of high-level researchers nominated by their stakeholders and deal with strategic science questions in their domains and are responsible for guiding policies in their areas of research. Growing interdisciplinarity is reflected in mutual observership and in an increasing number of activities, involving cooperation between committees. Scientific partners from Europe and beyond take part as observers.
Science Europe and ESF MOs maintain that the EBCs are a very important contribution to the successful development of the ERA. The ESF Governing Council took careful note of the results of the independent and very positive evaluation of the EBCs carried out in 2011 and instructed ESF management to help these bodies explore all possibilities for the future, whether it be identifying a suitable platform outside ESF or establishing other arrangements such as a joint legal entity. The future of EBCs is guaranteed under ESF’s umbrella until the end of 2015. Between now and then ESF will actively work with each EBC to assist in evolving a sustainable structure to meet their needs. They will therefore be able to continue their mission. The Governing Board of Science Europe recognised that the EBCs are of value within their domains and that there is potential benefit to collaborating with these interdisciplinary groups. Although it was concluded that Science Europe would not be the appropriate platform for them to operate from, future partnerships between the EBCs and Science Europe are being envisaged and will be further discussed in the near future.