Europe's Joint Research Centres – Integrating Robust Science into EU Policy Making to Serve the Interests of European Citizens

bridges, vol. 33, May 2012 / OpEds & Commentaries
By Norbert Frischauf

JRC – the "Research Arm" of the European Commission

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is one of the Directorates General (i.e., departments) of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union (EU). Like all other Directorates General such as Agriculture and Rural Development, Competition, Energy, Environment, etc., the JRC supports the European Commission in its objectives, which hold the Commission responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU's treaties, and the general day-to-day running of the EU.

 Figure1 smallFigure 1: Institutions of the EU, selected Directorates General of the European Commission and the seven institutes of the JRC.

What makes the JRC unique in this context however is its raison d'être. It aims "to provide customer-driven scientific and technical support for the conception, development, implementation, and monitoring of European Union policies."

The JRC fulfils this role by providing expert opinions on topics from natural science and engineering to socioeconomics, so decisions can be made and policies can be formulated on solid scientific evidence, preferably well ahead of time. The JRC does this in a fully independent manner, free of private and/or national interests. In an ever more complex world, driven by rapid technological developments, this service is clearly of significant value.

In aiming to characterize the JRC with a short buzzword, one could say that the JRC is the "research arm" of the European Commission and resembles a reference center for science and technology issues, serving the interests of EU Member States while remaining independent of special interests. The JRC is all this and more.

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