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Science Council: “Tasks excellently fulfilled”

11/2024, 22.04.2024

Focus on consumer health protection: Germany's highest scientific commission scrutinises the Ger-man Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)

The German Science and Humanities Council (Science Council) assessed the German Fed-eral Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in Berlin on 7 and 8 November 2023 and published its assessment today, 22 April 2024. As the highest German scientific commission, it certi-fies that the BfR “fulfills tasks of great social relevance” (protection of human health, in-forming the public about health risks posed by chemicals and biological substances) “on the basis of very good research”. It is characterised by an “extremely rapid response capability, a pronounced application orientation and a high degree of being up-to-date with its topics”. “We are delighted with the excellent result of the assessment,” commented BfR President Professor Andreas Hensel. “It is a recognition of the fact that we have been able to further improve the quality of our work in recent years.”

Link to the report of the German Science and Humanities Council:

From toys and cosmetics to the protection of laboratory animals: The BfR's areas of respon-sibility are diverse. Since its foundation, the Institute has focussed on the health risk assess-ment of food, animal feed, plant protection products, chemicals and products. To this end, it utilises a research-based approach. The focus is always on the protection of human health. The BfR's legal mandate also includes communication on possible, identified and assessed risks in the area of consumer health protection. To ensure that the assessments are not in-fluenced by political, economic and social interests, the BfR is independent in its scientific assessments and research in accordance with the German Founding Act.

The BfR fulfils its statutory tasks such as analysis, method development and quality assur-ance for the risk assessment of chemical and biological substances “in an outstanding man-ner”, summarises the Science Council. In this way, the Institute also makes a “significant con-tribution to communicating and ensuring appropriate quality standards” internationally. The BfR provides comprehensive advice to policy-makers, practitioners and associations both nationally and internationally and is “very well integrated” into political bodies and decision-making processes. The scientific independence of the Institute is a key prerequisite for this.  

Social science research strengthened

Since the last assessment in 2015, the BfR “has further improved its performance”, the Ger-man Council of Science and Humanities states. The quality of research is “predominantly very good”. The Risk Communication Department in particular has benefited from the “strength-ening of social science risk research”. The Department of Biological Safety is particularly strong in research. It provides “outstanding research services on microbiology and other food-borne infections”.

Development of animal-free methods

The Science Council also praises the development of animal-free methods of risk assessment, which the German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R) at the BfR is in-volved in. The internationally visible commitment to the regulation of animal experiments is “very positive”.

“Very good” publication performance

The BfR's scientific publication performance is “good overall, in some areas very good”, is the verdict of the German Council of Science and Humanities. In publications for non-scientific target groups, highly topical issues with great relevance to everyday life are addressed and existing uncertainties and gaps in knowledge are also communicated convincingly.

Since the last evaluation, the BfR has more than doubled the amount of funding it has re-ceived (third-party funding). Measured against the ratio of research and consultancy at the BfR, the third-party funding performance is “very good”. As a significant proportion of the funding comes from the European Union (EU) or the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), this speaks in favour of the BfR’s excellent integration at the European level.

Of global importance for risk assessment

“The BfR is very well networked both nationally and internationally,” the Science Council states. Cooperation with other research institutions should be further expanded. The BfR’s role is indispensable for Germany, especially in toxicology. As one of the world's largest risk assessment authorities, the BfR also plays an enormously important role globally. It fulfils its great international responsibility very well in many areas. 

A very committed Scientific Advisory Board contributes to the fact that quality assurance at the BfR is “outstanding”, comments the German Council of Science and Humanities. Its sug-gestions are “accepted and implemented with great openness”. The regular assessment of individual BfR departments by the Advisory Board is particularly welcome.

Focus on young scientists

Since the previous assessment by the German Council of Science and Humanities, the BfR has established junior research groups. They strengthen independence at the start of a ca-reer and also make a significant contribution to the BfR’s research performance, emphasises the Science Council. In addition, there is a further training programme for doctoral students, the doctoral support programme. The Council of Science and Humanities recommends that the promotion of young scientists be further expanded.

“The BfR has very motivated and highly qualified employees who identify in a special way with the BfR’s goal of protecting human health,” concludes the Science Council.


About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (BMEL). The BfR advises the Federal Government and the Federal States on questions of food, chemicals and product safety. The BfR conducts independent research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.


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