Improving global networking in low-dose radiation research

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The NEA High-Level Group on Low-Dose Research (HLG-LDR) was established in 2019 to address the remaining scientific uncertainties in the area of low-dose and low-dose rates and to propose a way forward to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of research through global networking. With its three-year mandate officially adopted by the Committee on Radiological Protection and Public Health (CRPPH) on 31 May 2021, the three groups that implement the pioneering programme of work of the HLG-LDR now entered into a decisive phase of their work.

The Low-Dose Research Database Group held its first meeting on 26 May 2021. This topical group is responsible for establishing an online database of ongoing and planned low-dose research projects to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of research through global networking for the coordination of ongoing and future low-dose research projects. The platform will allow free access and thus be a valuable tool for all interested members of the global scientific community, research funders and beyond.

The database will provide researchers with an efficient tool to identify possible collaboration opportunities, avoid unnecessary duplication of research efforts, and encourage international research co-operation in the area of low-dose research. During the meeting, the topical group members discussed the next steps for the implementation of the database, including the long-term maintenance scheme, quality criteria for data input and other technical details. The launch of the database is currently planned for late 2021 or early 2022.

The Radiological and Chemical AOP Group met on 1 June 2021. This topical group will help advance radiological and chemical toxicology research using the OECD’s Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOP) platform. The group will facilitate collaboration and co-ordination between the chemical and radiation fields for effective uptake of the AOP framework. It will also serve as a platform to discuss, identify and collaboratively develop joint initiatives.

During the meeting, the group exchanged on best practices and experiences from the conduct of past international horizon style surveys in the chemical field and identified approaches for the conduct of its own envisaged horizon style survey. The survey will gather insights on the challenges related to low-dose research and regulatory decision making with the goal to explore how the AOP framework could address such challenges.  

The topical group on Policy-Oriented Communication Strategy met on 8 June 2021. This topical group will focus on issues in the low-dose radiation health risks that would benefit from clearer communication and translate technical results into policy-oriented messages. During the meeting, the group agreed on its overall objective to improve communication by (i) enhancing the understanding of the research needs and main research results for various types of stakeholders, (ii) demonstrating research efficiency and effectiveness, and (iii) fostering clarity for funding agencies.

To achieve these goals, the group decided to clearly define the problems related to low-dose health risks, list the issues of concern that would benefit from improved communication, and identify available tools that can lead to more effective communication in the low-dose radiation field. The group will share its experience with other health communication groups in various multilateral organisations in order to identify mechanisms for transposing complex science into understandable messages, to help understand the impacts of key research findings, and to foster further links between the research community, policymakers, regulators and practitioners.

The three topical groups of the HLG-LDR will meet regularly to ensure harmonised and complementary work with the overarching goal  of reducing the uncertainties related to the health risks associated with low doses and dose rates. HLG-LDR work will also promote exchanges between radiobiology, epidemiology and social sciences in order to ultimately contribute to a risk-informed society.

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