EAHL Reflection Committee
Report on the future of the EAHL
The (previous) Board of the European Association on Health Law (EAHL) has decided to create a temporary reflection group on the future of the EAHL. The mandate of this “EAHL Reflection Committee” (in the following: the Committee) has been defined in the mail of former President Henriette Roscam Abbing from 30 August 2017 to the designated members of the Committee. The current President, Karl Harald Søvig, has confirmed that the new Board has no amendments to this initial mandate.
After several meetings, mainly online, the Committee has drafted this report on the following topics: Conferences, interest groups, doctoral courses, EAHL membership, and dissemination of activities and relevant information.
Currently, the Association holds official biannual conferences and has been willing to endorse additional (unofficial) conferences on specialized topics in off years. The Reflection Committee suggests no changes to this current system.
Instead, the Committee is making specific suggestions on increasing participation and reach-ing out to practicing health lawyers.
For several years, many health care organizations have been working with in-house lawyers. This is the case for hospitals, insurance companies, medical device and medicinal product companies etc. These practicing lawyers often have questions that are similar in different countries. They are looking to meet other lawyers to see how they answered their questions. Moreover, an in-2 creasing number of law firms are hiring lawyers who are specialised in health law. Those specialised lawyers are willing to share their expertise with other persons working in the field of health law and ethics. Many of the in-house lawyers and lawyers working on health law and/or ethical issues are not aware of the conference of the EAHL. In promoting the conferences, the conference organizers (working together with the National Contacts) should try to inform these lawyers of their conferences, the possibility to speak at an EAHL conference, and possible opportunities to participate financially in co-sponsoring a conference.
At the same time, Universities continue to invest in salaried staff in administrative positions where consultancy, research and teaching on health law and ethics gets a lot of attention. These legally trained personnel in administrative positions are capable to reflect not only on in depth issues but also on practical issues presented by lawyers working in law firms or healthcare actors.
It might be good for the EAHL to make sure that at the conferences, both speakers from academia as well as practicing lawyers from healthcare organisations and law firms have the opportunity to exchange their views, questions, opinions, theories and ideas. This will lead to interesting debates and may promote the creation of working groups. One way to link academia and practicing lawyers in the field of health care at conferences would be to have a presentation from one of these two groups, commented afterwards by the other (e.g. speech from practicing lawyer, commented by academic scholar, or: speech from academic scholar, commented by practicing lawyer).
Another proposal of the Committee is addressed to conference organizers, and the Board would have to make sure that the organizers take this into account. Calls for proposals should be drafted in a way that potential people interested should understand the wide range of topics that will be considered to fit within the overall topic of the conference. Thus, if conference organizers want to have a very specific topic but, at the same time, are also willing to accept topics outside this narrow scope, perhaps the best way of not discouraging potential people interested, would be to have one broader session (e.g. worded “Health law in Europe”) within this conference.
2. Interest groups
Currently, there are two interest groups (on biobanks; on data protection), as well as an ex-pressed interest for other groups, for example, on non-communicable diseases by Brigit Toebes.
At the membership registration, new members had been asked to express interest for joining a particular group. No notable follow-up or further activities in that regard have occurred.
Some information concerning the groups is presented on the EAHL webpage (https://eahl.eu/working-groups/researchandnetworks), as well as information on the possibilities to set up an interest group, the establishment and use of the interest groups is encouraged by the EAHL.
The idea of having interest groups is welcomed, and these interest groups could serve as better motivators for an EAHL membership than reduced fees for conferences or journals. However, to effectively use this resource, further development is necessary, with a view toward creating value for the participants in the interest groups.
The Committee suggests that the Board should support the creation of interest groups and further their collaboration. For example, this could include negotiated special issues in a journal; EAHL working paper series, supporting the communications activities in one particular interest group, etc. In addition, information about interest groups and the persons involved in one particular interest group should be made available on the website of the EAHL. In addition, the Board should actively use the interest groups as platforms for permanent sessions (panel discussions, working sessions) in the conferences along with a main conference theme. The coordinators of the interest groups should reach out to those persons that are the untapped potential of the association, including practicing lawyers and persons working with health law, albeit not identifying themselves as health lawyers.
3. Doctoral courses
There are a number of PhD students within the field of health law (and related areas) who may have an interest in attending a doctoral/ PhD course in health law. Such a course would give younger colleagues a great network and could also create interest in attending the conferences and other activities (e.g. interest groups, unofficial conferences in off years).
The Committee suggests to have doctoral courses which could be organised annually or bi-annually by EAHL members (maybe a team of members) in assisting a University in developing and offering a relevant course. The role of the Board would be limited to endorsing and publicizing the course.
There is good experience in organising such courses in the Nordic Network for Research in Bio-medical Law, where a number of courses have been organized some years ago. It is, however, important to have a “critical mass” of participants, which speaks in favour of organising it at a European level.
The content of the courses could focus on methodological issues in health law research (e.g. legal sources, hard law/soft law, interdisciplinary aspects, comparative studies etc.) and also give the younger scholars an opportunity to present and discuss their topics in smaller groups with feedback from senior scholars. The courses could also have a special selected theme (e.g. new technologies) as a supplement to the methodological issues. Perhaps, The Hague Academy of International Law can serve as an inspiration and ambition.
Although external funding would not necessarily be required, EAHL members involved in this activity could investigate whether some kind of EU-funding is possible. E.g. at the University of Copenhagen all research units must advertise one PhD course every year, and we can apply for funding to pay travel expenditures for external speakers and provide sandwiches for lunch. The PhD scholars must pay travel expenditures themselves.
So far, the Association has made progress in its membership activities during the past few years. As directed by the Board, the “Membership Committee” has worked with the National Contacts for the purpose of expanding the membership of EAHL. One of the most encouraging developments for future growth has been the appointment of at least 12 new National Contacts by the Executive Board.
Another important step in recent years has been the addition of new members from countries where we previously had no members. For example, we now have EAHL members in Bulgaria, Croatia, Iceland, and Slovenia.
The Committee suggests that the Board should direct the National Contacts to prepare a list of prospective members in each of their countries. This list should include members of country-level and local health law associations, names of potential members that were provided to the National Contacts by the EAHL Membership Committee, and practicing lawyers in their countries who work in some aspect of health law (cf. above section 1. on conferences).
We also recommend that the National Contacts should communicate with all prospective members on their list for the purpose of encouraging them to join the EAHL, in a manner that the National Contacts consider to be appropriate.
Currently, the Association communicates with members by newsletters sent by email and the new website.
Communication with both current members, reaching out to potential future members, and dissemination of the Association’s activities at large remains a key challenge for every association. There are different channels of communication (classical email, social media etc.) and different directions of communication, (either bottom-up and / or top-down). Getting the right information remains a key challenge in today’s fast moving world. This information can be about current developments, or information about upcoming conferences (i.e. both the official biannual conferences, as well as the informal conferences in off years). Information to be disseminated can either concern forwarding information collected elsewhere (e.g. to re-tweet), or to analyse information, while remaining below the threshold of a (peer-reviewed) journal article, such as a blog. Such a blog on European health law could either cover the whole range of the Association’s activities, or concentrate on respective fields (e.g. linked to the subjects of the Association’s interest groups; cf. above Section 2.).
Currently the EAHL has a Twitter account, which has not been active since December 2014. Reactivating this account would be a top-down approach, which, however, requires one respon-sible person to run this account; the same would apply for LinkedIn (N.B. The use of hashtags on LinkedIn might take place in the future, but cannot be observed now). In addition, recent developments in European health law (EU, Council of Europe, etc.) could be disseminated bottom-up via Twitter by creating a hashtag, which helps to identify and search for relevant information (i.e. tweets). As the hashtag #EAHL is already used elsewhere (Hockey context), the following hashtag would be possible: #EAHLaw.
In terms of other social media, also LinkedIn could be utilized by members in a bottom-up way (via an open group) to share information on EAHL related news and activities, especially conferences. In the latter case, social media, such as LinkedIn could be used to address potentially new members with regard to the official biannual conferences, as well as to inform members and other interested persons about the informal conferences in-between.
The Committee suggests to following quick win bottom-up recommendations, which those members of the Association engaging in social media should perform. They should be encouraged to do so by the Association:
● Disseminate information (especially amongst members) on new hashtag #EAHLaw, marking recent developments and events in the scope of the EAHL via Twitter. In a similar way, the association and especially the organizers of the biannual conferences should encourage the usage of a uniform conferences hashtag, i.e. EAHLaw[year] (e.g. “EAHLaw2019” for the Conference in Toulouse).
● Encourage members to disseminate EAHL related news and activities especially via LinkedIn (creation of an open group), and eventually via other relevant social media.
● Twitter or LinkedIn could also be used more effectively for dissemination of published work, calls for papers and opening up discussion for possible collaboration.
The Committee suggests to following top-down recommendations, to be implemented by the Board.
● Re-activate the EAHL Twitter account (“@EUHealthLaw”) to communicate from the Board to the members and the broader interested public (e.g. to inform more practicing lawyers about the biannual conferences, as mentioned above in section 1.).
● The Board should also register EAHL on LinkedIn as a company; The extent to which this account would then be used depends on the time resources available.
● The Board should consider establishing a blog, preferably covering the whole range of European health law (EU, Council of Europe, etc.). Such a blog would require an editorial board. The Board could appoint an ad hoc committee to evaluate the pros and cons of establishing a blog and make a specific recommendation for action by the board.
● The Board should also integrate an RSS function on the Associations website, so that members can automatically and constantly be up-to-date concerning all the information updated on the website.
Apart from social media, there should be other ways of linking members and their specific fields of interests, editorial links and other roles, events they are organizing, by sharing all this information via the Association.
The Committee suggests that the Board informs members about the possibility to access information about members’ interests via Intranet, in order to disseminate information about new events, etc. Ideally, the EAHL would then be seen as the go-to place when trying to develop collaborative ideas etc.
By taking into account these proposals, the expectation is that the Association will be well prepared for the future.
The Committee May 7th, 2018
Nicola Glover-Thomas, University of Manchester
Mette Hartlev, University of Copenhagen
Santa Slokenberga, Lund University
Stefaan Callens, Callens Law Firm, KU Leuven
Dean Murray Harris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Markus Frischhut, Management Center Innsbruc