Governments and international organizations frequently convene scientific advisory committees (SACs) to support decision‐making with scientific advice. In this study, thematic analysis of interviews with 35 senior WHO staff identified five main themes characterizing WHO's experience with designing SACs to ensure quality, relevance, and legitimacy of scientific advice. First, in addition to technical matters, SACs are established to serve broader strategic objectives, including consensus building to promote high‐level political messages. Second, for SACs to be fully independent, they must have autonomy from the institutions convening or funding them, from the institutions from where SAC members are recruited, and from the institutions to whom the advice is directed. Third, since choices affecting quality, relevance, and legitimacy are closely linked, designing SACs often require trade‐offs among these three attributes. Fourth, staff supporting SACs need to balance between safeguarding SACs from external influence and being receptive to the external political environment. Fifth, the design of SACs need to balance the involvement of stakeholders with the power to act on recommendations against the need to protect the independence and integrity of the scientific process. Overall, this study highlights key choices conveners of SACs must make when seeking to promote quality, relevance, and legitimacy of scientific advice.
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