Teresa Fernandez – teresa.fernandez(at)euroscience.org
Brian Cahill – brian.cahill(at)euroscience.org
The working group on science policy was set up straight from the start of EuroScience. One of its major goal is to support whenever possible policy decisions in favour of the European research community and of science and technology in general. This prompted us to set up a series of propositions to improve the management of the Framework Program 5 in 1997 and of Framework Program 6 in 2001, or to organise a debate within the European Parliament on the role of the MEPs in research policy at the eve of the European elections of 1999.
One of our major work concerns the project from European commissioner for Research, Philippe Busquin on a European Research Area. This project (lien vers: http://ec.europa.eu/research/era/index_en.html) provides a global analysis of the present state of research in Europe and puts forward a number of proposals for improvement in the European research effort. The workgroup, following an extensive consultation with all Euroscience members, drew up a detailed document which included comments on the various analyses and proposals contained in the Commission's communication as well as some concrete suggestions and constitutes Euroscience's answer to the commission which was sent to commissioner Busquin. Following the publication of a more precise document by the commission, highlighting the guidelines proposed for EU research activities in the next few years, a complementary analysis was also elaborated and given to the commission. The European Commissioner Philippe Busquin presented the perspectives opened by his communication at a meeting organized jointly by Euroscience and the French Association for the Advancement of Science (AFAS), on December 2000.
The workgroup will continue to follow closely the development of the commission's proposals and will also provide a detailed analysis on the plan proposed by ESF for the creation of a European Research Council in the next few months.
National research policies are also of interest to us since we advocate a stronger link between national and European research policies, and a questionnaire was sent to all candidates for the French presidential election, whose responses were summarized in a press release from AFP. A similar questionnaire is being prepared for the future German general elections.
Another of our current interest concerns the European policy regarding biotechnologies (GMOs, use of stem cells, gene patenting etc), subjects which are of great public concerns. We therefore reacted to the Fiori report propositions to the European Parliament in November 2001 by sending a letter to all MEPs and sending a press release (lien vers: PR20011128.doc) summarizing our position. In addition, we expressed our position regarding the French project of law on bioethics submitted to the parliament in January 2002, particularly on stem cell research, in a paper published on the web site of La Recherche.
We also wish to encourage all institutions which foster scientific exchanges and discussion within Europe. This is the reason why we are developing a project of European award for best practice in Ph.D. programmes for European universities.
In order to possibly be able to respond to the numerous policy decisions which affect the R&D at the European scale and to set up suggestions and propositions beneficial for the science community, we are always trying to gather information from among the various decision centres. In this respect, we need the help of all Euroscience members, so do not hesitate to contact us if you are aware of particular information relevant to our work or if you feel we should react on a specific subject, and why not: join us !
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Statement from EuroScience on the EU budget discussions at the European Council, 15 and 16 December 2005.
Today’s meeting of the EU Heads of Government, under the UK Presidency, represents a critical step not only in the further development of the European Union but it is especially critical for the future of research and development in Europe. The Lisbon objectives, agreed by the European Council in 2000 aimed at establishing the EU as the World’s leading knowledge-based economy by 2010. Already the Mid term Review led by former Dutch Prime Minister, Wim Kok, has shown that not only is the EU failing in its approach to meet this objective but also it has falling behind in the schedule necessary to attain the Lisbon goals in the given timescale. Support for research and development is the key to achieving the Lisbon objectives and demands that national governments increase their support for research and also give their support to the overall research activity of the Union, as expressed through the Framework Programme. The proposal from the European Commission for the Seventh Framework Programme provides an important step to achieving the goals of the Lisbon process. The proposal, setting out priorities for a seven year programme at a total value of €72 billion, introduces vital new initiatives for Europe, of which the one to establish a European Research Council (ERC) is the most significant. This will encourage excellence in European research, which can ensure European leadership in research for the future. This, together with investment in research infrastructure and the support for the younger generation of researchers, are vital for Europe’s future. Euroscience, a “grassroots” association of researchers, science journalists, decision-makers and other interested in research with members in 40 European countries, welcomes the emphasis on research in the UK Presidency budget proposal and urges Heads of Government to honour the pledges which they themselves gave in Lisbon and the obligations which they undertook, to ensure that the EU budget settlement recognises the importance of the research and accords the full budget to the Seventh Framework Programme, and especially those elements addressing the ERC, research infrastructures and the younger generation of researchers. Professor Jean-Patrick Connerade, President of Euroscience, said “I strongly urge the Heads of Government to remember their obligations from Lisbon and to ensure that the research budget is protected within the overall financial perspectives of the Union. The UK Presidency has recognised the priority of research to the future of the Union and I sincerely hope that other Heads of Government will be equally supportive. The EU faces very major challenges in the years ahead and research is one area from which we start from a reasonable base. Our economic well being depends on this investment in research and development both for the present and the future. I strongly urge the Heads of Government to come to agreement at this meeting on the EU’s budget which must have, as its priority, honouring the Lisbon obligations and ensuring a strong investment in research”.
Recommendation for Improving Management and Assessment of the EU Framework Programmes
Our recommendations are summarized below: The selection process should encourage the expression of creativity. To reach this objective, calls for proposals should not set over-narrow targets ; provision for a minimal proportion of non conventional projects should be included in all programmes; the relative importance of selection criteria need to be reappraised (para 3.1). Faster treatment of proposals and more flexibility in the management of projects should be sought by the Commission. To reach this objective, the negotiation of accepted contracts should be simplified and the role of project co-ordinator should be reinforced (para 3.2). There should be greater transparency in the expertise process. To reach this objective, the list of experts should be made public, and the group of experts should behave as far as possible as a collectively responsible entity (para 3.3). The monitoring, dissemination and exploitation of results and ex-post evaluation of funded projects should receive more attention. Here Euroscience emphasizes the role of the key-action advisory panels and offers to organize a debate with other partners (sect. 4).
Fiori report on human genetics research
Tuesday 27th November 2001 Dear Madam/Sir, The temporary committee on Human Genetics of the European Parliament has recently completed its ""Report on the ethical, legal, economic and social implications of human genetics "", which will be put to the vote of the parliament on 29 November. In reaction, the European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG) sent you a letter in which it expressed its worries about several measures modified by the parliament in its amendments. These proposals risk to close the door on very promising research into treatments for currently untreatable diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Euroscience, an independent association for the promotion of science, supports the call for modifications formulated by the ESHG. Euroscience considers in particular necessary the continuation of a carefully framed human embryonic stem cells research which represents a vital hope for numerous patients, as well as we support adult stem cells research, which have however yet to prove a similar therapeutic potential. Euroscience therefore considers the current proposals submitted to the parliament as extremely negative and urges you not to accept the current Fiori report in its present state. We are of course at your disposal for further information. Yours sincerely, Frédéric Sgard, Ph.D. Member of Euroscience Governing Board Sanofi-Synthélabo 10 Rue des Carrières 92500 Rueil-Malmaison, France
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