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Saturday, May 3, 2008

EU in science, 03.08

In this edition:

U moves to catch up on microchip revolution

13 March 2008

The European Union is losing the technological battle for the mass deployment of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips, seen as the driver of the creation of an "Internet of things," the Commission warned. It announced it would put forward new legislation "by the end of the year," including new funds to boost the development of this revolutionary technology.

In March 2007, the European Commission adopted a communicationPdf external announcing further actions to address privacy-related concerns arising from the development of RFID, Radio Frequency Identification chips.

Three months later, in June, the Commission established an RFID Expert Group charged with giving advice on the legal measures neeed to increase data protection in applications supported by RFID (see our Links Dossier).

In February 2008, Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding issued a draft recommendationexternal defining the guidelines to be followed to avoid abuses or misuses of private information collected through RFID devices. Stakeholders were invited to present their positions by 25 April 2008.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips have already been deployed on a massive scale in Japan, the United States, China and South Korea. They are applied in several different sectors, ranging from transport (luggage retrieval) to healthcare (for safer blood transfusion) and from pharmaceuticals (against counterfeiting) to retailing (replacing bar codes).

By allowing objects to exchange information among themselves, RFID chips have the potential to create an "Internet of things" – for example, a fridge could automatically communicate with a shop to order eggs once they are finished. The world market for these devices in 2007 has been estimated at 4.2 billion euros, with the Commission predictingexternal it could grow five-fold within ten years.

Private concerns dominate

European deployment of this revolutionary technology is still lagging behind the other main global actors. "We are seeing things being shaped, but they are shaped outside Europe," warned Gerald Santucci, a Commission official in charge of RFID.

One reason for the low penetration of RFID in Europe is the diffident approach towards this new technology, generally first considered in terms of its legal and privacy-related risks, and only afterwards for its wide-ranging economic and social benefits. As a result, instead of exploring ways to deploy the devices, the debate on RFID in the EU mainly focuses on data protection (see EurActiv 26/02/08).

Lack of awareness and a fragmented market

Another European shortfall in the uptake of RFID is low awareness of their benefits and even their very existence by the majority of citizens and SMEs. The Commission is about to launch an Information Day on RFID, likely to be held on 23 April.

Moreover, the European market remains fragmented, with different approaches developed at national level and wide intra-EU differences regarding overall knowledge and development of the new technology.

To tackle this structural deficit, Brussels will launch a "thematic network" this year aimed at making stakeholders discuss common approaches, including EU standards to develop the new technology more quickly and more safely. 800,000 euro from the EU budget have been made available for this purpose.

The successful establishment of GSM standards for mobile telephony has shown that "Europe can and should be able to affirm its identity on standards," added Santucci. source

My comment:Ok, I didn't even know what those things are until this article, are they serious about people not knowing??? And if I knew, my first question would be where those transmissions will be stored, who'll be watching my diet and health and what they'll do with that knowledge. Because this is getting way too personal. So excuse me if we're first concerned about our privacy and then about OUR economical benefits (which by they way are non-existing, the benefactors will be only the manufacturers and the sellers, the buyers will benefit only morally)

Summit backs ‘fifth freedom’ for EU scientists

14 March 2008

EU leaders gathered in Brussels last week agreed to step up efforts to improve working conditions for researchers and increase knowledge transfer between universities and business as a way to reverse the 'brain drain' of European talent.

Leaders of the 27-nation bloc highlighted the "free movement of knowledge" as a priority to respond to the challenges of globalisation and transform the EU into "a truly modern and competitive economy", according to the conclusionsPdf external of the Spring Summit, adopted on 14 March.

According to the conclusions, this "fifth freedom" should be created by removing barriers to the cross-border mobility of researchers, students, scientists and academic staff and by providing researchers with "better career structures" including familly-friendly career paths.

EU leaders also stressed that further higher education reforms are necessary for the fifth freedom to be achieved. In addition, they said intellectual property created by publicly funded research should be used "so as to increase knowledge transfer to industry". An "IP Charter" should be adopted "before the end of the year" to help address this, the leaders agreed.

Other key components of the fifth freedom will include the promotion of open access to knowledge and innovation, scientific excellence and mutual recognition of qualifications.

Supporting the mobility of researchers is one of the objectives of the EU's Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs and one of the prerequisites for creating a true European Research Area (ERA). A reviewPdf external of ERA was conducted in 2007 and the Commission is expected to come up shortly with proposals to increase the mobility of researchers and promote effective knowledge sharing via open access to data and scientific publications.

In order to attract foreign researchers, the Council also adopted in autumn 2005 a "researchers' package" (EurActiv 23/03/2005). Part of the package is a specific researchers' visa, which aims to facilitate the admission of third-country nationals to carry out scientific research in the EU. However, only six member states had fully transposed the directivePdf external into national law by the 12 October 2007 deadline. The Commission said it could launch infringements procedure against the countries who have failed to honour their commitments. source

My comment: Well, well, well. Ok, I'm a scientist so it's good that they think of us, but until they show me the money, I won't believe them. This cool initiatives only help people with decent incomes. Those like me can only rely on charity.

EU science awards reward research on happiness

14 March 2008

This year's EU science awards, worth some €2 million, rewarded not only research into climate change and nanobiotechnology, but also socio-economic research on how economic growth, wealth and policy decisions affect overall happiness and satisfaction with life.

The European Science Awardsexternal ceremony took place on 12 March 2008, when prizes worth €1.8 million were awarded to a number of leading European scientists and science communicators.

Among this year's winners was a research project examining whether economic growth makes us feel happier and whether increased individual wealth leads to a more satisfying life. The EURECONAW project, led by Italian researcher Luisa Corrado, also studied whether and how policy decisions affect our wellbeing, with the aim of eventually helping policymakers to understand the impact of their decisions on the wellbeing of society.

The European Science Awards are celebrated in three fields. This year, the Descartes prizeexternal for transnational collaborative research (€1.48 million) honoured pan-European research teams in the fields of food safety, nanobiotechnology and polar research. The Science Communication prizeexternal (€195,000) compensated the best science communicators for their role in engaging citizens with science and research.

The Marie Curie excellence awardsexternal (€250,000) rewarded the exceptional achievements of five individual scientists who have benefited from the EU's Marie Curie mobility scheme for the training of researchers. This year, in addition to socio-economic research into happiness, this category honoured research on cancer, dark matter, ICT and the body's immune system.

The European Science Awards "represent the best that Europe has to offer," said Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik, presenting the awards. They honour the key qualities of "excellence, openness and creativity," he added.

The Descartes prize was launched in 2000, the Marie Curie excellence awards in 2003 and the Science Communication prize in 2004. This was the first time that all three prizes were awarded in a special European Science Awards ceremony. source

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