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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bad news on european science...(04.08)

In today's edition:
  • Study finds EU leading way in nanotech safety
  • Privacy chief: EU research must consider data protection
  • EU countries unenthusiastic about R&D cooperation
  • Ministers seek new vision for European Research Area
The over-all comment: Grrr, I'm mad. Just read! Some of the news are rather absurd.

Study finds EU leading way in nanotech safety

22 April 2008

A new US study shows EU member states invest nearly twice as much as the United States in research addressing the potential environment, health or safety hazards of nanotechnologies.

While the positive potential of nanotech is acknowledged, good understanding its risk potential is necessary, states the US Project on Emerging Nanotechnolgies (PEN) in a risk research inventory updatePdf external published on 19 April 2008.

The report argues that "comparatively little US government money has been spent on ensuring that scientists know how to control or prevent possible nanotechnology environmental, health, and occupational and general safety (EHS) risks".

According to PEN, just $13 million (€8.16 million) of the total $1.4 billion (€0.878 million) allocated to the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNIexternal ) in 2006 was spent on highly relevant nanotech risk research - despite government claims that it had spent triple that ($37.7 million).

According to PEN's Chief Science Advisor Andrew Maynard, the US is "guilty of wishful thinking in its assessment of research that will lead to the development of safe nanotechnologies" and is avoiding difficult questions on "what makes a nanomaterial potentially harmful, how it can be used safely, and what happens when it is eventually disposed of".

The project argues that at the same time, European countries together invested some $24 million in this type of research. According to the European Commission's implementation reportPdf external on the EU nanosciences and nanotechnologies action plan 2005-2009, some €28 million of Community funds have been dedicated to projects specifically focused on risk research since 1998. Safety research is said to "significantly increase" in the bloc's Seventh Framework Programme for R&D (2007-2014).

While no government in the world has developed a specific nanotech regulation to date, everybody agrees that more research on the potential risks of nanoparticles is needed to ensure that asbestos-like scandals do not come back to haunt nanotech companies in the future.

In this regard, it appears that the Commission is playing a leading role in the global debate on responsible nanotechnology through its initiatives such as the Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Research (see EurActiv 12/02/08). In this code, the Commission namely asked member states to respect the precautionary principle in research on nanosciences.

The Commission has also recently carried out a review of the current EU legislation to establish whether new regulatory action is required to cover risks in relation to nanomaterials. A communication on the issue, stating no new regulation is needed, will be published by the end of April. source

My comment: Words, words, words... This starts reminding me of the communist times. We hear nice stuff, how good we are, how well we're doing, but in the end, nothing is done. Because in reality, NOTHING IS DONE! Did you read my post about nanoparticles in sunscreens? Because they are there. And we don't even know. So, let's stop talking and start acting!

Privacy chief: EU research must consider data protection

30 April 2008

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) wants EU research projects to take account of privacy and data protection requirements from early on, in particular when developing information and communication technologies.

In order to contribute to the better implementation of the EU data protection legal framework, "privacy and data protection requirements need to be highlighted and applied as soon as possible in the life cycle of new technological developments," insisted Peter Hustinx, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPSexternal ), presenting a policy paperPdf external setting out his role and possible contribution to EU research and technological development.

The overall role of the EDPS is to monitor EU developments which have an impact on the protection of personal data, in particular the development of ICT. His policy paper, adopted on 28 April 2008, sets out how the EDPS can contribute to guaranteeing privacy and data protection both in the preparatory phase of the overall EU research framework programme and for individual research projects.

The aim of the EDPS is "to advise the Commission and/or project developers on their efforts to use privacy and data protection-friendly RTD methodologies and of course to develop technologies and processes that will promote and reinforce the effectiveness of the EU data protection legal framework".

Hustinx also considers that "the principle of 'privacy by design' should represent an inherent part of the EU's research activities. The EDPS's contribution to this could be done, for example, through its:

  • Participation in workshops and conferences aiming to identify future challenges for EU research policy;
  • contribution to EU research advisory boards;
  • assistance in the evaluation of research project proposals, and;
  • provision of opinions on data protection matters in relation to individual research projects.
source
My comment: Data protection? They take your id card if you go to ice skate! But anyway, the intention is good, especially in the light of the US policy to protect the data of their citizens, but to however, abuse the data of other citizens. And the agreement between Germany and USA to share the identities of "criminals". Criminals meaning also people with high-speed fines, protesters and general infractors. I don't know whether it passed, but it will eventually,and I find this particularly worrying.

EU countries unenthusiastic about R&D cooperation

25 April 2008

Despite repeated political declarations, EU nations are in fact unwilling to accept too much coordination of their national R&D programmes, according to the final results of the consultation on the future of the European Research Area (ERA).

Apart from backing a greater role for the EU in the development of large-scale research infrastructures that in any case are too costly for one member state to develop alone, the EU countries do not seem that enthusiastic about the idea of a "true" European Research Area.

The final reportPdf external of the public consultation on the future of ERA, published on 24 April 2008, shows that many member states are not in much of a hurry to jointly coordinate their national research programmes or priorities. Indeed, according to many, the ERA should only consist of voluntary coordination of activities on the basis of the open method of coordination.

Instead, member states stress the importance of "striking a careful balance" in optimising research programmes and priorities and believe too much coordination and cooperation may "potentially reduce positive competition and diversity". Only Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Norway declare themselves open - "in principle" - to reciprocal and gradual opening of funding programmes "under conditions of balanced reciprocity".

As for the creation of a single labour market for researchers, member states believe that compulsory EU legislation is not desirable and that voluntary guidelines are enough. Some support the single labour market, providing it does not lead to the deterioration of research in less developed regions, while others think compulsory EU legislation on the issue could have asymmetric impacts due to different national employment legislation and practices.

Member states also think that strengthening research institutions is "very largely a matter for the national and local levels" and that the coordination of member states' international research cooperation should be "voluntary and follow the principle of variable geometries".

Regardless of the meagre support from member states, the Commission has said it will launch four more initiatives in 2008 to:

  • Promote the mobility and careers of European researchers;
  • establish the legal framework for pan-European research infrastructures;
  • improve joint programming of publicly funded research and programmes, and;
  • coordinate international science and technology cooperation.

As part of the process, a Recommendation on the management of intellectual property by public research organisations was adopted on 10 April 2008 (see EurActiv 11/04/08). source

My comment: Yeah, of course, why the big countries will abandon their control over science and their aging scientists for the bigger goal of European Science. Ok, I'm mad, obviously, because this is absurd-we want to take the money from the EU for our projects, but we don't want to give anything in return! That's WRONG! Scientists from all part of Europe are equally scientists if they have obtained EU grant. Then what's the problem? I like the idea of projects- you have an idea, you find people that have the same idea and you apply for a grant on that idea and if you get it, you start working. Your colleagues may be from Spain, France or Romania, but as long as you get the results, you have the money and no one is even considering your university or country. Of course, national grants should also exist to help on smaller projects or national collaboration. But come on, that article above is ridiculous!

Ministers seek new vision for European Research Area

16 April 2008

Nearly ten years after the European Research Area concept was launched, EU countries and the Commission have agreed to launch yet another process to overcome the fragmentation of research activities, programmes and policies across Europe.

The EU-27 research ministers and the Commission agreed, on 15 April 2008, on a new partnership called 'Ljubljana Process', which they hope will lead to better exploitation of Europe's research potential and the creation of a genuine European Research Area (ERA).

"We have not yet used Europe's full research potential on human resources, institutions or regarding synergy among all stakeholders," said Slovenian Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology Mojca Kucler Dolinar, speaking to the press after the informal meeting of research ministers.

However, she said "you can really feel a new energy among the member states and the Commission and I am convinced that we will be able to begin a new process, the Ljubljana Process, which will not only contribute to the European Research Area but to Europe as a whole".

The Ljubljana Process is expected to provide new impetus for the creation of a true ERA and thus contribute to increasing the competitiveness of European industries - a key pillar of the Lisbon Agenda. In view of this, the Council agreedPdf external on the need for the member states and the Commission to share a long-term vision on ERA, consisting of:

  • A free flow of knowledge, with excellent research and attractive jobs;
  • modern universities and research institutions;
  • more incentives for the private sector to invest in research;
  • better use of research results, and;
  • better access to research infrastructure.

The first version of the vision is expected to be finalised by the end of 2008 "in order to quickly focus policies and actions to make it happen".

In the framework of the 'Ljubljana Process', the ministers also agreed to improve the political governance of ERA by building links between research and other policies, such as education, innovation and cohesion policies.

However, the management and governance will, according to Commissioner Potočnik, take more time to implement than the vision "as it is a long-term process". Thus the two upcoming EU presidencies are expected to deal with it (France and the Czech Republic).

The creation of ERA, a genuine European 'internal market' for research to increase pan-European co-operation and co-ordination of national research activities, was proposedPdf external by the Commission in January 2000. Due to the lack of tangible achievements, the concept was 'relaunched' in spring 2007 (see EurActiv 05/04/07).

Some progress has been made since 2000, but much more remains to be done, particularly to overcome the fragmentation of research activities, programmes and policies across Europe. "The problem is that things [various EU initiatives on ERA] are voluntary for the member states, thus slow. The Commission would like them to go faster," Potočnik explained. source

My comment: Yeah, same as the one before. Nothing is going to happen while it's on voluntary basis. Because member states don't want to participate really. Too bad. Because those that do want to participate will flourish.

1 comment:

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