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Monday, June 2, 2008

Science in Europe, 04, the social side

In today's edition:
Potočnik hails French university reform Interview: 'Positive discrimination' needed for female scientists Norway to award nanotech 'Nobel prize'

Potočnik hails French university reform

15 April 2008

The EU research commissioner, Janez Potočnik has urged EU member states to follow the French example of university reform and implement the EU executive's recommendations on modernising the European higher education system.

He said that the new French lawexternal granting more liberties and responsibilities to universities was a clear demonstration of France's Europe-wide aspirations and "a response to the many hurdles identified by the Commission in recent years, and where we have called on the member states and universities to act".

The French university reform is "an example to Europe as a whole" on how to modernise European universities by giving them more autonomy to manage their teaching, research, innovation and knowledge transfer missions, the commissioner said.

Thus far, French plans to implement EU recommendationsPdf external on higher education reform have attracted the opposition of students, university staff and the French association of researchers. All fear that state disengagement could lead to excessive private-sector influence over higher education curricula and unequal development of universities.

Responding to these concerns, the French research and higher education minister Valérie Pécresse has said earlier that "our stance begins to be understood as students and universities see that we have put a lot of public money on the table to improve the quality of bachelor degrees, university real estate and facilities for students".

Addressing the CPU on 4 April, Minister Pécresse pledged to grant €250,000 to those universities to move towards autonomy by 1 January 2009. source.

My comment:As far as science is concerned, money are money, no matter where they come from. But I should insist on government providing enough money on not attractive, but essential fields as theoretical science. Business priorities and scientific priorities are different and only by balancing them, we can have a working system!

Interview: 'Positive discrimination' needed for female scientists

15 April 2008

Europe should not shy away from positive discrimination as a way to promote women scientists as it will help tackle skills shortages in scientific disciplines, argues the author of a Parliament report on women in science adopted yesterday in an interview with EurActiv.

The European Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality adopted a reportPdf external on 14 April on the role of women in science. It draws attention to the current under-representation of female scientists, which is says is a waste of the potential of female science graduates.

Promoting women in science "is not just about a feminist quest for equality," said Danish Socialist MEP Britta Thomsen, the author of the report, in an interview with "It is fundamentally about European growth, innovation and competitiveness in the future," she added.

According to Thomsen, things "don't seem to be changing naturally" and thus measures should be taken at European and national level in order to bring an end to prevailing stereoptypes preventing women from succeeding in scientific careers.

She believes the education system should do more to encourage young girls to opt for scientific careers than is currently the case. In addition, special funding should be allocated to female scientists to enable them to pursue their careers. In her view, the use of role models and improved mentoring schemes may also attract more young women to study science (see EurActiv 10/03/08).

The report also recommends implementing gender mainstreaming in the EU and national programmes. She thinks that "all universities and research institutions need to realise that it is in their own best interest to develop gender strategies if they want to attract both female students and female employees".

Asked whether positive discrimination should be considered to promote women scientists, she said "we should not shy away" from it. "It shouldn't be an end in itself, but it is necessary to take measures that counteract the current systems and traditions, because these obviously in some way 'positively discriminate' men."source

My comment: As a female scientist in a "male" field, I must say I haven't yet felt any direct discrimination. But I know that is a heritage from our communist past. Anyway, I feel a better directed politics should be to easing problems that prevent female scientists from being active considering their special lives of mothers and wives. Which mean to offer additional supper for mothers that have to attend a conference, in order for them to secure a person to watch over the kids or to take them with her, for example. It sounds kind of far-fetched, but traveling makes a big part of being a scientist and people don't realise that you can't always just take the plane and leave everything for a week or two. This is just different for women and men. And of course, the biggest problem is not so much gender-connected, but the lack of students from both genders in science!

Norway to award nanotech 'Nobel prize'

10 April 2008

The winner, or winners, of the first ever science prize for outstanding achievement in nanosciences will be announced next month by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

The first winners of the new Kavli Prizeexternal , comprising three international awards for outstanding contributions in the fields of nanoscience, neuroscience and astrophysics, will be announced on 28 May 2008.

The prizes, to be awarded every two years, will be presented in co-operation with the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and the Norwegian ministries for education and research and foreign affairs. They are worth $1 million each, which makes them comparable to the cash received by Nobel Prize winners.

According to Professor Reidun Sirevåg, the Academy's secretary general, the prize is the first of its kind for nanoscience.

The Kavli Prize in Nanoscience will be awarded for "outstanding achievement in the science and application of the unique physical, chemical, and biological properties of atomic, molecular, macromolecular, and cellular structures and systems that are manifest in the nanometre scale". These include "molecular self-assembly, nanomaterials, nanoscale instrumentation, nanobiotechnology, macromolecular synthesis, molecular mechanics, and related topics".

The prize aims to promote and stimulate more research on nanosciences at times when debate on the potential health and environmental threats of nanomaterials are gaining ground and scientists are pointing to insufficient risk-assessment methods for nanomaterials used in consumer products that are already on the market.

In order to select the finalists, the Academy has appointed three prize committees external on the basis of nominations from leading international academies and scientific organisations, such as the UK Royal Society, the US National Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The committees are meeting in April in Berlin, Washington and New York to decide who will be awarded the prizes. The winners will be announced on 28 May 2008 both in Oslo and at the opening of World Science Week at Columbia University, New York. The prizes will be handed to the winners in September by Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon. The day before the award ceremony, three international symposia will be organised on the fields covered by the Kavli Prize. source

My comment: Cool, what else could I say?

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