Policy for science activities towards the European authorities

2014_01_30_Horizon2020With the release of the Horizon 2020 draft work programmes for 2014/15, ALLEA reiterated its position as regards the opportunities for interdisciplinary research throughout the programme as well as concerning the integration of Social Sciences and Humanities experts in the Horizon 2020 advisory groups in order to guarantee substantial involvement of SSH approaches at every stage of the process.

Both issues were taken up in response letters from the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. On the invitation of the Commissioner ALLEA President Günter Stock and British Academy Vice President Dame Helen Wallace discussed more in detail ALLEA´s position in a personal meeting in Berlin on 28 January 2014 with the participation of the Commissioner, the Director General and the Commissioner´s head of cabinet. ALLEA and the Directorate General for Research and Innovation agreed on a number of concrete interactions within the next months which were integrated in the future scope of activities of the ALLEA Working Group on SSH, led by the British Academy, which held an in-parallel meeting in Berlin on 27/28 January 2014. Detailed information about the meetings and the follow on actions will be made available in the next issue of the ALLEA newsletter.

Interdisciplinarity in Horizon 2020

In late 2013, the ALLEA President provided the Directorate General for Research and Innovation with “Guidelines for an interdisciplinary research programme” resulting from an exemplary workshop which assembled scholars from various disciplines who addressed the topic “Sustainable aquatic food supply” in a dedicated interdisciplinary manner. The project was initiated by the Vice President of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Professor Klaus Lucas, and supported by the Volkswagen foundation.

In her personal response letter, the Commissioner highly appreciated the concrete proposals and assured that the guidelines be fed into the relevant units within her Directorate-General as a contribution providing “useful inputs for the preparation of future work programmes”.

A separate response from the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT) highlighted the usefulness of the presented design not only for the Societal Challenges, but also for other programme lines such as “Future and Emerging Technologies“ or “Industrial Leadership”. The guidelines will also provide input to a Commission study aiming “to make recommendations on how to best shape smart approaches to multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity”, the letter states.

The report “Sustainable Aquatic Food Supply – Guidelines for an Interdisciplinary Research Program” can be downloaded here: full report or short version.

Horizon 2020 advisory groups

As a follow on to an earlier ALLEA ad hoc initiative which yielded the ALLEA comments on the ERA communication led by the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences the Director General for Research and Innovation, Robert-Jan Smits, asked ALLEA to come up with a list of experts from the ALLEA academies in order to provide expert advice in the programme parts related to the Social Sciences and Humanities.

Upon receipt of a comprehensive list of eminent experts prepared to engage in the advice activities separate letters from Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn and Director General Robert-Jan Smits invited and encouraged the ALLEA experts to register for the official Horizon 2020 expert advisory groups which monitor and supervise the formulation and implementation of Horizon 2020 calls in the work programmes. Director General Smits stated that the ALLEA expert list will furthermore be forwarded to the responsible units in the Commission, “to all colleagues who are in charge of calls across Horizon 2020 and specifically of calls for societal challenges”. The Commissioner underlined her gratitude for ALLEA´s continued and “valuable support” to a successful implementation of Horizon 2020 and encouraged ALLEA to contribute to the parts of the work “which requires support from external experts”.

Further recent ALLEA positions directed to the relevant European authorities included statements of the ALLEA Working Group Intellectual Property Rights, addressing the issue of stem cell research as well as the problem of the grace period.

Academia-Industry Alliance: Joint Efforts in Science Education – Royal Irish Academy and ALLEA Worling Group Science Education convene open session in Dublin

The Royal Irish Academy (RIA)-ALLEA Joint Efforts in Science Education Forum took place on 20 November, 2013. The forum brought together industry and education partners to discuss existing and identify future potential collaborative efforts to enhance maths, science and technology education and student experiences in Ireland, with reference to existing and emerging European initiatives in this space.

Excellent and world class science will play an instrumental role in the creation of jobs, identification of future technologies and opportunities and wider societal well-being. To this end, Europe – and Ireland – requires a highly skilled workforce in maths, science and technology fields and a high level of general scientific competence across society. The Forum explored the shared mission of teachers, educators and industry in achieving these wider goals, recognising that no one sector can address these issues by themselves.

2014_01_27_Academia-industry-allianceAll participants were invited to outline their perspective on the current opportunities and challenges facing science education and how industry and education can work together to support a stronger science education experience.

The event was preceded by the launch of the Irish Minister of State for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Review Group in Academy House. The Academy is currently in the process of drafting a submission to the STEM advisory group based on issues that were identified at the Academy-ALLEA forum on Science Education.

A report summarising the main conclusions and discussion points, along with a summary of the speakers’ presentations is available here.

Leading this initiative are Professor Peter Mitchell, MRIA, ALLEA working group on Science Education and Professor Eugene Kennedy, MRIA, Science Secretary.

The open session on Academia-Industry Alliances also relates to previous activities of the ALLEA Working Group Science Education and follows up on a comprehensive report written upon request of the European Commission and entitled “A renewal of science education in Europe – views and actions of national academies”. In the report, the Working Group details the views and actions taken by European Academies to advance the renewal of science education and maintain the passion for science and technology among the youth. Building alliances with the business world is seen as an important step towards these objectives.

The Royal Irish Academy (Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann) was founded in 1785 and is Ireland’s academy for the sciences, humanities and social sciences. The Academy provides expert advice, manages research projects, publishes books and journals and sustains a library. Election to membership of the Academy is the highest academic honour in Ireland and the Academy has currently approximately 460 members.

ALLEA features presentations at “Salon Sophie Charlotte” in the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities

2014_01_23_RiethmuellerOn 18 January 2014 the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities opened its doors for the Academy´s annual event highlight “Salon Sophie Charlotte” which attracted around 2000 guests. This year, under the Salon´s general heading “Europe – a place for the future” ALLEA for the first time presented its own programme with two presentations discussing the contributions of music in the process of European integration and its role for the European identity.

The ALLEA delegate of the Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities, Professor Albrecht Riethmüller guided through the ALLEA session and opened the stage with a presentation on “The Anthem of Europe”. Accompanied by musical examples, Riethmüller presented the different uses and interpretations of Beethovens “Ode to Joy” until becoming the official anthem of the European Union in an instrumental version after other proposals – such as an anthem sung in the universal language of Esperanto – were not convincing.

The presentation was followed by a lecture entitled “Beethoven 2020 in Europe” given by the Director of the Beethoven House in Bonn, Malte Boecker. Outlining the historical background in which Beethoven lived, Boecker investigated the dedication of the German composer to the European identity beyond the area of music and composition.

2014_01_23_BoeckerThese contributions form part of a wider ALLEA initiative directed at tackling the growing lack of commitment and trust in Europe as a cultural and intellectual region in times of economic crisis. ALLEA therewith joins the debate on the future of Europe with a set of activities planned, such as workshops on pan-European issues at different member academies resulting in a book series which documents the results of the discussions and deliberations. For the topic “Music in European Integration” a workshop will take place at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in March 2014, bringing together an international group of musicologists to discuss musico-political questions as they relate to European Integration.

This year´s Salon Sophie Charlotte was oriented towards the Academy´s current topic of the year which throughout 2013 and 2014 addresses a multitude of issues and aspects around the theme “Future Place: Europe”. The Salon offered lectures, artistic performances, guided tours and cultural presentations from different perspectives all focusing on questions towards the future of Europe such as “What are Europe´s perspectives under consideration of the symptoms of the current crisis?”, “What is it that holds us together?” or “How strong do values such as freedom, social justice and democracy unify us?”

Further contributors included the Swiss philosopher and novelist Pascal Mercier (Peter Bieri), the Dutch novelist Geert Mak, the Austrian writer Robert Menasse and a great number of other internationally distinguished and widely renowned intellectuals and artists.

The Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities established its “Topic of the Year” programme in 2007. It is committed to promoting the dialogue between science and society. Among its primary objectives is to inform the public about the Academy’s research projects and to encourage discussion and debate on most relevant issues on the interface of science and scholarship, arts and society.