ALLEA Board meeting at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia

The ALLEA Board met in Sofia on the premises of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) from 16 – 17 September. At its third meeting of 2014, the Board discussed, inter alia, recent, current, and future ALLEA activities as well as on-going and planned future initiatives and projects by ALLEA´s five working groups. The meeting was facilitated by Professor Nikolay Miloshev, who is Vice President of the BAS and has represented his Academy in the ALLEA Board since 2013.

The programme opened with a session with Academy President Stefan Vodenicharov, who offered an overview of the many significant activities and services performed by the BAS. He underlined the importance of a reform process that the BAS-led research system underwent after the comprehensive scientific evaluation conducted by ALLEA and ESF in 2009 of the then 69 institutes, centres, laboratories, and other relevant facilities of the BAS.

ALLEA President Günter Stock (left) with BAS President Stefan Vodenicharov (right)

ALLEA President Günter Stock (left) with BAS President Stefan Vodenicharov (right)

The ALLEA President pointed to the prominent role of the BAS in the Bulgarian science system as a whole and in the further strengthening of excellent research in the country against standards of international scientific competitiveness in particular. He also expressed his gratitude to President Vodenicharov for the close cooperation and long-standing engagement of the BAS in ALLEA activities.

Further to the reporting session on its recent activities, the ALLEA Board discussed the current personnel changes in Brussels as a result of the new composition of the European Commission under President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker and noted in particular the nomination of Commissioner-designate Carlos Moedas for the position of Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, which is of special interest to ALLEA and its science policy work. In reiterating ALLEA´s role as the voice of academies towards the European political institutions, the Board agreed on the necessity of sustaining the dialogue which was well-established with outgoing Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn throughout the new term of Mr Moedas.

The ALLEA Board and representatives of BAS

The ALLEA Board and representatives of BAS

The Board proceeded to devote a substantial portion of the meeting agenda to the planning of the General Assembly to be held at the Academy of Sciences of Lisbon in April 2015 as well as the next award ceremony for the All European Academies Madame de Staël Prize for Cultural Values. Updates were also provided regarding international partnerships with other academy networks and pan-European stakeholders as well as on the Survey and Synergy Analysis of SSH Research (SASSH) project, a joint undertaking by ALLEA and the Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities. The meeting was accompanied by a number of supplementary events, including a visit to the BAS-run archeological museum of Sofia. In closing the meeting, the Board looks forward to its next session in December at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Jerusalem.

The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) is the largest national centre for scientific research and the premiere research-performing organisation in Bulgaria. The BAS encompasses 42 autonomous research units (institutes) in 9 divisions which perform both fundamental and applied research in practically all fields of knowledge. It is accredited to tutor doctoral students in the areas of research conducted by the BAS institutes. The BAS generates 60% of Bulgaria’s internationally-recognised scientific output, such as publications in international scientific journals, projects, and patents. Read more about the BAS here.

Europe has forgotten to research Europe itself

In a radio report released on 12 July 2014 by Radio Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), ALLEA President Günter Stock was interviewed regarding the inclusion of the social sciences and humanities (SSH) in the Horizon 2020 funding programme. In addition to Professor Stock, the report included interviews with German state secretary Georg Schütte (Federal Ministry for Education and Research), Jutta Allmendinger (president of the Social Science Research Center Berlin), and Anette Schade, an expert from the European Union office at the Technical University of Berlin.

The radio report focused on identifying the three pillars of Horizon 2020 and the lack of explicit consideration of SSH in these three areas, which include excellence in science, industrial leadership, and societal challenges. Professor Stock described the efforts of the European science academies to convince policymakers to give SSH more consideration within the Horizon 2020 programme. “We went to Brussels and … said to the ministers that one cannot simply shape the future with technology alone,” stated Stock, who continued to emphasize the social challenges facing Europe and the importance of SSH for addressing these challenges.

While Allmendinger noted the lack of opportunities for Horizon 2020 scientists to sufficiently prepare long-term SSH studies, Stock advised these SSH researchers to take notes from those scientists in the fields of medicine and physics, for example, who over the years have developed strategies for competing for funds on the European level.

As a closing remark of the RBB report, Stock warned that Europe could be on its way to losing its own citizens due to a lack of understanding of the mechanisms that drive Europe as a collective entity. “Since Europe, in terms of research funding, has been very oriented towards creating jobs in the technology sector, it has somewhat forgotten to research Europe itself. And that leads many Europeans to ask themselves: what is the purpose of this ‘Europe?’ That is not a technological question,” explained Stock, who continued on to note the first positive chances for SSH to be better represented in Horizon 2020 research funding, although these efforts would need to be substantially fostered by the programme.

To hear the full radio report in German language, please click here.