Statement of principles released – Private sponsoring in the science enterprise, trust in science and academic freedom

PWGSEThe ALLEA Working Group on Science and Ethics just released a statement on “Private sponsoring in the science enterprise, trust in science and academic freedom” that includes the legal provisions for academic freedom in the ALLEA member countries.

The statement, initiated by the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and reviewed by the ALLEA Working Group, emphasises that public confidence in science relies on the credibility and integrity of scientists and their work. Academic freedom, without undue interference from third parties, is a key factor in that regard. The importance of academic freedom in the conduct of science is evidenced in legal texts at both the national and the supranational level (e.g. the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union), annexed to the statement.

During the last few years, private sponsoring in the scientific enterprise increased and gained in importance, thereby affecting academic freedom and the public perception of the independence of scientists and their work. While the statement concurs with the need for private sponsoring for scientific research, it expresses concern regarding the trustworthiness of scientists and their scientific advice. To ensure scientific autonomy and credibility, the statement makes recommendations for scientific institutions in the handling of private sponsoring, notably for university chairs, suggesting four key framework conditions that should be applied:

 1. Transparency on the contractual regulations between donor and recipient;
 2. Exclusion of influence of donors during appointment procedures;
3. Equal appointment procedures for privately and publicly funded chairs;
4. Explicit affirmation of academic freedom in teaching, research and public engagement.

The statement is available for download here.

ALLEA urges the President of the European Commission to maintain budget for Horizon 2020 programme in view of the proposal for a European Fund for Strategic Investments

Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker

In a letter sent to Jean-Claude Juncker on 9 December 2014, the ALLEA President responded to the proposal for a European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) which aims to boost job creation and economic recovery in Europe.

While ALLEA principally supports the Commission´s efforts to fuel sustainable growth and prosperity in the European Union, as well as tackling major concerns facing Europe such as unemployment amongst young people, it appears counter-productive to remove funds from Horizon 2020´s agreed budget and therewith impair the immense potential impact of high-quality research for growth and prosperity in Europe.

Considering that a total of € 2.7 billion is planned to be re-allocated from the Horizon 2020 budget to the European Fund for Strategic Investment the ALLEA President states: “The Horizon 2020 budget is already under pressure, with vastly increased demand and lower budget available in 2014 for key areas than the preceding year. In our view, decreasing this budget further in an area already agreed as a priority is not the way to proceed in order to achieve sustainable growth and prosperity.”

The EFSI proposal will be discussed by the European Council at its meeting on 18/19 December 2014. ALLEA encourages all member academies and other institutions and individuals from the scientific community in Europe to take all feasible actions in order to secure a stable and substantial budget for excellent and trans-disciplinary science and research.

Click here to read the full text of the letter.

Report Release: AEMASE International Conference on Science Education

AEMASE ReportAn excellent science and research system is directly related to the quality of its science education system, which has a monumental impact on the careers – and numbers – of future young scientists, researchers and innovators. This is true for all countries regardless of the stage of their development. A sound science education system accelerates a nation’s economic growth and boosts its innovation capacities, which ultimately raises the standard of living for its citizens. It can also improve the overall health of the population and help prevent the development and spread of dangerous extremist ideologies. However, science education is threatened by factors such as the global economic crisis and limited funding for educational institutions.

By implementing Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE), science educators can activate the natural curiosity of young pupils and increase the number of young people who choose to pursue scientific careers. Instead of talking at children, teachers can employ an investigative approach – that is, guiding students as they ask the questions and actively seek the answers. “Because curiosity and scientific interest are already present during the first years of childhood, the issue is not to instill these elements in young people, but rather to maintain and preserve them,” states ALLEA President Professor Günter Stock.

The African European Mediterranean Academies for Science Education (AEMASE) initiative is committed to promoting science outreach to society and to improving the quality and accessibility of science education in schools throughout the eponymous North-South region. To achieve these aims, one of AEMASE’s key activities is implementing IBSE in more schools and supporting the continued professional development of science educators in IBSE methodology and practice. In the long term, the AEMASE partner institutions, which come from all three geographical areas, seek to contribute to the steady development of quality science and innovation systems by focussing on stimulating and supporting the future generations of researchers and innovators.

In this context, key AEMASE partner institutions held an international conference on science education in Rome in May 2014, hosted by the venerable Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. Participants from six continents shared their professional experiences with IBSE and discussed best practices, challenges and future collaboration opportunities. The conference brought together representatives from three crucial areas of expertise: science, education, and policy. The outcomes of this conference are condensed in the report which serves as a testament to the relevance and importance of quality science education for modern societies.

Printed copies of the report and the accompanying primer may be ordered from the ALLEA secretariat.

To read or download the report, primer, or press release, please click on the links below.

AEMASE International Conference on Science Education: Conference Report
Report Primer
Press Release

Science Policy after the European Elections – ALLEA newsletter release

Newsletter_2014-3_final-001ALLEA recently released its third and final newsletter for the year 2014, focussing on matters surrounding the topic “Science Policy after the European Elections”. The newsletter features a comprehensive look at key science policy makers on the EU level, recent changes and trends, and an interview with MEP and Chair of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, Professor Jerzy Buzek.

In the last six months, the arena of science policy on the European level has experienced numerous changes and welcomed many new faces. In July, the Italian Presidency took the helm of the Council of the European Union, while the European Parliament committees ITRE and CULT received new chairs and new members. On 1 November, the new Commission under President Jean-Claude Juncker began its five-year term – without, as was recently confirmed, the expert voice of a chief scientific adviser. President Juncker’s removal of not only the CSA but also the Bureau of European Policy Advisers under which the CSA post was subsumed has been met with growing anxiety as to the future of evidence-based independent science policy advice on the European level.

Thus, with this newsletter’s focus topic, ALLEA offers an overview of the current developments and trends in the arena of European science policy. The ALLEA interview with Professor Jerzy Buzek, Chair of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee at the European Parliament offers a glimpse into the current science policy climate in Brussels and Strasbourg. Moreover, beyond a presentation of the debate regarding the CSA and BEPA, the issue breaks down the most important changes and tendencies driving the Commission’s approach to science policy.

While this issue’s focus is meant to offer insight into the complex political structures that make science policy decisions in Europe, it also dovetails with the theme of the next ALLEA General Assembly, which will take place in April 2015 in Lisbon. 15 years after the “Lisbon Strategy” set out the goals for two decades of European science and research, ALLEA will return to the original Lisbon agenda and examine the strategy’s aims, what has actually been accomplished since 2000, and what still needs to be done. In this context, ALLEA is introducing a new section of this newsletter in which the rich and multifaceted profiles of our member academies are featured. In this issue, the spotlight shines on the Academy of Sciences of Lisbon before they generously open their beautiful halls to the next ALLEA General Assembly.

Last but far from least, the newsletter reports on the continued active engagement of the ALLEA Working Groups. The Working Group Science Education has released the complete “Academia-Industry Alliance: Joint Efforts in Science Education” report and will soon publish the AEMASE Conference Report, which details the proceedings of the May 2014 conference in Rome and will be produced as a printed booklet. Meanwhile, the Working Groups Science and Ethics and Intellectual Property Rights met to discuss possible future cooperation on cross-cutting issues of relevance for both expert groups.

To read the latest ALLEA newsletter, please click here.

ALLEA Board Meeting at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

The ALLEA Board met in Jerusalem on the premises of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities from 3 – 4 December 2014. Further to the reporting session on 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 focused on ALLEA´s collaboration with other European academy organizations, including EASAC, Euro-CASE, Academia Europaea and FEAM in contributing to the evidence-based policy advice system in the European Union. 

With the new Commission in office since November 2014, a number of far-reaching decisions have been taken regarding the future role and structure of implementing scientific evidence in the policy-making process. Concretely, the position of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) was discontinued and the Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA) dissolved. The Board underlined the crucial role of scientific advice and called upon the President of the European Commission to elaborate a sound system that allow evidence–based positions to enter into the policy-making process.

The programme furthermore included a tribute from the ALLEA President to outgoing Board members Menahem Yaari and Peter Kennedy, since 2012 delegates of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the Royal Irish Academy respectively, highlighting their invaluable contributions and great efforts for ALLEA over the last years. Board members joined the President in thanking both for the work and friendship over the last three years. 

The ALLEA Board at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

The ALLEA Board at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities from January 2015 onwards will be represented in the ALLEA Board by its President Professor Ruth Arnon, who had been warmly welcomed on the occasion of a dinner on the evening prior to the meeting on the invitation of the host academy. Ruth Arnon is an immunologist with a worldwide reputation. She is the Paul Ehrlich Professor of Immunology at the department of immunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, which she formerly headed. Her scientific research has focused on the development of advanced vaccines, cancer research and parasitic diseases. She served as an adviser on scientific matters to Israel´s President, is a recipient of the Israel Prize and a member of the French Legion of Honor.

The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, established by the Knesset in 1961, is an all-embracing body with 112 members in two sections. It is administered by a six-member Council headed by President. It has spearheaded major initiatives like the Israel Science Foundation, the National Council for Research and Development and membership in CERN, ESRF, etc. Through 32 bi-national agreements the Academy promotes reciprocal scientific visits and coordinates international scientific workshops. It is Israel’s adhering member in major international scientific unions and organisations.

ALLEA president takes part in the Euro-CASE Annual Conference

ALLEA President Günter Stock

ALLEA President Günter Stock

The Annual Conference on “Evidence-based Policy Advice and Innovation Policy beyond Horizon 2020” of the European Council of Academies of Applied Sciences, Technologies and Engineering (Euro-CASE) took place on 3 December 2014 in Brussels and was attended by over 200 invited guests.

At the conference, the Presidents of ALLEA, EASAC and Euro-CASE, declared their commitment to a stronger partnership at the European level while noting the importance of an interdisciplinary approach towards offering science policy advice. ALLEA President Professor Günter Stock took part in a panel discussion on the subject “Evidence-based policy advice to the EU – novel approaches of dialogue formats”. Further panelists included, among others, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission Anne Glover, Deputy Director General Wolfgang Burtscher of the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, and Joint Research Centre Director-General Vladimir Šucha.

Günter Stock, Anne Glover, Reinhard F. Hüttl, Jos van der Meer (EASAC)

Günter Stock, Anne Glover, Reinhard F. Hüttl, Jos van der Meer (EASAC)

Innovation policy after Horizon 2020 and future challenges for Europe were also central to this year’s conference. High-ranking international guest speakers presented European and international perspectives on innovation policy and Euro-CASE revealed a new policy paper on this topic. Concrete questions about the role of industry, internationalisation, simplifying the application process and the systematic implementation of the whole innovation chain in future EU framework programmes were central to these discussions. 

Throughout the presentations, it became clear that for Europe to be a successful innovation centre, it needs innovation that takes more risks and embraces an “entrepreneurial spirit”. Successfully bringing research results to the market was also deemed a major factor for Europe’s economic growth.  It was emphasised that Academies are in the position to promote independent and transdisciplinary science-based policy advice and thereby significantly contribute to strengthening the evidence-based nature of political decisions at the European level. Reinhard F. Hüttl, President of Euro-CASE, concluded: “We can only meet today’s global challenges together with an interdisciplinary approach. Together we can offer a comprehensive and holistic science-based policy advice at the European level”.

Euro‐CASE is an independent non‐profit organisation of national Academies of engineering, applied sciences and technologies from 21 European countries. Euro‐CASE acts as a permanent forum for exchange and consultation between European institutions, industry and research.

Photos ©FKPH