European Academies’ Statement: Science is Global

On the occasion of the ESOF conference in Manchester 2016, Europe’s Academies celebrate the value of science and research. Many of today’s most pressing challenges are global ones. International science and research collaborations greatly enhance the knowledge and tools we need to tackle them.

This means institutions from across Europe need to be free to recruit excellent researchers.  Our researchers must be able to work, cooperate across borders and travel flexibly as part of multinational activities. We must support the exchange of ideas. Unnecessary barriers to this mobility will weaken science and be to the cost of all nations.

The academies of Europe stand together to support our governments in encouraging our countries and institutions to work in partnership to deliver research, scholarship and innovation across the continent for the benefit of society.

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ALLEA rejects the attempted coup d’état and calls for the Republic of Turkey to respect academic freedom and autonomy

ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, rejects all non-constitutional and violent attempts to threaten the democracies in the Council of Europe region, which is the host region to the ALLEA member academies, and indeed all over the world. Consequently, ALLEA strongly condemns the attempted coup d’état by factions of the Turkish military on 15 July 2016 against the democratically elected institutions of the Republic of Turkey.

In the meantime ALLEA has closely followed the subsequent and on-going developments and is alarmed by the repressive and excessive nature of recent measures against several public sectors in Turkey, including the academic and research community, carried out by the Turkish government and compliant civil servants in response to the coup.

In particular, we learnt with grave concern and alarm that apparently all 1577 university deans were suspended, thousands of licenses of teachers cancelled, all academics banned from leaving Turkey, and Turkish academics were being called back from abroad.

We strongly condemn these and any other punitive or preventive actions taken without distinction, depriving academics and researchers from their fundamental rights, particularly the right to freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly as well as the right to exercise their profession without politically or ideologically motivated constraints.

We urge the Turkish Government to halt these measures and to return to, respect and safeguard the principles of academic freedom and autonomy for both individuals and institutions in the science and higher education sectors in Turkey.

We stand in solidarity with our Turkish colleagues in these difficult times and we particularly support the academicians and staff in our member academies located in Ankara and Istanbul.

We call upon the European Institutions, national Governments as well as fellow scientists and scholars across Europe and beyond to express their support for the academic and research community in Turkey.

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ALLEA supports Statement “Research and Innovation: after the EU referendum” by British and Irish academies

ALLEA fully supports the statement “Research and Innovation: after the EU Referendum”, released by seven Academies on the British Isles including five ALLEA Member Academies, and calls upon all parties involved in the Brexit negotiation process to ensure that existing cooperation agreements are not violated and that on-going scientific collaborations and exchanges of researchers continue until the negotiations are finalised and have become legally binding.

The UK’s outstanding research and innovation base is central to our economic, social and cultural well-being. It gives us a competitive advantage and helps increase productivity, growth and the creation of high-value jobs, and it is the bedrock of cultural innovation and influence. This applies right across the economy including service sectors where the potential for productivity-led growth is particularly strong. The result of the EU Referendum presents a challenge to maintaining this excellence. The current uncertainty is having immediate implications and raises many questions. The national academies represent the best researchers and innovators in their fields, we stand ready to help ensure that Great Britain and Northern Ireland maintains its world leading position in research and innovation. A bold public commitment from the Government that the UK wishes to retain and build this excellence is required to assuage any loss of confidence in UK research.

People Researcher mobility between the UK and EU Member States is key to our future excellence and should be reinforced, and with no detriment to researchers, staff and students based in the UK, nor to those wishing to study or do research in the UK. Currently 15% of all academic staff at UK universities are from other EU countries. We believe it is vital that UK-based researchers and staff from other EU countries are given assurances that they and their dependents will be able to continue to live and work here. Similarly, opportunities need to be safeguarded for UK researchers to gain experience in other EU countries.

Collaboration Research and innovation thrive on clear long-term frameworks, such as that provided by the EU. International collaborations lead to research with greater impact – 60% of the UK’s internationally co-authored research papers are with EU partners. Given our geographic proximity, historical links and the relative strength of the research base of many EU countries, UK research excellence draws extensively on collaboration with colleagues in other EU Member States and we need this to continue to retain our excellence. It is vital that we reassure our EU partners of the UK’s commitment to current and future collaboration.

Resources EU research programmes have been a significant and growing contributor to UK research. In Framework Programme 7 from 2007-13 the UK received €6.9billion and is a net beneficiary from EU research programmes. Urgent discussions are needed on how to address any funding gap in both the short and medium term. In addition, it is not only the scale of funding that is significant, but also the intrinsically collaborative nature of these programmes that allow UK researchers to achieve more than they would alone. Similarly, EU programmes provide opportunities for industrial competitors to collaborate with each other and work together towards common goals, often for societal benefit. As a Member State, the UK has been able to shape the EU research and innovation agenda in a way that reinforces our strengths. We look forward to engaging with the Government to ensure that the UK community can continue to maximise its influence on the EU research and innovation agenda.

Regulation The common rules and standards of regulations across the EU provide a strong platform for the exchange of people, ideas and data for research. A movement away from common rules may increase the time and cost to UK research, scholarship and innovation. It is critical that we identify those areas of regulation where alignment with EU rules is most important for the UK’s competitiveness, and that UK experts remain fully engaged in shaping the development of standards and regulations.

Moving forward As the Government explores the various options for the future relationship of the UK with the EU, we urge it to do its utmost to safeguard the UK’s assets in research, scholarship and innovation by: a) seeking the closest achievable association with the EU research programmes; b) ensuring that talented researchers from other EU countries have certainty about the opportunities to work in the UK and likewise for UK researchers to work in other EU countries; and c) providing funding that will continue to promote international collaboration.

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ALLEA releases Statement on “Patent-Related Aspects of CRISPR-Cas Technology”

In July 2016, ALLEA, via its Permanent Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights, issued a statement on Patent-Related Aspects of CRISPR-Cas Technology, which investigates the current state of European patent law legislation in regards to CRISPR-Cas technology and comes to the conclusion that the current legislative framework is sufficient for the foreseeable future.

This ALLEA statement is at the cutting edge of genome research legislation, ensuring that this promising technology is not only ground-breaking in life sciences but also sound and free of patent and ethical issues on the legislative side.

After careful consideration of patent-related implications of CRISPR-Cas technology, the Permanent Working Group concludes that the existing “EU patent law provides the necessary incentives for further development and use across all fields of life sciences” and that there will be no patents granted which could “offend human dignity and/or integrity”. As such the Permanent Working Group states that the  rules set out by the European Patent Court are flexible enough to cover research and development, and use of CRISPR-Cas technology “does not require any reforms in the patent law field”. Furthermore, existing legislation is considered to be encouraging and reflective of the respectful application of CRISPR-Cas research by the academic community.

The statement will be circulated among the relevant European and national institutions to further ALLEA’s efforts to contribute to policy for science advice. The full statement is available here.