Tallinn conference delves on the Advisory Role of Academies in the Information-Rich Society

While the production of new knowledge has been and remains a cornerstone of the Academy, a rapidly growing task of a contemporary academy is providing scientific advice.

The conference “Advisory Role of Academies in the Information-Rich Society”, which took place on 22-23 October at the Estonian Academy of Sciences in Tallinn, provided a platform for academicians, scientists, policy-makers and educators to discuss the changing roles of academies at a time when the sociopolitical European landscape is taking new turns. The Estonian Academy of Sciences invited attendees to further articulate on the options, challenges and mechanisms of advice on scientific matters in a contemporary society that is oversaturated by information. The event opened with remarks from Mr Eiki Nestor, Member of Parliament of Estonia, and Professor Tarmo Soomere, President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences.

Picture by Reti Kokk.

The conference was inspired by the Tallinn Call for Action and the outcome of the subsequent SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) workshop “Crossing Boundaries: New Approaches to Science for Policy in Europe,” held during Estonia’s EU Council Presidency in October 2017.

The message from the scientific perspectives was presented, among others, by ALLEA President Professor Antonio Loprieno, who delivered a talk on the roles of academies in bridging the production and the implementation of science, taking into account their less institutionally biased stance when compared to universities, which are increasingly concerned with their own scientific visibility. Additional speakers included Professor Sierd Cloetingh, President of the Academia Europaea, and Dr Katrien Maes, Deputy Secretary-General of LERU, who provided the perspective from research intensive universities.

An important aspect that the conference sought to ponder on was how excellent science can be converted into useful policy advice. This rapidly-growing field was commented on by high-level experts, among which was Professor Janusz Bujnicki, member of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors. Their messages were complemented by an insight into problems that academies in other parts of the world are facing, taking the example from the Academy of Sciences of Nicaragua, as presented by Professor Jorge Huete.

ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno deliver his speech at the Estonian Academy of Sciences. Picture by Reti Kokk.

In order to strengthen the mechanisms and channels through which research is communicated, and also through which it provides advice to policy-makers, the viewpoint of the recipients of science advice were presented. This session had the presence of top-level decision-makers, including Dr Robert-Jan Smits, Former director-general of the DG Research and Innovation (RTD) at the European Commission, and Professor Marju Lauristin, former Minister in Estonia and former member of the European Parliament.

Speaking on the relevance of this event, Professor Loprieno emphasised that “it is vital, in the present moment of European science history, that academies reflect on their role and become involved more intensively in stressing the role of science in society.”

This conference marked the 80th anniversary of the Estonian Academy of Sciences as well as the centenary of the Republic of Estonia. The full programme of the conference can be accessed here.

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Pictures by Reti Kokk

ALLEA series ‘Europe on Test: Narratives of Union and Disunion’ launched with first conference in Göttingen

The process of European integration has arrived at a crossroads. Events like the Eurozone crisis, disagreements on migration and the Brexit referendum call for reflections and reassessments of the ideational and political foundations of Europe. What has held Europeans together and what is dividing them? What kind of Europe do we want to create?

Inspired by a conference at The British Academy, ALLEA has invited its Member Academies to address these questions in a series of conferences across Europe. The series “Europe on Test: Narratives of Union and Disunion” aims to address historical and contemporary developments from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

On 20 October, the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities hosted the first conference within the series under the theme: “Germany and Europe – Views from Within and Without”. Historians and political scientists discussed the historical, present and future relations of Germany in Europe, focusing especially on the UK and France. The academic panels were accompanied by a speech from Stephan Weil, Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, on the possibilities of creating “unity in diversity” in times of mass migration.

Academies and European identity

Prime Minister Stephan Weil (left), and President of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities Andreas Gardt (right). Credit: Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities

Professor Andreas Gardt, President of the hosting academy, opened the conference and welcomed the participants to the discussion. ALLEA President Professor Antonio Loprieno introduced the topic of the conference series emphasising the role of Academies as a prominent example of the long history of establishing a cosmopolitan European society. He further stressed that the vision of a common European identity based on democratic values and ideals of openness is under scrutiny by apparently “irreconcilable divisions” among the people of Europe:

While taking advantage of European citizens’ asymmetrical access to the benefits of a globalised, cosmopolitan Europe, even nationalist, right-wing populist movements are acting in a transnational European playing field, and they are building upon well-established networks across Europe. This shows what a complex, multi-faceted issue Europe is”, Professor Loprieno said.

“Anywheres” versus “Somewheres”

Following up on these introductory remarks, British journalist David Goodhart gave a talk on the various sets of values that divide citizens in Europe. He posited that Europe had witnessed a domination of a “new openness” narrative over the last 30 years, promoted by the liberal democratic left, which now seems to have ended. With this came a liberal promise that openness towards peaceful globalisation would yield benefits for everyone. He claimed that this promise had never been realised, particularly in the UK and the US, leading instead to a cultural division into what he calls ‘meta-tribes’ of ‘anywheres’ and ‘somewheres’, exhibiting achieved versus ascribed identities.

Goodhart explained that ‘anywheres’ are much more individual, have more affluent identities that are much better suited to deal with rapid social transformations and change.” This divide and the seemingly moral superiority of ‘anywheres’ have caused the unbalancing of societies and a backlash on European integration and the rise of a defensive national populism.

German-British relationship

The conference continued with a panel on the historical trajectories of European integration after the Second World War. Professor Piers Ludlow (London School of Economics) highlighted the role that the rivalry between Britain and France over the future of Germany – and hence over a European community – still plays today.

He further expressed hope for the future of post-Brexit relations between Germany and Britain, highlighting that “Germany is nowadays rather seen as a solution to the European problem in Britain, not as a problem.”

In the following talk, Dominik Geppert provided a German perspective on the German-British relationship and claimed that different attitudes towards Europe can be traced back to different experiences with post war reconstruction, memories of their imperialist pasts, and socio-economic developments in the 19th century.

The impact of Brexit

In the political science panel, Simon Bulmer and Andreas Busch discussed the future of the EU and the impact Brexit will have on it. All speakers highlighted the enormous challenge that the UK leaving the EU poses to Europe. Simon Bulmer presented Germany as Europe’s “reluctant hegemon”, growing more and more into the primary adherent of the liberal world order. Andreas Busch criticized both sides for not understanding the other’s particularities and predicted that any form of ‘deal’ or ‘no-deal’ would only reinforce nationalist, anti-liberal tendencies in Britain. Stefan Colignon compared economic developments in France and Germany, predicted France as the next booming economy in Europe, and concluded that both countries are not as different as the caricatures painted of them often suggest.

Prime Minister of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil. Credit: Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities

In his speech on the possibilities of “unity in diversity” in Europe, PM Stephan Weil (SPD) emphasised that Europe cannot only be a project of the elites, and underscored the  importance of finding a solution to the “refugee crisis”, stating that Europe would only be able to find a viable solution by standing close together. He finished by outlining concrete steps in order to come to a solution and strengthen European integration at the same time,  for instance by replacing the “Dublin-System”, implementing effective EU border control, and combating the causes for migration and flight.

The conference ended with perspectives from Poland and Russia on European values and analyses of recent political and social developments in the two countries by Adam Krzeminsnki and Vladislav Belov.

Speaking on the importance of the conference series “‘European Narratives of Union and Disunion”, and on the relevance of exchanging ideas about the changes undergoing the European continent, Professor Antonio Loprieno said:

ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno. Credit: Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities


„We are experiencing today a simultaneous convergence and divergence of European societies. This conference in Göttingen and the upcoming conferences at other European academies are important and necessary contributions to the scientific view on the complicated mosaic of cultural and political identities in Europe.”

75th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia

The 75th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia (NAS RA) was held in Yerevan on 17 and 18 October 2018. ALLEA was represented by its Vice President, Professor Graham Caie. 

ALLEA Vice President Graham Caie delivers a speech in the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia in Yeveran in October 2018. Credit: NAS RA

Professor Gheorghe Duca, President of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova and member of the ALLEA Board, also attended the event. Many of the high-ranking foreign delegates in attendance delivered congratulatory remarks and gifts at the impressive Praesidium Building to the academy’s President Professor Radik Martirosyan and his colleagues. 

The National Academy of Sciences of Armenia promotes and carries out fundamental and applied research in a wide variety of scientific fields, and it further coordinates research throughout Armenia with more than 35 scientific institutions and 3700 researchers, including 87 academicians.

The NASRA exhibition of its institutions and research centres showed visitors the breadth and high quality of research in Armenia. The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, visited the exhibition and exchanged ideas with the visiting delegates on the important role of the NASRA in the advancement of science in Armenia. The climax of the celebrations was a Jubilee Session at the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet, with a concert that was preceded by speeches by the President of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, President Martirosyan and others invited speakers, including Professors Caie and Duca.

In his speech, Professor Caie stated: “This academy has set an example of resilience and endurance, and we all stand to learn from its history and its academic achievements. ALLEA is honoured to have the Armenian Academy as one of its distinguished and highly regarded Academies.”

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Credit for pictures: NAS RA

Future strategies for science communications in Europe

Making science part of the public conversation is the aim of multiple actors, but the lack of strategies and coordination weakens the impact of science communications and hampers the exploitation of untapped potential.

Researchers, science communicators, industry stakeholders and policy-makers sought to discuss this and other key challenges ahead to improve science communications at the European level in a one-day workshop in Brussels on 17 October 2018. The participants analysed the status quo of current science communications initiatives across Europe, and discussed future strategies and opportunities for creating new platforms for cooperation in this field.

The event was co-organised by public engagement platforms in Germany and Sweden, Wissenschaft im Dialog and Vetenskap & Allmänhet, and the European Science Events Association (Eusea), as well as with the collaboration of ALLEA as partner, and sponsored by Bayer.

From left to right in the panel discussion, Jim Dratwa, (European Commission); Tiemo Wölken, (European Parliament); Professor Gloria Origgi (CNRS Paris and member of the ALLEA Working Group Truth, Trust and Expertise), and Christophe Kampa, (Bayer).

Is science losing the ground in communications across Europe?

The contestation of scientific facts, the degradation of science journalism and of scientific reasoning on social media platforms has the potential to severely undermine the relationship between science and society. In a series of breakout sessions, researchers, science communicators, journalists and policy-makers assessed current examples of successes and failures of science communications and its particular challenges in complex scientific fields such as genome editing.

Following a series of impulse presentations, including by Professor Pere Puigdomènech, member of the ALLEA Board, participants deliberated on new formats of science communications in social media and citizen science, the science advice system across Europe, and opportunities for further cooperation and coordination through science communications networks.

Communicating the uncertainty of science

In the evening, an interactive panel discussion brought together representatives of ALLEA, the European Commission, the European Parliament and industry to debate the results of the morning sessions. Speakers included Jim Dratwa, Head of the European Group of Ethics Office at the European Commission; Tiemo Wölken, Member of the European Parliament and representative of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety; Professor Gloria Origgi, researcher at the CNRS Paris and member of the ALLEA Working Group Truth, Trust and Expertise, and Christophe Kampa, from Bayer Digital & Innovation Communication.

Panelists highlighted the necessity to increase the transparency and integrity of the scientific system and called for more efforts to explain the uncertainty of science to the public. A particular focus of the debate was the primary aim of science communications, which the panel situated between the two poles of raising the awareness of science in the public sphere and increasing the scientific literacy of citizens. The results of the workshop will be gathered in a report to be published in Euroscientist.

Professor Pere Puigdomènech, ALLEA Board Members, delivers an impulse on genome editing and communications at the workshop “Communicating Science in a Complex World” in Brussels on 17 October 2018.