In Memoriam: Professor Giancarlo Vecchio

It is with great sadness that we inform about the passing of long-standing member and immediate past chair of ALLEA’s Science Education Working Group, Professor Giancarlo Vecchio, who deceased on 1 October 2019 in Naples. Professor Vecchio, representing the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, has contributed to the activities in the Working Group over many years, and has been highly recognised by his colleagues as an engaged and knowledgeable promoter of science education whose experience and expertise was second to none. His efforts and engagement for science education in general, and for the work of ALLEA in this field in particular, give true testimony to his dedication towards the next generation, who he felt should benefit from science and research in the best possible way.

Professor Vecchio will be sorely missed and our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.

Conference report ‘Migration, Health and Medicine’ released

The ALLEA-FEAM report of the conference ‘Migration, Health and Medicine’ is now available. The publication summarises the discussions of the event held in Brussels on 22 November 2019. It provides the basis for a scientifically sound analysis on migrant health and, among other topics, addresses the methods and strategies to collect valid and comparable data on this issue.

The conference was organised by ALLEA and the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM), and hosted by the Royal Academies of Medicine of Belgium (ARMB and KAGB) in collaboration with the French Academy of Medicine (ANM).

Migrant health from a scientific perspective

Migrant health is determined by multiple factors, from socio-economic aspects of health to biological and environmental interactions influencing the health of migrant populations. However, the generalisation of research findings from one community or from one country to the regional or global levels faces considerable hurdles.

From the policy side in Europe, the complexity increases due to the various levels of governance at the EU. Whereas many aspects of migration and health can be dealt with an EU approach, the provision of healthcare services is managed by Member States.

The report seeks to inform policy debates on this pressing issue from a scientific perspective. It also underlines the need for academia, policymakers, civil society and international organisations to join forces to provide scientifically validated data on the health of refugees and migrants across Europe and the world.

Breakthrough prize opens public nominations for its 2021 prizes in fundamental physics, life sciences & mathematics

New “Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize” for early-career women in math dedicated to the legacy of the late Iranian mathematician

The public nomination period for the 2021 Breakthrough Prizes in Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences and Mathematics is now open. Prizes will be awarded in late 2020, during a live, globally televised gala awards ceremony in Silicon Valley.

Nominations can be submitted online today through April 1, 2020. While self-nominations are prohibited, anyone may nominate another person. The nomination forms and rules are available at

For the ninth year, the Breakthrough Prize, recognized as the world’s largest science prize, will honor top scientists, handing out up to four prizes in Life Sciences, one in Fundamental Physics and one in Mathematics. Each prize comes with a $3 million award. Furthermore, up to six New Horizons Prizes, each for $100,000, will be presented to promising early-career researchers in the fields of Physics and Mathematics.

In addition, for the first time, nominations will be taken for the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize – an annual $50,000 award that will be presented to early-career women mathematicians who have completed their PhDs within the previous two years.

The Breakthrough Prize, dubbed ‘The Oscars of Science,’ hosts a gala awards ceremony to celebrate the laureates’ achievements and to foster broad popular support for scientific endeavors and inspire the next generation of scientists. As part of the schedule, the prizewinners also engage in a program of lectures and discussions at a daylong symposium after the ceremony.

For the fourth year, the Breakthrough Prize will partner with two prestigious institutions – the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA) and ResearchGate – to directly engage with researchers and the science community.

ALLEA brings together more than 50 academies from over 40 countries in Europe, with members leading scholarly enquiry across all fields of the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

ResearchGate accesses a network of more than 16 million verified scientists from 193 countries and all fields of science and mathematics to connect and share their research – current and past. ResearchGate members are encouraged to nominate their peers for the 2021 prizes in Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences, and Mathematics.

The Breakthrough Prizes are sponsored by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Pony Ma, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Anne Wojcicki. Selection Committees are composed of previous Breakthrough Prize laureates, who select the winners from the list of candidates generated during the nomination period.

Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

One 2021 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics ($3 million) will recognize an individual(s) who has made profound contributions to human knowledge. It is open to all physicists – theoretical, mathematical and experimental – working on the deepest mysteries of the Universe. The prize can be shared among any number of scientists. Nominations are also open for the New Horizons in Physics Prize, which will include up to three $100,000 awards for early-career researchers who have already produced important work in their fields.

The Selection Committee for the 2021 physics prizes includes: Nima Arkani-Hamed, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Charles L. Bennett, Sheperd Doeleman, Lyn Evans, Michael B. Green, Alan Guth, Joseph Incandela, Takaaki Kajita, Charles Kane, Alexei Kitaev, Maxim Kontsevich, Andrei Linde, Arthur McDonald, Juan Maldacena, Eugene Mele, Lyman Page, Saul Perlmutter, Alexander Polyakov, Adam Riess, John H. Schwarz, Nathan Seiberg, Ashoke Sen, David N. Spergel, Andrew Strominger, Kip S. Thorne, Cumrun Vafa, Yifang Wang, Rainer Weiss and Edward Witten.

Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

Up to four 2021 Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences ($3 million each) will be awarded to individuals who have made transformative advances in understanding living systems and extending human life.

The Selection Committee for the 2021 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences includes: C. David Allis, James P. Allison, Victor Ambros, Angelika Amon, Cornelia I. Bargmann, Alim Louis Benabid, C. Frank Bennett, David Botstein, Edward S. Boyden, Lewis C. Cantley, Emmanuelle Charpentier, Zhijian “James” Chen, Joanne Chory, Don W. Cleveland, Hans Clevers, Karl Deisseroth, Titia de Lange, Mahlon R. DeLong, Jennifer A. Doudna, Stephen J. Elledge, Napoleone Ferrara, Jeffrey M. Friedman, Michael N. Hall, John Hardy, F. Ulrich Hartl, Helen Hobbs, Arthur L. Horwich, David Julius, Adrian Krainer, Eric S. Lander, Robert Langer, Virginia Man-Yee Lee, Richard P. Lifton, Kazutoshi Mori, Kim Nasmyth, Harry F. Noller, Roeland Nusse, Yoshinori Ohsumi, Svante Pääbo, Gary Ruvkun, Charles L. Sawyers, Alexander Varshavsky, Bert Vogelstein, Peter Walter, Robert A. Weinberg, Shinya Yamanaka, Xiaowei Zhuang and Huda Zoghbi.

Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics

One 2021 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics ($3 million) will be awarded to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the field of mathematics. Nominations are also open for the New Horizons in Mathematics Prize, which will include up to three $100,000 awards for early-career researchers who have already produced important work in their fields. In addition, one $50,000 Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize will be awarded. This prize can be shared among one or more mathematicians.

The Selection Committee for the 2021 math prizes includes: Ian Agol, Alex Eskin, Simon Donaldson, Maxim Kontsevich, Christopher Hacon, Vincent Lafforgue, Jacob Lurie, James McKernan, Terence Tao and Richard Taylor.

Information on the Breakthrough Prizes is available at

Understanding public discourse and trust in a digital society

In a context where citizens struggle to distinguish facts from fabricated claims online, scientists, policymakers and media face similar dilemmas. The digital revolution is disrupting the norms and mechanisms of the public debate where they participate and of the public trust that they need to operate. A new report published by ALLEA and Re-Imagine Europa examines this changing communications environment and its effects on Europe’s value-system and democracy.

The report compiles the key takeaways of the conference ‘Democracy in a Digital Society: Trust, Evidence ad Public Discourse in a Changing Media Environment’ hosted by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Berlin on 24 January 2019.

The forum brought together academic knowledge, media expertise and policy experience in a series of multi-stakeholder panels and workshops. The report collects the insights of these discussions, including contributions from the now European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel and the President of Re-Imagine Europa and former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

Taming the digital revolution?

The starting point of the report is a call for identifying the opportunities and threats of the third revolution of communications technologies. From a historical perspective, the stakes are high. “While it took two-thousand years to tame writing, it only took two-hundred years to tame printing, resulting in the flourishing of the Enlightenment”, warns ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno.

“New technologies have repeatedly disrupted established cultures of communication. It took two-and-a-half centuries to get the culture of copyright, the laws of defamation, the conceptions of intellectual property, that reconciled – to some extent – what was done by the arrival of printing”, adds Philosopher Onora O’Neill, Fellow of the British Academy and Co-chair of the ALLEA Working Group Truth, Trust and Expertise.

Against this background, the report explores the political distress that digital disinformation and artificial intelligence may be able to inflict on European values and democracy. Commissioner Gabriel argues for “a digital future where core European values, such as freedom of expression, privacy, democracy and data protection, are fully respected”.

The reconciliation of European values with technological change is a recurring issue in this conversation. New institutions and a rethinking of our legal framework are needed to ensure that online data-based business models thrive for the benefit of society, experts agree. From a media perspective, some first principles to enable a healthy public discourse are proposed by Christophe Leclercq, Executive Chairman at the Euractiv Foundation: “Avoid censors. Dilute fake news. Promote quality content”.

Next steps

This report closes the final stage of the ALLEA Working Group Truth, Trust and Expertise, whose findings were also explored in three discussion papers: ‘Loss of Trust in Expertise? Loss of Trustworthiness? Truth and Expertise Today‘, ‘Trust Within Science: Dynamics and Norms of Knowledge Production’ and ‘Trust in Science and Changing Communication Landscapes’.

To continue this programme of action, ALLEA is now involved in the international research project PEriTiA (Policy, Expertise and Trust in Action). Funded by the EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020, the project investigates the conditions under which citizens trust or distrust expertise used for public policy.


Picture credit: Elijah O’ Donnell

Academies’ event on migrant health: European Commission promises to keep migration high on its agenda

On 22 November, numerous academics and experts discussed the health status of migrants in Europe and new challenges to healthcare systems posed by the recent influx of newcomers. The conference organised by ALLEA and the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) saw active participation of academics, practitioners, policymakers and NGOs.

While contributions during all sessions caught the interest of the audience, the speech of John F. Ryan, Director of the Public health, Country Knowledge, Crisis Management Unit at the European Commission’s Directorate for Health and Food Safety received special attention. He confirmed that more funds would be mobilised to address the rise of migratory pressure in Europe and the health status of migrants and refugees.

Likewise, the session chaired by ALLEA Vice-President Professor Graham Caie was successful in stimulating a lively debate as the interactions went on between panellists and the audience. The speakers discussed research confirming that migrants are less likely to bring diseases from their places of departure and that in certain aspects migrant populations tend to be in good physical condition. However, they stressed that people on the move often face mental health challenges as they embark on a long and risky journey to Europe. Upon arrival, they additionally experience barriers that make access to healthcare systems difficult.

The event took place in Brussels and was hosted by the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium (ARMB) in collaboration with the French Academy of Medicine.

While the conference considerations and outcomes will be summarised in a conference report, which will be published early 2020, more related discussions can be expected at ALLEA upcoming events:


Unite to defend evidence-informed policy, science advice community tells European Commission

Politicians, scientists and civil society need to defend evidence-informed policy as a cornerstone of liberal democracy.

This was the key message to the new European Commission, as voted by Europe’s science advice community at a major event in Helsinki on The Future of Science Advice in Europe.

Some 150 of Europe’s science advisors, government officials, researchers, politicians, academy representatives and members of the public met on 13 November to discuss the future of science advice and the role of scientific evidence in good governance.

The event was hosted by the Office of the Prime Minister of Finland, in the wider context of the current Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and co-organised by one of ALLEA’s flagship projects: Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA), together with the Finnish Academy of Sciences and Letters and the Academy of Finland. As one of SAPEA’s five networks, ALLEA leads the work package on communications, which managed this notable event.

Read more on SAPEA website.


Science Academies need to be less self-centred and more open to society, says ALLEA President

ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno was one of the speakers at the conference “The Role of Academies in Sustaining European Knowledge Societies in Time of Crisis”, which took place in Turin on 7 and 8 November.

“Our contemporary knowledge is social knowledge, not individual. Which means that our Academies need to embrace the social dimension of knowledge and science activity. And that  means embracing science communications and open access.”, said Antonio Loprieno in his presentation.

The event, which focused on discussing the function of Academies today, both in general and with particular reference to the European crisis, was a part of the ALLEA conference series Europe on Test: Narratives of Union and Disunion. It was co-organised by ALLEA and its member, the Academy of Sciences of Turin.

The full programme and videos of the lectures that took place during the event are on the website of the Academy of Sciences of Turin. Following the event, Antonio Loprieno was interviewed by Italy’s national public broadcasting company Radiotelevisione italiana (RAI). The interview in Italian is available on-line.

Europe on Test: Narratives of Union and Disunion” is a series of conferences under the patronage of ALLEA and hosted by selected Academies of Sciences and Humanities in various European cities. It seeks to address recent political developments and other aspects of relevance that may pose a challenge for the future of Europe as a community.

The Future of Research: Assessing the impact of Plan S

Impacts of Plan S on researchers, research-intensive institutions, societies and publishers were debated at an international symposium organised by Academia Europea Cardiff Knowledge Hub and KU Leuven Libraries.

The event took place in Leuven on 5 and 6 November. An audience of around 130 gathered at the historic Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe. ALLEA was represented by its Board Member Luke Drury, who underlined some of the key points introduced by the ALLEA statement on Plan S.

ALLEA’s work was also presented to the participants at an exhibition accompanying the event. The materials were in high demand from the audience, especially ALLEA’s statement on Plan S. SAPEA, the project on science advice for policy that ALLEA is involved in, also exhibited its materials.

A more detailed report on the event is available on the website of Academia Europaea.

The potential and challenges of genome editing for crop improvement lively discussed in Brussels

The science behind genome editing, its regulation and its impact on society– those were only few of the topics discussed on 7 and 8 November at the Academy Palace in Brussels. The symposium ‘Genome Editing for Crop Improvement’, organised by ALLEA and the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts (KVAB) brought together eminent speakers and stakeholders to discuss how to harness the benefits of genome editing while ensuring a wide-spread acceptance of the new technology in society.

The symposium provided a holistic overview with a variety of different backgrounds, a comprehensive overview of scientific evidence on safety of the genome edited crops and their potential for solving current and future problems in agriculture. It further addressed issues relating to intellectual property and the desirability of amending current European legislation on genome-edited plants.

A document synthesising the discussions from the symposium will be published in due course.


Academic institutions need to adapt IPR strategies to fulfil their role in Europe’s innovation ecosystem

ALLEA published the statement ‘The Need for Intellectual Property Rights Strategies at Academic Institutions’ today. The publication formulates recommendations both to scientific organisations and European and national legislators and highlights the importance of managing intangible assets with due consideration of intellectual property rights (IPR).

The increasing relevance of intangible assets, such as computer software or patented technology, in today’s economy requires fundamental rethinking and a cultural change in the management of IP portfolios in scientific organisations just as it does in companies. With its statement, ALLEA addresses this shift of economic relevance from tangible to intangible assets and urges academic institutions to adopt adequate IPR strategies which ensure that knowledge transfer benefits society, for example in public-private partnerships. It also presents options to European and national legislators on ways to incentivise the translation of publicly funded research results into IP-protected innovative products and processes.

The statement has been produced by ALLEA’s Permanent Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights, which comprises experts from various disciplines and from academies across Europe.

“Europe risks lagging behind other regions in incentivising knowledge transfer for innovation. Academic institutions and policymakers must prepare better for the pivotal economic shift towards intangible assets and adapt their legal frameworks and academic plans to efficiently respond to these trends”, said Professor Joseph Straus, Chair of the ALLEA Permanent Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights.

The statement recommends to academic institutions:

  • To adopt a holistic approach as regards to their IP strategies, in order to remain attractive as partners in public-private partnerships (PPP) or for third party funding.
  • To raise awareness of the importance of IPR for innovation on both the micro- and macroeconomic scale and developing models which adequately remunerate employees in case of a successful commercialisation of research findings.
  • To make available financial and human resources in order to secure in-house structures or external mechanisms to deal with invention disclosures, filing and prosecution of IPRs, as well as the monitoring of granted IPRs.
  • To establish clear rules around the ownership in and handling of IPRs in cases of commercial spin-outs.

The statement furthermore advises European and national legislators:

  • To devise legal frameworks similar to those adopted in the US, China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.
  • To introduce a grace period into patent law, and to consider preferential tax treatment for income generated through commercialisation of publicly funded research.
  • To better support cooperation between academic institutions in the commercialisation of their research results and to optimise cooperation of existing Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs).

Europe risks lagging behind other regions in incentivising knowledge transfer for innovation. Academic institutions and policymakers must prepare better for the pivotal economic shift towards intangible assets and adapt their legal frameworks and academic plans to efficiently respond to these trends

Download the full statement here