Joint Meeting of ALLEA Permanent Working Groups Science & Ethics and Intellectual Property Rights

news bannerFollowing an agreement at the ALLEA General Assembly in Oslo in April 2014, the two ALLEA permanent working groups on Science & Ethics and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), held a first-ever joint meeting in Munich on 24 November 2014. 

The meeting sought to provide opportunities for closer interactions between the expert groups and to identify fields of mutual interest and for synergetic cooperation. It took place on the premises of the Max-Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition on the invitation of Professor Joseph Straus. ALLEA President Professor Günter Stock joined the meeting for a discussion on possible cross-cutting issues that the working groups could jointly address in future activities. The ALLEA Board was represented by Professor Carlo D’Adda.

Issues for possible joint actions included a follow-up to the statement “Enhancement of Open Access to Scientific Publications”, prepared by the working group on IPR in late 2013, elaborating positions on most recent developments in the Open Access agenda and particularly adding deliberations on ethical issues to the existing ALLEA statement. Other topics included the patentability of stem cells and the risks of dual use of scientific results. The working group chairs will take the results and proposals of the joint meeting to their respective groups in order to discuss and agree upon how to concretely contribute to the envisaged future activities.

The chairs of the permanent working groups, Professor Göran Hermerén (Science & Ethics) and Professor Joseph Straus (IPR), closed the meeting by declaring the shared interest in continuing the direct collaboration of the ALLEA groups and identifying further topics of relevance for future collaboration. The first results of the two groups’ collaboration will be presented at the ALLEA General Assembly in Lisbon.

Permanent Working Group on Science & Ethics meets at Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona and visits the “la Caixa” foundation’s science museum

The ALLEA Permanent Working Group on Science & Ethics (PWGSE) met in Barcelona on 17 October 2014. On the day prior to the meeting, members of the PWGSE listened to a presentation by la Fundación Bancaria “la Caixa”‘s scientific director about the foundation´s activities in the field of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), followed by a visit to the CosmoCaixa museum and a festive dinner with the President of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona (RACAB). The meeting took place on the premises of RACAB in the city centre of Barcelona.

RRI, or Responsible Research and Innovation, is becoming an increasingly relevant and pressing topic for the scientific community in Europe. This was one of the key messages that Enric Banda Tarradellas, the scientific director of the “la Caixa” foundation, relayed to members of the ALLEA PWGSE during his presentation of the “RRI tools” project (funded in the EU Framework Programme 7) in the CosmoCaixa museum in Barcelona. He described RRI as “a dynamic, iterative process by which all stakeholders involved in the research and innovation practice (researchers, policy makers, industry, civil society organisations, educators) become mutually responsive to each other and share the responsibility regarding the RRI outcomes and processes”.

RACAB President Pascual and Working Group Chair Hermerén

RACAB President Pascual and Working Group Chair Hermerén

The presentation was followed by a guided tour of the CosmoCaixa, one of the major science museums in Spain, which covers a broad range of scientific findings and methods in its interactive exhibits. The evening closed with a festive dinner on the invitation of la Caixa and in the presence of RACAB President Ramon Pascual.

The ALLEA Working Group itself is currently involved in an application for funding within the Horizon 2020 programme for a thematically related project on the implementation of RRI in science curricula. The application is projected to be evaluated by spring 2015. Consequently, RRI was among the issues that the PWGSE addressed in its meeting on the premises of RACAB on the following day. Further topics of discussion included the follow-up to the recently published statement “Ethics Education in Science”, deliberations on the problem of private sponsoring of science, and ethical aspects of Open Access in the contexts of scientific publications and research data sets. The latter will be one of the main topics in a joint meeting of the PWGSE with ALLEA’s Permanent Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights in Munich on 24 November 2014.  



The Programme of the PWGSE visit to Barcelona also included a lunch with the Presidency of the Institute for Catalan Studies (IES) which – alongside RACAB – was elected to membership in ALLEA at the General Assembly 2014 in Oslo in April. IEC President Joandomènec Ros underlined the Institute´s interest in the ALLEA PWGSE’s field of work and presented the facilities of the Institute to its members, highlighting the Institute-run library for scientific publications in Catalan language.

In closing the meeting, the PWGSE looked forward to the joint discussions with ALLEA’s experts on Intellectual Property Rights in Munich and to its next session in March 2015.



Read more about the ALLEA Permanent Working Group on Science & Ethics.

Read more about the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona.

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.

Academies issue recommendations on “Mastering Demographic Change in Europe”

ALLEA supports the joint statement “Mastering Demographic Change in Europe” published by 8 European Academies of Science in order to address the policy challenges driven by significant demographic developments currently taking place in Europe. The statement offers research-based recommendations to encourage well-informed European Union policymaking grounded in an understanding of the causes and outcomes of demographic change.

As Europe’s population ages and lives longer lives, its fertility rate is falling. Europeans are increasingly migrating within the European Union, while a rising number of non-EU citizens are also immigrating to EU countries. These developments, combined with global changes such as climate change, natural resource shortages, as well as economic and social challenges, require careful planning on the part of EU policymakers in order to ensure a high quality of life for future generations.

Professor Günter Stock, President of the Federation of All European Academies (ALLEA), states: “European values on how to combine work and family life, how to use the individual potential throughout the longer lifespan, and how to best integrate and accommodate migrants vary significantly. From a scientific point of view, academies of science across Europe affirm that it is neither the number of children or of immigrants nor of life years per se, but the quality of living in sustainable conditions we need to improve. This is the direction of reconciling demographic change processes with economic, social and environmental conditions.”

The statement calls for a systematic, life-course approach towards understanding how longer working lives need policies that allow for more flexible movement between the spheres of education, career, and family. Moreover, the statement emphasizes that European citizens need the support of both EU and national policymakers for the successful management of longer working and post-retirement lives, the maintenance of productivity and quality of life levels beyond economic employment, and sustainable consumption.

Eight European Academies of Science have contributed their knowledge on demographic change and its causes and consequences to this statement. The full statement can be accessed here. For more information, please click here.

Complete Report Released – Academia-Industry Alliance: Joint Efforts in Science Education

The Royal Irish Academy (RIA)-ALLEA Joint Efforts in Science Education Forum took place on 20 November, 2013. Since the initial release of the summary of the forum discussions, contributions have been added with further reports on the state of science education in numerous European countries.

The first part of the report focuses on the forum, which brought together industry and education partners to discuss existing and identify future potential collaborative efforts to enhance maths, science and technology education and student experiences in Ireland, with reference to existing and emerging European initiatives in this space. The second part of the report encompasses the contributions of numerous ALLEA Working Group Science Education members, who offer detailed reports on science education efforts and challenges in their respective countries. Now available as a complete document, the report provides a comprehensive look at the current challenges of adapting European school curricula to investigation-based teaching methods and the need to simultaneously build an academia-industry alliance to further the progress of science education in Europe.

Please click here to read the full report.

The open session on Academia-Industry Alliances also relates to previous activities of the ALLEA Working Group Science Education and follows up on a comprehensive report written upon request of the European Commission and entitled “A renewal of science education in Europe – views and actions of national academies”. In the report, the Working Group details the views and actions taken by European Academies to advance the renewal of science education and maintain the passion for science and technology among the youth. Building alliances with the business world is seen as an important step towards these objectives.

The Royal Irish Academy (Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann) was founded in 1785 and is Ireland’s academy for the sciences, humanities and social sciences. The Academy provides expert advice, manages research projects, publishes books and journals and sustains a library. Election to membership of the Academy is the highest academic honour in Ireland and the Academy has currently approximately 460 members.

ALLEA supports the statement “Protecting health and scientific research in the Data Protection Regulation”

news bannerALLEA supports the statement Protecting health and scientific research in the Data Protection Regulation,” prepared by Wellcome Trust, the international charitable foundation dedicated to funding biomedical research and supporting the medical humanities. Drafted in 2012, the Data Protection Regulation would take direct effect in all EU Member States. The European Parliament and Council are currently discussing and amending the Regulation, which could be adopted next year.

Since last year, the Civil Liberties and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee of the European Parliament has supported amendments to Articles 81 and 83 of the Regulation. While the original draft of the Regulation laid out a plan for protecting privacy without impeding research progress, the amendments would severely confine the types of patient data that can be used in scientific research by requiring specific consent in nearly every case. The heavily restricted use of personal data such as individual patient records would remove a critical resource from research for the benefit of society.

Although these amendments are meant to protect the people who give researchers the personal data they need to carry out their work, there is already a rigorous framework in place to protect the abuse of this data. This statement emphasizes the strict confidentiality controls already in place in both national and international law for researchers working with personal data. Furthermore, identifiable personal data may only be used when other options are not possible and only for studies with demonstrable potential to benefit society as a whole. “Sometimes researchers need details such as age, postcode and information on a health condition that together could disclose the identity of an individual, but the study would not be possible without it. In many studies that would be affected, individuals have voluntarily given broad consent for their data to be used in research to further our understanding of society, health and disease. Their contributions could be wasted if the amendments become law,” states the Wellcome Trust in its press release.

Along with over 100 other signatories including numerous Member Academies as well as EASAC, ALLEA recommends the original draft Regulation that provides for a proportionate mechanism to protect privacy without hindering meaningful scientific research. The statement can be accessed here.

ALLEA Board meets in Berlin at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities

The ALLEA Board met in Berlin at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities on 9 July 2014, to discuss recent, current, and future ALLEA activities as well as administrative and budgetary matters. Special attention was given to outcomes of the ALLEA General Assembly 2014, which took place on 24/25 April in Oslo, on the premises of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

An activity report from the Presidency encompassed ALLEA President Günter Stock’s visit to the British Academy Dinner in London honouring Anne Glover, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of the European Commission. Other topics included the release of the publication on the “Facing the Future” conference on European SSH research infrastructures  and various proposals regarding how to bring further attention to SSH research on Europe as well as the broader contributions science and research can make to EU development. Further matters of discussion involved updates from the respective ALLEA Working Groups, the programme planning for the next GA to be held at the Academy of Sciences of Lisbon in Spring 2015, as well as the next award ceremony for the All European Academies Madame de Staël Prize for Cultural Values.

Moreover, the Board decided to endorse the statement “Protecting health and scientific research in the Data Protection Regulation” (drafted by Wellcome Trust), which has already been endorsed by numerous Member Academies and by EASAC. A second statement published by eight Member Academies will also be supported by ALLEA: “Mastering Demographic Change in Europe”. Both statements and additional information will soon be made available on the ALLEA website and further disseminated among the respective channels.

Rounding out the meeting were reports on various avenues of international cooperation, including the last meeting of the Presidents of ALLEA, Academia Europaea, and EASAC in May 2014 in Riga, where a potential dialogue forum with the European Commission was discussed. In closing this second meeting of 2014, the Board looks forward to the next meeting, which will take place on 16/17 September in Sofia, on the invitation of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

The ALLEA Board consists of nine members, elected by the General Assembly, including the President who chairs the Board. It regularly convenes 3 – 4 times per year. Current members are the delegates of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the National Academy of the Lincei (Italy), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the Slovak Academy of Sciences, the Swiss Academies for Arts and Sciences and the Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities. Every two years, the General Assembly decides on the composition of the ALLEA Board for the subsequent two years period. More information on the ALLEA Board can be found here.

Publication released: Results of the European Research Infrastructure Conference “Facing the Future” – available online (Open Access)

ALLEA in cooperation with the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the German Data Forum (Rat SWD) has released a publication summerising the results of the conference “Facing the Future – European Research Infrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences” organised by the four institutions in November last year.

Working Group member Gerhard Lauer

Working Group member Gerhard Lauer

On that occasion, more than 70 social science and humanities experts, representatives from research policy and funding, and research infrastructure coordinators from 19 European countries met in Berlin to discuss emerging research issues and infrastructure needs, and to outline a roadmap for strengthening European research infrastructures in the social sciences and humanities in the years to come. The ALLEA Working Group E Humanities significantly contributed to the conference. Working Group Chair Sandra Collins co-chaired the session “Digital Humanities” and Working Group member Gerhard Lauer (picture) provided a lecture on present issues of the digital humanities (read more)

A publication condensing the lectures and outcomes of the conference has now been released in printed and digital format (open access): DUSA, Adrian; NELLE, Dietrich; STOCK, Günter; WAGNER, Gert. G.: Facing the Future: European Research Infrastructures for the Humanities and Social Sciences. 1. Aufl. Berlin: Scivero Verlag, 2014.

In 20 articles the authors discuss current challenges and future advancements of European research infrastructures for the humanities and social sciences, particularly in view of the funding scheme Horizon 2020 and the ESRFI Roadmap update. Starting with an overview of SSH infrastructures it elaborates on four specific areas that increasingly demand a pan-European approach. Drawing from the SSH infrastructure projects´ experience, it then (re-) defines the requirements and potential for next generation infrastructure projects.

The conference was held as part of the pan-European “Survey and Analysis of Basic Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities” (SASSH) at the science academies, learned societies, and related research institutes of Europe that is currently being conducted by ALLEA in close cooperation with the Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities. Running from August 2013 until April 2015 the project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Many of the ALLEA member academies have already contributed to the project by submitting information about their respective SSH research projects. The initial phase of collecting data has now been closed. With a total of more than 600 answers the survey provides a substantial database of which first analyses can be drawn.

More information about the ALLEA Working Group E Humanities can be found here.

International collaboration in Science Education: AEMASE conference in Rome

On 19 and 20 May 2014 experts from academia and political representatives assemble at the National Academy of the Lincei in Rome for the international conference “African-European-Mediterranean Academies for Science Education” (AEMASE). The conference is an initiative of five prestigious institutions in Africa and Europe (Bibliotheca Alexandrina – Egypt, Académie des Sciences – France, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei – Italy, Académie Hassan II des Sciences et Techniques – Morocco, Académie Nationale des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal).

The chairs of the organising committee, Professor Odile Macchi (ALLEA working group on Science Education / Académie des Sciences) and Professor Giancarlo Vecchio (Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei) formulate as main aims of the conferences “to foster the concrete dialogue between developed and developing countries for renewing Science Education” and “to strengthen in each country the partnership between Science Academies and Ministries of Education for the benefit of the renewal of Science Education”.

The programme includes a variety of keynotes and discussion panels as well as poster presentations and side meetings of expert committees of the academy networks ALLEA and IAP (Inter Academy Panel). Participants will be welcomed, among others, by the Ministers of Education of Italy and Sudan. Furthermore, the Presidents of three academic federations – ALLEA, NASAC (Network of African Science Academies) and EMAN (Euro-Mediterranean Academic Network) – will address the audience in the opening session.

Examples of successful international collaboration in the field of science education will be discussed just as a large number of national projects: The scope is not limited to Africa or Europe; presentations will include examples from Argentina, Australia, Finland, France, Haiti, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, Senegal, Sudan, Sweden, United Kingdom, USA.

The conference is endorsed and financially supported by ALLEA and forms part of the IAP funded AEMASE project which aims to “(i) foster cooperation and bilateral twinnings on Inquiry Based Science Education and informal Science Education and pool resources for Teacher Professional Development; and (ii) raise awareness of Education Ministries for promoting Teacher Professional Development in science and strengthen their partnerships with their national science Academies.” (project description by IAP).

Please click here for comprehensive information about the conference.

Activities and statements of the ALLEA working group on Science Education can be accessed here.