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  Graphic element BIOSCIENCES, INTERNET: A window into European life sciences (26/05/03)  
    The European Commission has just launched its new 'Biosociety' website - an online resource and information portal offering the latest news and views on biotechnology and the life sciences.  
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  Graphic element ACCESS, RESEARCH: Opening up science to the community (26/05/03)  
    Providing better public access to research findings is critical to knowledge transfer in Europe. Germany's Max Planck Society shows how it can be done without too much fuss.  
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  Graphic element COMMUNICABLE DISEASE, RESEARCH: On track with mobile meningitis testing (26/05/03)  
    European scientists have found a fast and accurate way to test for meningitis in remote areas of Africa is to bring the lab to them.  
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  Graphic element SCIENCE, COMMUNICATION: That which we don't understand… (26/05/03)  
    Science offers insight into the changing world around us, yet for many Europeans, including the new EU members, it represents something unknown and even frightening. What can be done to improve science literacy in Europe?  
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  Graphic element POLICY, RESEARCH: What do the EU and South Korea have in common? (26/05/03)  
    Quite a lot, it seems. Recent high-level talks between the Commission and South Korean officials set the stage for future EU-Asian scientific co-operation.  
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  Graphic element POLICY, REGULATION: The future of Europe's seas (19/05/03)  
    Preserving and protecting the Mediterranean and Black Seas might be a high priority for policy-makers and scientists, but it is imperative for Europe's citizens living around these fragile resources.  
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  Graphic element BIOTECH, PERCEPTIONS: Getting to the root of European opposition to GMOs (19/05/03)  
    Despite excitement over the potential of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) among scientists, the European public remains firmly opposed to them. A new report attributes this to fears over food safety and a deepening distrust of agribusiness.  
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  Graphic element POLICY, RESEARCH: Enlargement countries join EMEA as observers (19/05/03)  
    The ten accession countries joining the European Union in May 2004 have already started to contribute their scientific and medical expertise to the European Research Area.  
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  Graphic element INTERNET, IST: Faster access to research results (19/05/03)  
    One way of measuring the success of EU research is to look at the results of projects it supports. But finding this information can be tricky. The 'Information society technologies' programme has made this job easier with their new 'IST Results' website.  
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  Graphic element POLICY, REGULATION: Fast tracking state aid for SME research and development (19/05/03)  
    The Commission recently put forward a proposal aimed at simplifying the use of state aid to stimulate SME research and development (R&D) in the Member States. The plan: cut out the middlemen.  
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  Graphic element RESEARCH, ANIMAL HEALTH: workshop on a major disease affecting 8 million pigs each year in Europe (14/05/03)  
    PMWS is now recognised as a global epidemic with overall losses in EU countries estimated at between €562 million and €900 million per year.  
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  Graphic element RSI, RESEARCH: Falling prey to an occupational mousetrap (12/05/03)  
    The latest word from Danish researchers is the more you click your mouse, the higher the chance of repetitive strain injuries (RSI) for workers and frequent computer users.  
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  Graphic element RESEARCH, INVESTMENT: Choosing the right role models (12/05/03)  
    Much emphasis has been placed on the USA and Japan as Europe's benchmarks for national R&D expenditure when there are some stars in the EU that deserve more attention.  
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  Graphic element CAREERS, GENDER: German girls experiment with science (12/05/03)  
    Thousands of companies and research institutes across Germany opened their doors last week for Girls' Day - an annual event that aims to lure more young women into pursuing scientific and technical careers.  
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  Graphic element SPACE, QUASARS: Astronomers find cast iron evidence of when first stars were born (12/05/03)  
    The latest observations of the distant corners of space have shed light on when the first stars were born, which European astronomers now believe was much earlier than previously thought.  
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  Graphic element INNOVATION, MANAGEMENT: Prizing young innovators (12/05/03)  
    The 2003 Hendrik Casimir Award for talented young researchers gives a much-needed booster shot to European industrial innovation and development.  
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  Graphic element SOCIAL POLICY, HEALTH: EU citizens are couch potatoes (05/05/03)  
    The image of healthy Europeans engaging in their favourite pastimes of skiing and football has taken a blow following the release of a new Spanish study on EU lifestyles.  
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  Graphic element POLICY, RESEARCH: Commission outlines 'roadmap' to higher R&D investment (05/05/03)  
    The European Commission has just released a detailed action plan for achieving the EU's ambitious goal of boosting research investment to fuel future economic growth.  
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  Graphic element GMOs, RESEARCH: Putting GM trials back on the table (05/05/03)  
    European research into genetically engineered plants and animals has taken a nosedive in the past few years, according to a new survey published by the European Commission.  
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  Graphic element STANDARDS, ICT: Measures to curb power-gobbling electronic gadgets (05/05/03)  
    Rapidly growing demand for consumer electronics, such as TV and mobile communications, is stretching Europe's energy supplies. A new study calls for energy-efficient appliances and better standards.  
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  Graphic element MEDIA, INFORMATION: Keeping Europe's citizens in the know (05/05/03)  
    Europe's press corp sometimes has a tough time keeping citizens informed about what's happening in and around the European Union. But things are looking up thanks to EuropeMedia, the Press DG's media notification system.  
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graphical element BIOSCIENCES, INTERNET: A window into European life sciences (26/05/03)
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  The European Commission has just launched its new 'Biosociety' website - an online resource and information portal offering the latest news and views on biotechnology and the life sciences.
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A 'one-stop shop' for European biosociety information A 'one-stop shop' for European biosociety information

The rapid rate of progress in the biosciences promises to bring about radical changes in the way we lead our lives. The Research Directorate-General’s Biosociety website aims to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for experts, generalists and members of the public alike to help them keep abreast of the fast-moving and complex world of biotechnologies and the life sciences.

“The Biosociety site not only aims to intensify the interactions between specialists but also strives to offer a tool to the concerned general public to better grasp the issues at stake and to make their voice heard,” said Etienne Magnien, head of unit at the biotechnology, agriculture and food directorate of the Commission’s Research DG, following the site’s launch.

The website comes as part of a drive to involve a wider public in EU research policy. Under the Sixth Framework Programme, the Commission has committed itself to ensuring that the ethical, legal, social and wider cultural aspects are taken into account at the earliest possible stage of Community-funded research into the life sciences and biotechnology.

“The full integration of socio-economic concerns in all research activities sponsored by the Commission is continuously gaining momentum. The Biosociety site should tremendously speed up this process,” said Mr Magnien.

An interactive platform
The online news service offers a succinct run down of the latest biosociety-related scientific, technological and policy developments, as well as information on the ethical issues at stake. An extensive events calendar helps those interested in the field plan their diary.

A dedicated section provides information on European policies governing the biosciences. The website also contains a wealth of reference materials in its library section, including a range of official documents, reports, catalogues of studies and a glossary of bio-terms.

The online bioforum will provide a platform for debating topical issues, where specialists active within the life sciences – biotech researchers, social scientists, economists and ethical experts – and the public at large can exchange views. The current question for debate is: ‘How can life sciences and biotech help meet European society's health, environmental and economic needs?’

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Source: EU sources    

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element ACCESS, RESEARCH: Opening up science to the community (26/05/03)
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  Providing better public access to research findings is critical to knowledge transfer in Europe. Germany's Max Planck Society shows how it can be done without too much fuss.
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Institutes working for the Max Planck Society (MPS) publish some 10 000 scientific articles annually in internationally recognised periodicals. Prior to publication, their findings are assessed – peer-reviewed – by noted experts from the respective discipline. Recently, MPS has taken steps to open its research up to an even broader audience over the internet via BioMed Central’s Institutional Membership programme, set up in 2002 and used by over 130 members including the NHS in England, Harvard University (USA), Institut Pasteur (France) and the World Health Organisation.  

Established in 1948, the Max Planck Society for the advancement of the sciences is an independent organisation which promotes and performs fundamental research in the interest of the general public. In particular, it takes up new and innovative research areas that German universities may otherwise not be able to handle – i.e. interdisciplinary research in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences and humanities which requires exceptionally large sums for personnel and/or equipment.

As a non-profit organisation, scientists and scholars in Max Planck institutes have to make the results of their work accessible to the general public. The main vehicles of this knowledge transfer include publishing research results in professional journals, on-going training and education of junior scientists, technology transfer, as well as press and public relations work circulating the latest results to a wider public.

Responsive science
German taxpayers are currently footing the bill for much of the research performed in universities and research centres in the country. Yet their findings are only published in expensive trade and scientific journals, which are not freely available to the general public. In recent weeks, German politicians have been calling for more transparency in the way government and state-funded research is carried out and disseminated.

Signing up to public platforms such as BioMed is a simple and effective way to publicise new research findings. A number of Max Planck researchers have already used BioMed’s platform to publish their work on a range of topics including genomics and genome biology, bioinformatics, biochemistry, cell biology as well as medical research into arthritis and breast cancer.

“[Our] Institutes conduct scientific and other research autonomously and independently since the results of their work are to be published,” according to the Max Planck Society website. In addition, it is actively committed to promoting technology transfer in the economy by directly collaborating with partners from the business sector and public institutions, as well as through patenting and licensing. But, the website openly admits, “the most important path of knowledge transfer from Max Planck Institutes is via people”.

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Source: Max Planck Society, BioMed

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element COMMUNICABLE DISEASE, RESEARCH: On track with mobile meningitis testing (26/05/03)
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  European scientists have found a fast and accurate way to test for meningitis in remote areas of Africa is to bring the lab to them.
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Meningitis and septicaemia are life-threatening diseases, responsible for thousands of deaths around the world every year. But diagnosing the causes of this potentially deadly disease presents doctors and scientists with a problem. Knowing the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia, and acting quickly to get medical help, can save lives. A team of doctors from France and Germany are testing a mobile laboratory in remote parts of Africa.

French NGO, Aid to Preventive Medicine, together with researchers from the University of Munster (Germany), have installed the latest testing equipment in their ‘lab on wheels’, which they are driving to isolated regions of the small West African country Burkina Faso. Faster diagnosis has helped doctors prescribe appropriate treatment before individual cases can reach a life-threatening stage. According to Le Figuro, accurate diagnosis like this helps epidemiologists in tracking genuine epidemics of the deadly forms of the disease.

This supports the European Commission’s Public Health DG’s views on how best to monitor and control communicable diseases: “… [W]ell-functioning surveillance … systems provide information for early detection of potential outbreaks, and help to identify disease trends, risk factors, and the need for intervention. They provide information for priority setting, planning, implementation and resource allocation for preventive programmes and for evaluating preventive programmes and control measures.”

Diseases under surveillance
In fact communicable diseases – such as meningitis, tuberculosis and influenza – pose a serious worldwide threat to human health, contributing to about one third of all deaths occurring globally. “Communicable diseases do not respect national frontiers and can spread rapidly if actions are not taken to combat them,” according to the Public Health DG’s website.

New diseases emerge, SARS and HIV being the most publicised, while others develop drug-resistant forms, such as multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which confirm the importance of effective surveillance and testing in controlling the spread of communicable diseases.

Meningitis causes inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord, whereas septicaemia is blood poisoning and can be caused by the same germs that cause meningitis. These germs that cause them are usually viruses but they can also be bacteria – which tends to be far more serious.

The fight against this deadly disease is complicated by the difficulty of correctly identifying which form a patient is suffering from. This frequently leads to over-declaration of the non-epidemic versions of the disease which weakens the surveillance and controlling measures put in place to stop it spreading. Being able to quickly identify samples of meningococcal bacteria is critical to saving lives and preventing outbreaks.  

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Source: EU sources, Le Figuro

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element SCIENCE, COMMUNICATION: That which we don't understand… (26/05/03)
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  Science offers insight into the changing world around us, yet for many Europeans, including the new EU members, it represents something unknown and even frightening. What can be done to improve science literacy in Europe?
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"Once we have a society where science is as exciting as football, … only then will we be truly empowered … to harness science for what we want in life, rather than the other way round," Baroness Greenfield
©Photo: PhotoDisc "Once we have a society where science is as exciting as football, … only then will we be truly empowered … to harness science for what we want in life, rather than the other way round," Baroness Greenfield

©Photo: PhotoDisc

On the eve of enlargement, the European Union has investigated ways of improving the way science and research is communicated to a broader audience. It commissioned a study into the trends and perceptions of science in the EU and candidate countries, which asked a number of questions about how citizens learn about science, what they think about scientists and the science media, whether science is thought to improve their quality of life and so on.

The findings confirm that around half of all EU citizens, both in present and future Member States, are poorly informed about science and technology. But this does not dampen the expectation that scientific progress improves their lives. Eight out of ten candidate country respondents felt that science “is making [their] lives healthier, easier and more comfortable”, while 77% believed such progress would even help to cure terminal illnesses, such as cancer or AIDS.

There was also clear support for European research, according to the report. People felt that closer co-operation between European scientists and countries would strengthen Europe’s scientific status in the world. While enlargement puts Europe on track to achieve this goal, not all aspects of science get the European thumbs up.

The spectre of the white coats
People have a generally positive opinion of scientists as purveyors of the benefits that science offers society, but they are blamed for the misuse of their discoveries by almost half of the 12 247 people surveyed in 13 candidate countries – and 43% of current EU citizens in an earlier Eurobarometer survey. Scientists were held responsible for, among other things, the ‘mad cow’ crisis in 2001.

Baroness Susan Greenfield, director of the Royal Institution in the UK and a professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, points the finger of blame at the widening gulf between the science cognoscenti, or those in the field, and everyone else. “The pride and scorn for science, that saw most people through the 20th century, is now giving way to fear,” she said in a recent Guardian Unlimited report.

“Which brings us to the second reason for fear. Not so much science itself, more those who do it … The scientist is usually a remote figure, as far as the public is concerned – more alien than a journalist or politician … The third, and more substantive reason for fear, is the implication of the work that is actually being done.” She adds that the “happy confidence” of the 1950s and 1960s in new scientific gadgets has given way to fears of radiation from mobile phones, contaminated food, hazardous chemicals, cyberterrorism, “… let alone designer children, artificial wombs and human clones”. Faced with this image in the media, the public are understandably confused and reticent about scientific innovation. Baroness Greenfield goes on to say the best way to quell the fear of science is to “empower ourselves with knowledge so we can evaluate the alarms and the excitements in equal measures”.

An empowered public first needs an empowered media, one which is better equipped to communicate science to a wider public. AlphaGalileo, the Internet press centre for European science, engineering and technology, together with the Commission, is keen to set up a European research press agency to encourage and support the increased professionalism of research press offices.

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Source: EU sources, Guardian Unlimited

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element POLICY, RESEARCH: What do the EU and South Korea have in common? (26/05/03)
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  Quite a lot, it seems. Recent high-level talks between the Commission and South Korean officials set the stage for future EU-Asian scientific co-operation.
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Meeting European Union officials in Brussels last week, South Korea’s minister for science and technology (S&T), Ho Koon Park, discussed ways to enhance scientific co-operation between his country and the EU. What became immediately clear during the talks is that South Korea and the EU share many common research priorities – and face similar challenges – such as in biotechnology, nanotechnology and environmental and space technology. Both parties also acknowledged their concern over future shortages of scientists and engineers.

The long-term ambition of such a tie-up would be to negotiate an EU-South Korea scientific co-operation agreement along the lines of the one recently drawn up with China. This could mean offering a general framework for co-operation and for South Korean participation in the EU’s Research Framework Programme, and vice versa. 

One avenue discussed for closer ties could be South Korea’s participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a fusion energy research project of special interest to the Union. To be built over the next ten years and costing around  €4.6 billion, ITER is a huge undertaking. South Korea – which is already active in fusion research – could make a valuable contribution. Mr Park has shown keen interest in joining ITER, and next month expects to sign a co-operation agreement with the EU in this field. It would join negotiations with current ITER members Japan, Russia, Canada, China the USA, as well as EU members.

Science Days
The South Korean government has long recognised the importance of ‘investing’ in scientific research. The short-term goals of its ‘First five-year S&T plan’ were to increase government R&D spending to 5% of GDP in 2002. Its long-term targets, according to South Korea’s ‘Vision 2025’ S&T policy document, is to reduce the role of government and create a private sector-led national innovation system, helping to reach a position of world leadership in some key scientific areas.

To finance these ambitious aims, the South Koreans almost doubled their R&D spending in the period between 1998 to 2002 – from €1.9 billion (3.6% of the budget) to €3.6 billion (4.7%). Certain parallels can be drawn here with the EU’s recent commitment to increase research expenditure to 3% of GDP by 2010.

With a number of longer-term co-operative measures in the pipeline, Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin discussed with Mr Park more immediate and concrete ways to foster greater scientific collaboration between the EU and South Korea. One option put forward was to hold a ‘Korean Science Day’ in Europe which would be reciprocated with a ‘European Science Day’ in South Korea.

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Source: EU sources

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element POLICY, REGULATION: The future of Europe's seas (19/05/03)
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  Preserving and protecting the Mediterranean and Black Seas might be a high priority for policy-makers and scientists, but it is imperative for Europe's citizens living around these fragile resources.
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Damage caused to the Danube and the Black Sea coast by flooding last year
					
©Photo: Earth Observatory Damage caused to the Danube and the Black Sea coast by flooding last year

©Photo: Earth Observatory

This is the underlying message of the forthcoming ‘International Conference on the Sustainable Development of the Mediterranean and Black Sea Environment’ (IASON) which runs from 28-30 May.

The event aims to reinforce the scientific and technological collaboration between the European Union and countries in the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. How to develop sustainable strategies for managing and preserving fragile marine ecosystems will be hotly debated by scientists and policy-makers attending the conference in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Several sessions will be devoted to sustainability, marine environmental problems, as well as a range of research and technology issues – informed by the EU’s research objectives and its current Framework Programme for research (FP6). Themes to be covered include: climate change and related processes; sustainable land use and coastal management; biodiversity changes; biotechnology towards environmental sustainability; impact of anthropogenic activities; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; thresholds of environmental sustainability; and environmental economy.

More research needed
Urbanisation, disposal of industrial and domestic waste, intensive agriculture and fishing, soil degradation and desertification are just a few of the many pressures exerted on the Mediterranean environment. The Black Sea is not fairing any better. Rivers feeding into the Black Sea are increasingly polluted as the 17 countries in the region become more industrialised.

Heavy flooding in central Europe last year caused significant damage to the river Danube and, in turn, to the coastal regions of the Black Sea. Ecological deterioration in this region is also a growing concern of scientists, governments and the public at large. Between 1973 and 1990, 60 million tonnes of bottom-living animals were found dead, including 5 000 tonnes of fish. The sewage systems of over 10 million people drain into the Black Sea and its environs. Over 100 000 tonnes of oil are transported via the Black Sea every year.

According to a report on the marine environment in the Mediterranean Sea and its coastal zone, a dearth of comparable and reliable data was listed as one of the major concerns by its authors. The report, prepared by the European Environment Agency and the UN Environment Programme – in co-operation with the European Tropical Centre and Mediterranean Action Plan – called for more multidisciplinary research to determine with more certainty how Europe’s marine ecosystems is holding up.

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Source: IASON    

Contact: elisabeth.lipiatou@ec.europa.eu

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graphical element BIOTECH, PERCEPTIONS: Getting to the root of European opposition to GMOs (19/05/03)
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  Despite excitement over the potential of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) among scientists, the European public remains firmly opposed to them. A new report attributes this to fears over food safety and a deepening distrust of agribusiness.
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The scientific community’s generally upbeat assessment of the promise of GMOs outweighing the risks has had a negligible impact on stemming European public disquiet towards this emerging field.  A new report by INRA, France’s national institute for agricultural research, investigates the reasons behind this anxiety.

One key factor is the issue of timing. GMOs debut in the European public arena in the mid-1990s coincided with the emergence of several public health scares, including ‘mad cow’ disease and the transfusion of contaminated blood. By the end of the 1990s, the public debate “was situated in a context strongly influenced by food safety issues”, notes the report entitled ‘Why are most Europeans opposed to GMOs?’.

GMOs fed into a growing perception – accurate or not – that public health was taking a back seat to financial gain. “[These health scares] caused people to think that firms and public authorities sometimes disregard certain health risks in order to protect certain economic or political interests,” the report adds.

This widespread scepticism of agribusiness and industrial farming has led to “mistrust regarding the policies of the public authorities and firms involved in the commercialisation of GMOs increas[ing] sharply”.

Media wars
The report says that the movement opposing GMOs in Europe quickly grew from a small core of environmental groups to incorporate the anti-globalisation movement, farmers’ unions, and consumer groups. It mobilised so effectively – and understood the workings of the media so well – that it has come to dominate the public debate. “Shocking headlines revealing hidden dangers and dramatic presentation of issues guarantee wider audiences and have more of an impact than more moderate, qualified articles,” the report explains.

The report also singles out the scientific community, who prefer specialised publications and conferences, for their conspicuous absence from the public debate. “Even if researchers have participated in public debates, in total these have reached only a very small audience … Little but silence can be heard from public research.” Although, the European Commission’s Sixth Framework Programme, under its Science and Society action plan, is working to close this communication gap between the research community and society at large.

The report is downbeat about the prospects of breaking this deadlock in the near future but says that, in the longer term, the changing face of the technology or environmental challenges could boost public support. “Transgenic plants are still in their early stages and various subsequent developments could reduce their potential risks or highlight more positive aspects,” the report concludes.

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Source: Electronic Journal of Biotechnology    

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element POLICY, RESEARCH: Enlargement countries join EMEA as observers (19/05/03)
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  The ten accession countries joining the European Union in May 2004 have already started to contribute their scientific and medical expertise to the European Research Area.
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From April this year, the ten new EU Member States have begun working with the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products  (EMEA) as observers on its scientific committees and working parties. This is another concrete sign that the European Research Area is taking shape in practice.

The invitation to join EMEA was extended to the national authorities responsible for medicines, both human and veterinary, of each accession country. The move was announced in January this year following extensive consultation with the European Commission.

This invitation builds on the successful preparatory and training programme, the Pan-European Regulatory Forum (PERF), which the Agency has led since 1999. PERF is designed to help candidate countries prepare their regulatory systems before accession to the EU. Now in its third phase, PERF’s priorities for 2003 include good manufacturing practices, pharmacovigilance, veterinary topics and especially quality management. The programme is carried out with the financial assistance of the Union’s PHARE programme.

Measures for integration
EMEA is confident that the addition of the accession countries from April onwards reinforces the level of its co-operation with current and future EU Member States.

“One of the Agency’s priorities is the successful integration of the new Member States into the operation of the European regulatory system,” said Thomas Lönngren, EMEA’s executive director, in a recent press statement. “… I am confident that this period ahead of accession will ensure a smooth transition.” 

Part of EMEA’s preparations for enlargement include a programme of benchmarking visits to the national authorities of the accession countries, as well as Bulgaria and Romania. These visits aim to pave the way for an integrated quality management system ensuring good regulatory practices across the EU. In addition, they provide targeted audit training for professionals working in the quality assurance of medicinal products.

 

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Source: EMEA, EU sources    

Contact: martin.harvey-allchurch@emea.eu.int

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graphical element INTERNET, IST: Faster access to research results (19/05/03)
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  One way of measuring the success of EU research is to look at the results of projects it supports. But finding this information can be tricky. The 'Information society technologies' programme has made this job easier with their new 'IST Results' website.
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Profiling EU research efforts on the 'IST Results' website Profiling EU research efforts on the 'IST Results' website

The European Commission has launched ‘IST Results’, a new on-line news service providing the latest information about the progress of projects funded by the European Union's €3.6 billion research programme for the IT and telecommunications sector, the IST programme.

The aim of this free service is to raise the visibility of new European technologies and prototypes emerging out of the EU’s research effort. It reports on emerging information and communications technologies, highlighting their real and potential impact on a wide range of market sectors. News stories, feature articles and a soon to be available bi-weekly e-bulletin are just some of the services provided by the site.

The IST research programme, which is the largest thematic priority of the Union’s current Framework Programme (FP6), explores the convergence of information processing, communications and media technologies. It also covers areas such as e-commerce, health informatics, publishing, education, intelligent transport, knowledge management and other applications geared towards improving European citizens’ daily lives at work and in the home.

Broadening IST’s audience
Companies and research teams looking to develop and deliver innovative “e” products and services will benefit from the news and views published on the website. As, too, will investors, technology transfer experts and support organisations working with business to increase their competitiveness.

IST Results will play an important role in reporting on IST innovations and in making them accessible to a wider range of people involved in the information technology sector. The service also aims to help the media source material for their editorial schedules. Today, there are some 70 stories posted on the website covering a wide range of topics. Recent entries entice readers with topical headlines such as “Screening for a killer disease” and “Standardisation improves research project results”.

As part of the Information Society Directorate-General, IST Results will progressively cover the research activities in past EU Framework Programmes, while keeping track and reporting on the work of IST projects as they reach maturity. 

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  Source: IST    

Contact: helpdesk@istresults.info

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graphical element POLICY, REGULATION: Fast tracking state aid for SME research and development (19/05/03)
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  The Commission recently put forward a proposal aimed at simplifying the use of state aid to stimulate SME research and development (R&D) in the Member States. The plan: cut out the middlemen.
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Policy-makers have long realised that Europe’s ability to compete with its main rivals, the USA and Japan, on innovative R&D rests, to a large extent, on dynamic small and medium-sized-enterprises (SMEs). Hence, policies need to create the right conditions for innovation to flourish in Europe. This reinforces the Lisbon objective and the recently launched EU Action Plan to increase R&D spending to 3% of GDP by the end of 2010.

The European Commission’s latest proposal to improve the use of state aid for R&D conducted by SMEs is a step in the right direction. Under the proposed regulation, EU Member States may grant aid for R&D performed by SMEs without having to clear it in advance with the European Commission or with the SMEs themselves. The proposal envisages Member States covering up to 100% of the expenses for fundamental (basic) research, 60% for industrial (market-oriented) research, and 35% for pre-competitive development (market-oriented but pre-commercial research).

Cutting back on red tape will enable Member States to implement measures which favour R&D carried out by SMEs. “It follows the Commission’s aim to simplify and streamline the state aid rules and eliminate unnecessary paper work,” said Competition Commissioner Mario Monti in a press statement. “It is the first time that the Commission … [has sought] a block exemption  … [for] research and development aid,” he added.

Breaking down the barriers to R&D
Following the announcement earlier this month, the Commission plans to seek advice from EU Member States on the best way to implement the regulation on R&D aid for SMEs as a group, a ‘block exemption’, when the needs may vary from one country to another.

European R&D effectiveness is hampered by a lack of coordination, insufficient public support, difficult access to capital and unfriendly fiscal, legislative and regulatory frameworks, according to Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. He stressed that, in order to reach the goal of becoming the most competitive knowledge-based economy by 2010, as well as the 3% objective, Europe must create conditions that are conducive to research.

“Research in Europe has to face an uphill struggle … The proposed R&D aid notification exemption for SMEs will eliminate needless administrative burdens and boost the use of research funds by enterprises. This is a step forward to achieving the Lisbon goal,” he said.

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Source: EU sources

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element RSI, RESEARCH: Falling prey to an occupational mousetrap (12/05/03)
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  The latest word from Danish researchers is the more you click your mouse, the higher the chance of repetitive strain injuries (RSI) for workers and frequent computer users.
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It's not a harmless little mouse afterall
					
©Photo: PhotoDisc It's not a harmless little mouse afterall

©Photo: PhotoDisc

The dreaded RSI is back. Just writing an article like this could increase the chances of acquiring a repetitive strain injury in the hand, neck and shoulder, leading authorities from two Danish research centres told a scientific conference in Brazil earlier this year.

Scientists from the Odense University Hospital found that people using a mouse – the small device that controls the movement of the cursor or pointer on a computer’s display screen – over 30 hours per week have up to eight times greater risk of developing pain in the lower arm, twice the chance of experiencing moderate to severe neck pain and three times the risk of shoulder pain.

The findings come from a survey of some 7 000 machine technicians and technical assistants, validated by a follow-up study one year later. Shoulder symptoms became evident after only five hours of weekly use, while neck problems showed after more than 25 hours of use. The research noted that certain professions face a higher risk of acquiring RSIs, such as “computer-assisted designers [who] use the mouse all the time”.

A hugely popular device
Ever since Douglas Engelbart of Stanford Research Centre invented the mouse in 1963, and Xerox pioneered its use in the 1970s, it was destined for success – freeing computer operators to a large extent from using the keyboard. The mouse has become especially useful for graphics programs and software with graphical interfaces which allow the mouse to be used like a pen or paintbrush.

Now that computers are a standard feature of the working environment, the mouse has become far more popular, and potentially dangerous. Researchers at the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) in Copenhagen found that workers using computers for over two-thirds of their work time had a greater risk of developing hand or wrist problems.

Workers who spent nearly all day at the computer, and used the mouse at least half of that time, had four times more risk of associated RSI problems than those who used alternatives to the mouse a quarter of the time. The results come from a study of almost 3 500 workers in 11 Danish firms, with a follow-up about 18 months later. 

From an occupational health perspective, the problem is not just using the mouse, but performing repetitive tasks, Dr Chris Jensen of NIOH told reporters at the 27th International Congress of Occupational Health. He recommended that people should vary the pattern of use between the keyboard and mouse. This is arguably the best solution for people who cannot reduce their time spent at the computer.

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Source: ABC News in Science

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element RESEARCH, INVESTMENT: Choosing the right role models (12/05/03)
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  Much emphasis has been placed on the USA and Japan as Europe's benchmarks for national R&D expenditure when there are some stars in the EU that deserve more attention.
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Last month’s release of the Action Plan to boost R&D efforts in Europe sets out key initiatives to raise investment in research in the European Union. Today, this figure is around 1.9% of GDP. The aim is to increase it to 3% by 2010, with two-thirds financed by the private sector – as called for in the March 2002 Barcelona European Council.

“The 3% objective was not fixed for its own sake,” said Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin during a lecture in the Hague late last year. “It was decided because we believe that research is the best point of entry to address the challenges faced by the European innovation system.

“There is a real problem with the lack of investment in research in Europe … [it] is not the fault of companies. It is our fault as policy-makers, for not making the European Research Area [ERA] attractive enough for companies,” Mr Busquin conceded.

This is where companies like DaimlerChrysler, Volkswagen, Bayer and Siemens in Germany, Ericsson in Sweden, Alcatel in France, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca in the UK, Philips in the Netherlands and Nokia in Finland stand out. These are the top ten European companies in terms of R&D expenditure – all automobile, electronic and pharmaceutical makers. Here, in terms of average annual growth in R&D investment (1996-2000) by the top 100 firms, the EU is ahead of its main competitors, the USA and Japan – 15.6% in the EU versus 10.3% and 4.6% respectively.  

Making a reasonable comparison 
Comparisons between the EU, the USA and Japan are in many ways understandable. They reveal some worrying trends and certainly support the view that Europe can always do more to stimulate R&D investment. One of these trends is that multinational firms increasingly prefer to invest in American rather than European research. In 1991, the EU and USA were on par, but by 1998 the EU had fallen behind the USA by 60%.

Perhaps more illuminating comparisons could be made between the EU averages and individual Member States, such as Finland or Germany, or ‘motor regions’ within the Union, including Baden-Württemberg, Tuscany and Catalonia. Mr Busquin spoke about the importance of the regions at the launch of the EU’s latest Framework Programme for research (FP6). He is convinced that the active participation of the regions is invaluable to the success of ERA and achieving the 3% objective. Some regions in Finland and Germany, for example, have already achieved this target.

Speaking at the Action Plan’s launch, Erkki Ormala, director of technology policy at Finnish telecommunications firm Nokia, said that the 3% objective will be a reality if Europe becomes more attractive for research and innovation. This includes a more supportive regulatory environment, excellent human resources and improved public and private links in research.

“It’s not impossible to find a balance between R&D investment and the stability pact [of the European Monetary Union]”, said Mr Ormala, noting that Finland has achieved this - it has boosted R&D investment by 20% and stuck to its stability pact requirements. His advice is: “We should abandon our traditional approach and invite foreign firms to participate in our knowledge platforms where it benefits European research.”

In March, he told the Entovation Roundtable in Helsinki that companies need to put more personnel into R&D. “Enterprises will have to invest significantly more resources to maintain competitive positioning. My estimate is 40%.” Nokia has already hit that mark with 38%. 

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Source: EU sources

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element CAREERS, GENDER: German girls experiment with science (12/05/03)
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  Thousands of companies and research institutes across Germany opened their doors last week for Girls' Day - an annual event that aims to lure more young women into pursuing scientific and technical careers.
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Last Thursday was Girls’ Day in Germany. Some 100 000 teenaged girls, aged between 11 and 15, visited more than 3 500 research centres, universities, companies and government offices to find out for themselves what science and technology careers are like. It is part of a concerted government drive to even out the gender imbalance in technical fields and shore up the growing shortage of researchers.

"Girls still disproportionately choose 'typically female' study and work areas,” German Education and Research Minister Edelgard Bulmahn was quoted as saying. “In technical study disciplines, fewer than 20% of the matriculated students are women.”

Although the event is only three years old, it has already scored some notable successes. Bulmahn notes that almost half of the 40 000 teenagers who took part in Girls’ Day last year have since expressed an interest in doing a science and technology internship.

Courting women
As a sign of how seriously Germany is taking Girls’ Day, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder took an active part in this year’s event. German government and industry hope that spending the day in a laboratory or watching robots being assembled will spark the scientific curiosity of young women and entice them away from traditionally female career paths.

"The German economy needs to court more women … especially where they have been under-represented,” Alexander Gunkel of the German Employers Association, which is closely involved in organising Girls' Day, was quoted as saying. “We can ill afford to waste what resources we have in terms of young blood."

The European Commission has been actively encouraging women in order to give them an equal chance to enter what has traditionally been something of a ‘men only’ club. In addition to the social dimension, this also makes economic sense. Europe aims to become the most dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010. This could be difficult if it continues to under-utilise a good part of its brainpower.

The Union’s Sixth Framework Programme has special measures to promote the enhanced participation of women in research. These include encouraging EU-backed research projects to employ more female researchers and persuading more young women to pursue scientific studies.

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Source: Kompetenzzentrum    

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element SPACE, QUASARS: Astronomers find cast iron evidence of when first stars were born (12/05/03)
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  The latest observations of the distant corners of space have shed light on when the first stars were born, which European astronomers now believe was much earlier than previously thought.
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Somewhere in the distant universe a star is born
					
©Photo: ESA Somewhere in the distant universe a star is born

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A team of European and American astronomers, using the latest readings from the NASA/ESA Hubble space telescope, have made the remarkable find that stars may have first formed as early as 200 million years after the ‘big bang’. As the universe is generally held to be at least 13 billion years old, this means that stars have spun in the cosmos since its infancy.

Astronomers from the European Space Agency (ESA) reached this conclusion when they noticed the presence of iron on three of the universe’s most distant and ancient quasars – quasi-stellar radio sources believed to be powered by super-massive black holes.

Stars are, in effect, ‘nuclear factories’ that process lighter elements, such as hydrogen and helium, into progressively heavier ones. Scientists estimate that it takes a quasar some 700 million years before it produces iron. The light from the quasars – which had travelled for 12.8 billion years before reaching Hubble's spectrograph – had left them 900 million years after the Big Bang. By deducting the two figures, astronomers were able to calculate the age of the first stars.

“We believe that the iron we detected was created in the very first generation of stars which formed soon after the Big Bang," says Wolfram Freudling, head of the team who made the discovery.

Revising the origin of life
The detection of iron so early in the life of the universe has profound implications and may cause astronomers to revise some standing theories. "The presence of iron, and, by implication, all other lighter elements, shows that basic ingredients for planets and life were present, at least in some places, very early in the history of the universe," says Michael Corbin, a member of the ESA team.

These findings may also shed light on the dark enigma of black holes. According to an ESA press announcement, these new observations suggest that the first stars predated by hundreds of millions of years the super-massive black holes that power the quasar engines in the centres of galaxies.

“The creation of the black holes themselves still remains a mystery, although the birth date of the first stars may prove to be a very valuable clue,” the statement read.

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Source: ESA    

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element INNOVATION, MANAGEMENT: Prizing young innovators (12/05/03)
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  The 2003 Hendrik Casimir Award for talented young researchers gives a much-needed booster shot to European industrial innovation and development.
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Are you under 35 and hold a postdoctoral or faculty position at a business school, research policy unit, or university? Through its Hendrik Casimir Award, the European Industrial Research Management Association (EIRMA) is offering young innovators a chance to meet and work with the people who manage innovation, research and development (R&D) in leading companies.

The aim of the award is to strengthen contacts between companies and academia by offering European business a true catalyst for change and improvement in innovation and research management.

EIRMA offers this annual award to one exceptional candidate who carries out work that leads to the submission of a paper good enough to be published in a scientific journal. This year’s theme is: ‘Increasing the entrepreneurial spirit of R&D’.

A winning proposition
The winner will take part in EIRMA’s activities, gaining first-hand experience of how a wide range of European companies address R&D and innovation. A generous bursary will be provided to cover travel expenses and related costs. The winner will also make a significant contribution to the Association’s annual conference, including a keynote speech.

This award honours EIRMA’s first president, who founded the organisation in 1966 to enhance innovation through market-oriented R&D. Today, it comprises more than 150 member companies in over 20 countries, which collectively fund a large proportion of European business enterprise investment in R&D.

Andrew Dearing, secretary-general of EIRMA, advises people to start thinking about their submissions already. “[Applicants] need to be aware that the deadline for submitting applications is July 31, so time is relatively short,” he said. The winner will be announced on 1 September.

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Source: EIRMA    

Contact: adearing@eirma.fr

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graphical element RESEARCH, ANIMAL HEALTH: workshop on a major disease affecting 8 million pigs each year in Europe (14/05/03)
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  PMWS is now recognised as a global epidemic with overall losses in EU countries estimated at between €562 million and €900 million per year.
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A workshop held in Brussels on 15 May 2003 brings together researchers, decision-makers, including various Commission services, and other stakeholders, in particular representatives of pig producers. Following an assessment of the economic impact of the disease, the meeting will provide an opportunity to present the results of two major research projects funded by the EU through the Fifth framework programme, which have enabled considerable advances in understanding the disease and provide the basis for vaccine development. The meeting will also strive to enhance international collaboration and examine future research needs.

For pigs, postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) is now recognised as a global epidemic that causes significant economic losses to pig farmers throughout the world. A recently identified virus, porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2), is now regarded as being the causal agent of PMWS. Up to 8 million pigs are affected each year in Europe. Overall losses in EU countries are estimated to be running between €562 million and €900 million per year. New outbreaks of PMWS, with up to 40% losses, continue to be reported on a regular basis in different countries. However, in addition to PMWS, strong evidence from field and experimental studies has also linked PCV2 infection to reproductive problems in pigs and early (post weaning) and late (porcine respiratory disease complex [PRDC]) respiratory disease. In fact the terminology PMWS should probably be replaced with porcine circovirus disease (PCVD).

The European Union recognised this problem early on and made funds available for research through the Fifth Framework programme (1999-2002). Two projects selected for funding in 1999 co-ordinated respectively by Prof. Mariano Domingo of Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona and Dr. Gordon Allan of Queens University Belfast have achieved major advances in understanding the role of PCV2 in the disease; as well as its pathogenesis; epidemiology; prevalence and host range. They have also enabled significant progress in diagnosis and in the development of candidate vaccines.

This initiative has also encouraged active collaboration with US, Canadian and Swiss teams.

The aims of the meeting are:

  • to obtain an overall picture of the disease in the EU and worldwide, including animal welfare, food safety and economic impacts;
  • to update the knowledge of the disease and review results obtained in the framework of the specific research projects funded by the EU;
  • to review international co-operation in this area of research;
  • to address further research needs in the context of FP6.

The meeting takes place in Brussels on 15 May, from 09:30 to 16:00.

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Source: Research DG, European Commission 

Contact: Stephane.Hogan@ec.europa.eu

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graphical element SOCIAL POLICY, HEALTH: EU citizens are couch potatoes (05/05/03)
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  The image of healthy Europeans engaging in their favourite pastimes of skiing and football has taken a blow following the release of a new Spanish study on EU lifestyles.
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Around 62% of EU citizens live unhealthy lifestyles 
					
Photo: PhotoDisc Around 62% of EU citizens live unhealthy lifestyles

© Photo: PhotoDisc

Sweden is officially the most active nation in the European Union, with Ireland, Austria and Finland not far behind, according to a study of sedentary lifestyles in the 15 Member States. At the other end of the scale, Portugal has the unfortunate position as the least active nation in the EU, followed by Belgium and Spain. 

The research, carried out by the department of epidemiology at the University of Navarra, shows overall that around 62% of EU citizens lead unhealthy lifestyles, watching too much television, playing computers, or just spending long periods sitting down.

Chief researcher Dr Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez concludes in his report – published in the International Journal of Epidemiology – that the EU is facing a “substantial health” problem. He said more effort is urgently needed to stop this trend.

Health risks
The study surveyed around 1 000 people from each Member State on their lifestyle habits and choices. The findings in each country were used to create a ranking based on the percentage of respondents with low energy expenditure. To be classed as sedentary, a person had to report an above average number of hours sitting down, or spend under 10% of their spare time engaged in strenuous exercise or sport.

From this, nearly 88% of Portuguese people do not exercise enough, leading to sedentary lifestyles. In the most active country, Sweden, the results are still troubling, with around 43% spending too much time idle. Lack of exercise is a well-known contributing factor to a number of health issues affecting Europe, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Coupled with poor diet and smoking, Europeans are putting their health at great risk.

Despite public health campaigns and efforts to better inform Europeans, “The prevalence of sedentary lifestyles in the EU is high, especially among obese subjects, less-educated people and smokers,” noted the survey.

Michel Claessens, speaking for the Research DG of the European Commission, said: “These results are a wake-up call for Europeans. As policy-makers, we think the EU has been putting a great deal of effort into improving Europeans’ health – in fact it’s a major theme in the current EU research Framework Programme – but it is clear more can be done.”

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Source: BBC News, International Journal of Epidemiology

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element POLICY, RESEARCH: Commission outlines 'roadmap' to higher R&D investment (05/05/03)
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  The European Commission has just released a detailed action plan for achieving the EU's ambitious goal of boosting research investment to fuel future economic growth.
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Technology and knowledge have long been major forces fuelling economic prosperity, yet the innovation gap separating Europe from its major global competitors is widening. To address this research deficit, European Union leaders pledged in Barcelona last year to bolster their collective research and development investment to 3%, from the current level of 1.9%, of the Union’s GDP by 2010.

The stakes involved are high.  If this ambitious drive succeeds, the higher investment in knowledge will help the EU economy grow by an additional 0.5% and create 400 000 jobs every year from 2010 onwards. The Commission’s action plan, produced in consultation with Member States and other stakeholders, lays out the necessary steps Europe should follow to invest in its future.

“This blueprint for action marks the start of a process which has the potential to turn around Europe’s R&D fortunes … This is Europe’s chance to boost its competitive potential and … [improve] people’s quality of life,” Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin told reporters at the plan’s launch. “However, this requires the determined and co-ordinated efforts of all interested parties – current and future EU Member States, and public and private sector stakeholders.”

New dimensions
The Commission’s plan sets out key actions to consolidate the European Research Area. These include moving away from the traditional focus on national R&D towards setting up pan-European research platforms in partnership with industry. The plan also encourages EU Member States to invest in manpower, to refocus and increase public research and innovation spending, and create a coherent policy framework on several fronts, including regulatory, fiscal, innovation, industrial and competition.

In concrete terms, reaching the 3% target by 2010 will require the public sector to raise its R&D investment by 6% a year and the private sector by 9%. European companies have indicated their willingness to push full steam ahead with a public-private research partnership. Mr Busquin stresses that R&D spending should be seen as an investment, not an expense.

“Industry in Europe strongly supports the need to increase research,” said Nokia’s Erkki Ormala, a senior expert for the European Round Table of Industrialists. “[It] is willing to invest more … if governments can turn the required actions into reality.” 

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Source: EU sources    

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element GMOs, RESEARCH: Putting GM trials back on the table (05/05/03)
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  European research into genetically engineered plants and animals has taken a nosedive in the past few years, according to a new survey published by the European Commission.
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In the wake of growing public anxiety, the number of research projects into genetically modified organisms (GMOs) conducted by scientists in the European Union has dropped by around 80% since 1998. One of the main reasons behind the fall, according to one of the study’s co-authors – the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation in Europe – has been the EU-wide moratorium, which was agreed by the Council of Environment Ministers in 1999, on growing commercial GM plants.

In the four years since the freeze was introduced, field trial applications for new plant varieties have dropped by 76%. The report, prepared by several collaborators at the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), alongside the University of Stuttgart-Hohenheim and Fraunhofer Institute, puts the cancellation of GMO projects down to the unclear regulatory framework and market situation. Major differences were also observed between the private and public sectors. Combined with low public acceptance – and understanding – of GM foods in Europe, this has led scientists and producers to be more cautious than usual.

Some 65% of all GMO field trials during the period under investigation were carried out by multinationals and more financially robust research teams, according to the report entitled ‘Review of GMOs under research and development and in the pipeline in Europe’. Small and medium-sized companies performed a mere 6% of the field trials, with the rest left to public research institutes and universities.

Catch up time
The rest of the world has not been waiting for Europe to make up its mind about GMOs. In 2002, the area used for growing genetically modified plants world-wide has increased to almost 60 million hectares. Co-author of the Commission report, Dr Klaus Menrad of the Fraunhofer Institute, was quoted as saying that the pipeline is full of products that European companies are ready to produce or plant.

“The longer the moratorium goes on in Europe, the more likely it is that biotech companies will move their research to countries outside the European Union,” he said.

But progress has already been made. Following an EU directive in October last year, GMOs can again be tested. Producers will first concentrate on herbicide-tolerant plants and on strengthening plant resistance to insects and diseases. Plants with health-promoting substances for, say, human food consumption are not expected until the next decade, notes the Fraunhofer Institute in a recent press statement.

 

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Source: Fraunhofer Institute, Joint Research Centre    

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element STANDARDS, ICT: Measures to curb power-gobbling electronic gadgets (05/05/03)
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  Rapidly growing demand for consumer electronics, such as TV and mobile communications, is stretching Europe's energy supplies. A new study calls for energy-efficient appliances and better standards.
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A call for better standards to regulate energy-efficient electronics 
					
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A call for better standards to regulate energy-efficient electronics

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Parents are watching and recording programmes on television downstairs. Children are listening to their stereos while surfing the net in the bedrooms. In the kitchen, a pile of mobile phones are recharging beside the telephone answering machine. Europeans love their electronic gadgets. But this affinity puts ever-mounting demand on limited power supplies, not to mention the environment.

In Germany alone, in the year 2010, information and communication technologies are expected to burn up around 55 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. That is equivalent to almost 11% of total German electricity consumption, about 45% higher than 2001 figures. This emerges from a study carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, a German research centre specialising in science and technology.

According to the study, conducted on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour, televisions, office servers, stereo systems and, increasingly, the infrastructure of mobile communications companies account for more than half of German electricity demand. Up to 20% of this, say Fraunhofer, could be saved.

Green mode
Televisions have been identified as the biggest energy user, and will continue to be so, according to the Fraunhofer study entitled ‘Energy Consumption of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Germany up to 2010’. But mobile communications networks and household communications infrastructure are predicted to become the biggest energy guzzlers, with the potential to quadruple by 2010. 

Fraunhofer offers several recommendations in its report. At the top of the list should be the upgrading of efficiency norms for electronic appliances. Standardisation of the numerous energy labels at national and international levels is also widely advocated. Several measures to curb wasteful energy consumption are also included in the study: for example, using power-saving modes in electronic devices, such as “standby”, and implementing so-called “switchable, multiple [power] socket outlets”.

The European Union has also addressed the need for more sustainable use of energy in its latest research Framework Programme (FP6). One of its priorities is sustainable energy systems. This activity supports research into how clean – and renewable – energy sources can be integrated into the ‘energy system’, which encompasses the storage, distribution and ‘use’ of energy.       

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Source: Fraunhofer Institute,   EU sources    

Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element MEDIA, INFORMATION: Keeping Europe’s citizens in the know (05/05/03)
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  Europe's press corp sometimes has a tough time keeping citizens informed about what's happening in and around the European Union. But things are looking up thanks to EuropeMedia, the Press DG's media notification system.
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Available since mid-December 2002, the European Commission’s electronic press notification service, EuropeMedia, has proven to be an effective way of keeping journalists informed about the main activities and achievements of the European Commission, with links to other EU institutions.

Each week, the Press and Communication Directorate-General (Press DG) sends an e-mail to its EuropeMedia subscribers listing the highlights of the forthcoming week’s activities. This electronic update contains brief information on EU events thought to be of most interest to the media, such as press conferences, important workshops and meetings, the latest information on research activities throughout Europe, enlargement updates and more.

The service was the brainchild of Niels Jørgen Thøgersen, who is Director for Communication, Media and Services at the Commission. He explains that journalists need a simple and regular service to help with their editorial planning. As such, each EuropeMedia e-mail update provides a timely and self-contained information source for the press.

Signing up
To sign up for this free service, available via the Press DG’s website, visitors should click on the EuropeMedia icon in the top right corner and follow the instructions on the introductory page. Once new users fill out the required information on the ‘registration page’, they will be added to Europa’s mailing list.

Subscribers will also be asked to build their profile and select the service they wish to receive. Once completed, an e-mail will be sent to confirm the registration was successful. In the following weeks, journalists should receive regular updates on selected EU activities, including dates and times, and whether photo opportunities will be available. Importantly, it will also provide contact names and phone numbers for the press to follow up their stories.

The Press DG’s website also offers a number of other useful links and services, which are particularly handy for journalists writing about the sciences. They can search for press releases in the past seven days or by topic. For example, in the press releases database, science journalists can select ‘Research’ from the dropdown menu at the top of the page and the latest research press information will be displayed.

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Source: EU sources    

Contact: myriam.eeckhout@ec.europa.eu

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