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  Graphic element DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, WHO: New hope for millions of HIV/AIDS sufferers (22/07/02)  
    In the setting of the AIDS 2002 Conference in Barcelona, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International AIDS Society (IAS) launched new guidelines for the treatment of AIDS in resource-poor regions.  
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  Graphic element ANIMAL TESTING, APPROACHES: Humane animal experiments – no need for coercion (22/07/02)  
    While scientists, industry and EC representatives meet to discuss alternatives to animal experimentation, a NewScientist.com article ‘Persuasion replaces coercion in animal experiments’, puts the issue into perspective.  
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  Graphic element MEDIA, SCIENCE: Talking about science in the news (22/07/02)  
    Scientists and journalists can be uncomfortable bedfellows. Yet, on 9 July, they got together to talk about ways of forging closer ties between their professions to clear the atmosphere of distrust and discuss practical solutions.  
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  Graphic element BIOTECHNOLOGY, LEGISLATION: MEPs go for zero tolerance on GM labelling (15/07/02)  
    In a bold move, the European Parliament last week approved what has been described by Greenpeace as the ‘world’s strictest legislation’ on labelling for genetically modified (GM) food and feed.  
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  Graphic element EU RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, COMPARISONS: EU falls behind in research and competitiveness (15/07/02)  
    Research Commissioner Busquin comments on recent figures showing that the gap between spending on research and technological development (RTD) between the USA, Japan and the EU is getting larger.  
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  Graphic element DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, YOUNG SCIENTISTS: Applications are now open for IFS grants (15/07/02)  
    The Swedish-based International Foundation for Science (IFS) has issued a call for research grant applications from young scientists in developing countries.  
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  Graphic element FRANCE, ORGAN DONATION: French Minister Mattei says organ donations save lives (08/07/02)  
    Minister Jean-François Mattei recently spoke to Le Figaro about how changes in the approach to organ donation could save French lives. First, he dispels the notion that the obstacle is lack of scientific knowledge – the real problem is a lack of information about the options.  
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  Graphic element INVESTMENT, IT: Bulgaria investing in its IT future (08/07/02)  
    In a move to stimulate R&D and business innovation, the Bulgarian government plans to invest €6 million in IT to help universities, R&D labs and local SMEs.  
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  Graphic element EUREKA, RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT: EUREKA! Ministerial Conference round up (08/07/02)  
    Ministers from EUREKA network’s 33 member countries plus a Commission representative met for the annual Ministerial Conference last week in Thessaloniki to conclude the Hellenic Chair and discuss the network’s role in the European Research Area (ERA).  
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  Graphic element ENVIRONMENT, METROLOGY: Putting environmental monitoring to the test (01/07/02)  
    Metropolis, a network of 38 scientific institutions from 17 countries active in the field of environmental control and metrology, will address European environmental and sustainable development issues in an interdisciplinary way.  
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  Graphic element MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS, RUSSIA: Transponders flying high over Moscow (01/07/02)  
    Scientists from Moscow's State Aviation Institute have researched a novel approach to positioning communication transponders: radio-controlled gliders!  
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  Graphic element INTERNET, AID: New programme assures aid hits its mark - children in need (01/07/02)  
    The Net4kids Aid Foundation recently announced the launch of their new AIDopt Program which uses internet market place technology to match up donors and aid projects.  
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graphical element DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, WHO: New hope for millions of HIV/AIDS sufferers (22/07/02)
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  In the setting of the AIDS 2002 Conference in Barcelona, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International AIDS Society (IAS) launched new guidelines for the treatment of AIDS in resource-poor regions.
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Hailed as a breakthrough, highly complex anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy has been simplified to lower the technical hurdles affecting HIV/AIDS treatment in poorer countries. The WHO sees wider access to safe and easy-to-administer treatment as a key element in the overall fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. But Dr Tomris Türmen, Executive Director of WHO’s Family and Community Health section, warns: “This technical progress must be translated into scaled-up action. There is an urgent need for funds to build up the human resources and infrastructure to deliver the treatments.” The WHO estimates 6 million people living with HIV/AIDS need equitable access to care and support, including ARVs. Today, fewer than 5% (230 000) of those needing treatment in developing countries get it – half in Brazil alone. In Africa, the country hardest hit by the virus, only 2% of HIV/IADS sufferers receive this life-saving therapy. With infections on the increase in developing countries – and with half of all new HIV cases occurring in people under 25 – the need for more efficient treatment regimes is critical.

3 million by 2005
With the new guidelines launched by the WHO and IAS, potentially 3 million or more people needing care could get access to ARVs by 2005 – a more than ten-fold increase in the developing world. The scheme reinforces a broader WHO strategy of prevention, improved diagnostics and effective treatment, and comes in the wake of a year-long investigation involving 120 scientists, researchers, clinicians as well as representatives from civil society and HIV/AIDS sufferers. Also included is a list of 12 ARV drugs in the ‘Model List of Essential Medicines’ released by the WHO in April 2002. In high-income countries, around 1.5 million people live – often productively – with HIV because they receive active ARV therapy. The next step is to share some of this success with developing nations.

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Source: WHO Press Information, BBC News

Contact: perriens@who.int

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Website 1 | Website 2

 
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graphical element ANIMAL TESTING, APPROACHES: Humane animal experiments – no need for coercion (22/07/02)
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  While scientists, industry and EC representatives meet to discuss alternatives to animal experimentation, a NewScientist.com article ‘Persuasion replaces coercion in animal experiments’, puts the issue into perspective.
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Creating a less stressful environment during examination. - Photo: Animal Naturopathy
Creating a less stressful environment during examination.
Photo: Animal Naturopathy

Reduction, replacement and refinement are the '3Rs' at the centre of EU research and policy on the use of animals in scientific experiments, explained Commissioner Philippe Busquin at the 'Research into Alternatives to Animal Experimentation' conference. The aim of the 9 July event was to review state-of-the-art science, legislation, regulation and recent developments in animal testing. One such development – and an example of ‘refinement’ – could be the use of persuasion instead of coercion to get animals to voluntarily respond to handlers carrying out experiments. Researchers at Britain’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory found that monkeys tested in the comfort and security of their pen co-operated better than when restrained in an alien environment. By reinforcing positive behaviour, e.g. giving luxuries like banana milkshakes to co-operative monkeys, the researchers found that persuasion proved more effective than coercion.

Refining the approach
The ‘3Rs’ were first applied at the ‘3rd World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences’ (August 1999) as a way of improving animal experimentation procedures. But the concept dates back to a 1959 book by Russell and Burch1 . Refinement is defined as methods that alleviate or minimise potential pain, suffering and distress, and which enhance animal well being. Viktor Reinhardt, a primate researcher who advises the US Animal Welfare Institute, supports ‘refined’ persuasion methods. “I’m confident the idea of training animals to co-operate in research procedures… will become more accepted,” he says. “It should be encouraged everywhere.’

(1) Russell, W.M.S. and Burch, R.L.; (1959) The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, London, UK: Methuen.

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Source: Commission Press Information, NewScientist.com

Contact: michael.balls@ec.europa.eu

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Website 1 | Website 2 | Website 3

 
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graphical element MEDIA, SCIENCE: Talking about science in the news (22/07/02)
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  Scientists and journalists can be uncomfortable bedfellows. Yet, on 9 July, they got together to talk about ways of forging closer ties between their professions to clear the atmosphere of distrust and discuss practical solutions.
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Organised by the European Commission with the European Group on Life Sciences – a think tank of experts appointed by Research Commissioner Busquin to advise on life sciences, awareness-raising and related policy matters – the ‘Life Sciences Communication in the Media’ meeting underlined the constraints, needs, concerns and interests of scientific journalists working in different European cultural and scientific contexts. It provided a platform to discuss complaints from scientists that the media tends to oversimplify complex scientific issues, while airing the journalists’ view that researchers are uncommunicative and recalcitrant. Scientists are becoming more aware of the need to inform the public, especially on sensitive subjects such as GM foods and recombinant DNA technology, but they oppose journalists’ overemphasis on breakthroughs and controversies, in particular – as reported in the Journal of American Medical Association – the tendency to present ‘too much, too soon’ after scientific meetings.

Good science communicators
The Commission, together with some 40 media representatives and scientists, looked into the creation of an EU-wide network of science communicators, and an internship programme encouraging journalists to get first-hand experience in labs. Participants in the meeting also recommend studies on science communication; commissioning researchers to write feature articles with broad appeal, setting up awards for ‘good communicators’ in life sciences; schemes for resource and experience sharing among specialised bio-science media; organising Europe-wide events on key life science issues; and fostering a more communication-centred approach by researchers, to name a few. Follow up action is envisaged in view of the Sixth Framework Programme, the EC’s broad four-year research plan, and via the Action Plans for ‘Life Science and Biotechnology’, ‘Science and Society’ and through the ‘Science Generation’ initiative – launched 4 July with funding of €1.44 million.

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Source: Commission Press Information, SciDev.net, CORDIS Focus

Contact: alessio.vassarotti@ec.europa.eu

More information on this subject:
Website 1 | Website 2 | Website 3 |
Website 4

 
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graphical element BIOTECHNOLOGY, LEGISLATION: MEPs go for zero tolerance on GM labelling (15/07/02)
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  In a bold move, the European Parliament last week approved what has been described by Greenpeace as the ‘world’s strictest legislation’ on labelling for genetically modified (GM) food and feed.
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A potato plant in a greenhouse trial - Photo: PBIU, University of Leeds
A potato plant in
a greenhouse trial
Photo: PBIU,
University of Leeds

Greenpeace has welcomed the Parliament’s vote for tightened regulations giving consumers and farmers in Europe a choice whether they want genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food they eat and the feed they use. MEPs sitting in the July 3 plenary session in Strasbourg endorsed two Commission proposals on GMO labelling, but opted for a tougher line on the GM free label for products, and on the Commission’s proposal to allow up to 1% ‘accidental GMO’ contamination in food and feed not authorised in the EU. The Parliament had reduced this threshold to 0.5%, but MEPs chose to scrap altogether the 1% exemption for non-authorised GMOs. Today, for the first time in the EU, genetically engineered feed will be labelled. This means all GM food, including heavily processed ingredients, will have to be labelled, effectively allowing GMO food and food ingredients to be traced from the farm to the fork.

Reactions to the decision
Environmental and consumer organisations have called the vote a victory for consumer choice. But the loudest voices of opposition come from representatives in the biotech community and major producers of GM crops – most notably in the USA, Argentina, Canada and Australia – who have already lodged complaints about the new EU labelling regulations to the WTO. While welcoming the MEP vote overall, the Commission has expressed frustration at some of the changes made to its proposals. The debate now moves to the Council where a common position is expected after the summer recess.

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Source: Hill & Knowlton, Greenpeace

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graphical element EU RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, COMPARISONS: EU falls behind in research and competitiveness (15/07/02)
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  Research Commissioner Busquin comments on recent figures showing that the gap between spending on research and technological development (RTD) between the USA, Japan and the EU is getting larger.
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On 27 June 2002, EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin presented the latest Science and Technology Indicators for the European Research Area (STI-ERA). These show the gap between spending on RTD in 2000 in the USA (€288 billion) and the EU (€164 billion) had reached €124 billion. This is a worrying year-on-year trend, beginning in 1994 when the gap stood at €51 billion. The figures also stand in contrast to the Barcelona European Council targets of increasing RTD spending in the EU from its current rate of under 2% up to 3% of GDP, a target already met by Japan and nearly achieved by the USA, as well as increasing the proportion of research funded by the private sector to two-thirds by 2010.

Private and public RTD investment is key
The shortfall in RTD investment in Europe has been attributed to the low level of investment by the European private sector. Private sector funding accounts for only 56% of total RTD spending in the EU as a whole, while in the USA and Japan this figure is closer to two-thirds of the total. In response to this, Commissioner Busquin called for a detailed analysis of the various factors influencing company decisions on RTD investment, and for public investment to be increased to allow Europe to bridge the gap between itself and international partners. On the latter point, the EU also lags behind the USA. The US government funded 12.3% of industrial research in 2000 compared with 8.5% in the EU during the same period.
EU activities to increase RTD investment – and meet the Barcelona targets – will be crystallised within the context of the ERA, which aims to increase overall research effectiveness in Europe (through coordination of national policies and activities), increasing business and academic co-operation, mobility in science and by encouraging coherence between public research bodies and resources to encourage EU businesses.

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Source: European Commission, Research DG

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graphical element DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, YOUNG SCIENTISTS: Applications are now open for IFS grants (15/07/02)
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  The Swedish-based International Foundation for Science (IFS) has issued a call for research grant applications from young scientists in developing countries.
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Access to research funds, scientific literature, and help with purchasing research equipment have been cited in studies as a major hurdle for scientists in developing countries. Since 1972, IFS has supported some 2 700 young scientists from Africa, the Asia-Pacific region, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Applications are now being accepted from young researchers in the biological, chemical or physical processes, as well as socio-economic studies covering the conservation, production and renewable use of the ‘biological resource base’. Successful applicants receive support in their early careers to pursue high-quality research and to set them up as recognised national and international scientists. In addition to the $US12 000 (€12 185) awarded to the selected scientists – for a period of one to three years – travel grants and other assistance are also available. The IFS’ annual budget of around US$5 million (€5.08 million) comes from government and non-government sources, as well as national and international organisations. Of the IFS’ 118 member organisations in 81 countries, three-quarters are located in developing countries.

Eligibility criteria
To qualify for IFS Research Grants, applicants must:

  • be a scientist and a citizen of a developing country;
  • have at least a MSc or equivalent degree;
  • be under 40 years old (30 for Chinese applicants);
  • be working at a university or research institution in a developing country; and
  • do research in a developing country and in one of the IFS Research Areas.

The IFS advise that there is considerable competition for the available grants. The applications are judged by an international panel of scientific advisers on the basis of the applicant's qualifications, the scientific quality and feasibility of the proposal, and the relevance of the planned research results.

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Source: International Foundation for Science (IFS)

Contact: info@ifs.se

More information on this subject:
Visit the website for more information on IFS Research Areas and to download an application form.
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graphical element FRANCE, ORGAN DONATION: French Minister Mattei says organ donations save lives (08/07/02)
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  Minister Jean-François Mattei recently spoke to Le Figaro about how changes in the approach to organ donation could save French lives. First, he dispels the notion that the obstacle is lack of scientific knowledge – the real problem is a lack of information about the options.
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Organ donation is a subject close to Minister Mattei’s heart. As a medical doctor and former Health Minister in France during the 1990s, he tried to pass legislation allowing donor consent to be noted on a person’s public health record. This was opposed on the grounds it violated individual medical privacy. But, with some 7 000 people in France awaiting potentially lifesaving organ transplants, Dr Mattei pressed on. And now, as a member of parliament, he has outlined a new plan to systematically inform people between the ages of 18 and 30 about organ transplantation, and ask for their consent. The difficult part of the campaign is what to do with the replies. The responses would not be recorded in an official sense, but the names of those objecting added to a list of ‘objectors’ which would, presumably, be reviewed in the event of death. The 1976 law, assuming the deceased’s consent unless stated otherwise, effectively still applies. The new plan should promote the issue of organ transplant shortages in France, while breathing life into the 1976 law that, according to reports, has been undermined by doctors who continue to ask for consent from family members.

What about other EU countries?
The ‘presumption of consent’ for organ donations is not exclusive to France. Swedish law also presumes consent unless otherwise stated by the individual, but includes a veto clause should the family of the deceased wish to object. In contrast, organ donors in the UK must carry a special donor card allowing doctors to use their organs upon death. UK driving licences also note whether the holder is on the National Health Scheme (NHS) Organ Donor Registry.

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Source: Le Figaro, French Advances in Science & Technology (FAST)

Contact: webadmin@france-science.org

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graphical element INVESTMENT, IT: Bulgaria investing in its IT future (08/07/02)
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  In a move to stimulate R&D and business innovation, the Bulgarian government plans to invest €6 million in IT to help universities, R&D labs and local SMEs.
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Bulgarian children testing their IT skills at the 'Internet EXPO & Telecomex 2002', April this year. - Photo: Bulgarian Association of Information Technologies (BAIT)
Bulgarian children testing their IT skills at the ‘Internet EXPO & Telecomex 2002’,
April this year.
Photo: Bulgarian Association
of Information Technologies (BAIT)

According to reports, the Bulgarian Information and Communications Technology Development Agency and the Transport and Communications Ministry of Bulgaria have set aside €6 million for investment in IT projects over the coming year. Orlin Kouzov, who is head of the Development Agency and former CEO of the National Education and Research Network, said they plan to launch research and development labs in five Bulgarian universities. In addition, funds have been set aside for small and medium-sized IT and software firms to participate in international exhibitions and fairs. This should give Bulgarian companies valuable international exposure – in turn, raising awareness of the Bulgarian government’s efforts to align itself with the EU’s information society programme.

Growing software and telecoms
Speaking at a conference last year entitled ‘Internet in the 21st Century’, the former Bulgarian President Stoyanov summed up the value of IT for countries like Bulgaria. He said IT is a unique opportunity to bridge the gap with developed nations, that Bulgaria’s success in the 21st century would be directly correlated to the country’s ability to meet the challenges of the IT revolution. Indeed there are signs Mr Stoyanov was right. Under the new government of President Parvanov, Bulgaria is in the process of privatising its telecom industry, and some predict will be in a position to offer 3G (3rd-generation) mobile licenses by 2004, if market conditions continue to be favourable. The Bulgarian software industry could expect to grow between 20 and 30% yearly by 2010 and see turnover as high as €1.03 billion, according to figures from the Bulgarian Association of Software Companies.

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Source: Europemedia.net, Bulgarian Association of Information Technologies

Contact: enlargement@ec.europa.eu

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graphical element EUREKA, RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT: EUREKA! Ministerial Conference round up (08/07/02)
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  Ministers from EUREKA network’s 33 member countries plus a Commission representative met for the annual Ministerial Conference last week in Thessaloniki to conclude the Hellenic Chair and discuss the network’s role in the European Research Area (ERA).
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EUREKA, a European network for market-oriented R&D, confirmed during the Hellenic Chair 171 new projects, two ‘umbrella’ schemes (Eurocare and Eurolearn) and 33 new sub-projects worth an estimated €1 313 million. This takes the total number of ongoing projects supported by EUREKA to 713. Two new members, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Cyprus, were welcomed at the Conference, and Morocco has been offered ‘associate status’ – allowing non-European Mediterranean countries access to public R&D funding under the EUREKA initiative. Awards were also handed out during the proceedings. The EUREKA Lillehammer Award 2002 for outstanding contributions to Europe’s environment and sustainability went to the project ‘Care Electronic Materials and Ageing’, while the EUREKA Lynx Award for SMEs whose participation in a EUREKA project contributed to a 25% or more increase in turnover went to the Dutch company, Contronics Engineering B.V..

A new ERA for EUREKA
The past year under the Hellenic Chair has also seen increased collaboration between EUREKA and the Commission’s Innovation Relay Centres (IRCs), complementing the broader aims of the ERA. “We have made good progress in determining EUREKA’s role in the ERA,” remarked EUREKA member Dimitrios Deniozos, Hellenic Secretary General for Development. The key areas earmarked for closer collaboration include combining financial support under the Sixth Framework Programme with EUREKA’s national support scheme, common use of instruments and networks (i.e. through IRCs), and regular meetings to encourage R&D information exchange.

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Source: EUREKA press material

Contact: nicola.vatthauer@es.eureka.be

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graphical element ENVIRONMENT, METROLOGY: Putting environmental monitoring to the test (01/07/02)
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  Metropolis, a network of 38 scientific institutions from 17 countries active in the field of environmental control and metrology, will address European environmental and sustainable development issues in an interdisciplinary way.
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Over the next two years, one of the main goals of EU-funded research is to provide European law-makers with sound and objective data upon which to base their policies. Supporting policies with well-designed and applied research activities leads to effective legislation that addresses the concerns and needs of Europe's citizens. With this in mind, the European Commission's Research DG is funding a thematic network called Metropolis (Metrology in support of precautionary sciences and sustainable development policies). This network provides scientific expertise and advice to those in charge of developing and implementing environmental policies. The EC's Environment DG has already taken up close contact with Metropolis and intends to make use of the services offered by the multidisciplinary network.

Network launch
Metropolis will base its work around six work packages, focusing on themes such as biomonitoring techniques, analytical chemistry, and data transfer and model-making. One of the work packages will deal specifically with quality assurance and control - making the measurement of environmental factors meaningful. Another will deal with promoting mutual confidence between the science world, policy-makers and the general public. The consortium of scientific institutions involved have plans to develop the project into a Network of Excellence under the Sixth Framework Programme. If successful, it is hoped this network will result in a comprehensive tool to support the implementation of European environmental strategies. Metropolis will be officially launched at a meeting in Brussels on July 5 attended by Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin and Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström.

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Source: Research DG, Metropolis Project

Contact: eddie.maier@ec.europa.eu

More information on this subject:
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graphical element MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS, RUSSIA: Transponders flying high over Moscow (01/07/02)
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  Scientists from Moscow's State Aviation Institute have researched a novel approach to positioning communication transponders: radio-controlled gliders!
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Traditionally, transponders used for TV and radio broadcasting and monitoring traffic in Moscow have been mounted on unsightly towers scattered around the city. A project, Aerodynamic System of Telecommunications (AIST), part of Moscow's State Aviation Institute, has come up with an alternative solution. The idea would be to launch transponders attached to large gliders and tethered by Kevlar ropes some 10-15 km above the Earth. Launching the gliders - each with a wingspan of 28 metres and capable of carrying a payload of some 200 kg - poses some problems. The solution is to use winches to position the gliders. Once the required altitude has been reached, wires running through the rope make sure the on-board computer keeps the device in the air. Electricity to run its guidance systems can be generated by the glider itself using a propeller as it travels along at 16 metres per second.

Look! It's a bird, no it's a…
The advantage of glider-mounted transponders is that they are cheaper than traditional TV towers or satellite communication systems and have a bigger reach. The gliders can be easily launched from a site about half the size of a football field. This kind of technology, say its designers, can also be used to carry systems for the observation of land-based objects (using optical or infrared wavelengths), as a radio-location device, or for cargo transportation. The devices could even be used to perform light shows and to spotlight skyscrapers.

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Source: Russian Science News Agency

Contact: petrovich_777@mail.ru

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graphical element INTERNET, AID: New programme assures aid hits its mark - children in need (01/07/02)
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  The Net4kids Aid Foundation recently announced the launch of their new AIDopt Program which uses internet market place technology to match up donors and aid projects.
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Net4kids AIDopt Program & Operation Lifeline Sudan - Health Care Centre. Drug kits provided include items for primary care, emergencies and some basic medical equipment. - Photo: Net4kids

Net4kids AIDopt Program & Operation Lifeline Sudan - Health Care Centre. Drug kits provided include items for primary care, emergencies and some basic medical equipment.
Photo: Net4kids

Citing studies about the inefficiencies in many mainstream aid distribution systems, the Dutch-based Net4kids Aid Foundation came up with a new scheme that effectively cuts out the middlemen - the aid brokers. The thinking behind the AIDopt Program, which describes itself as an 'internet brokerage program bringing potential donors and individual projects together', is to restore individual donor confidence that their money is reaching those most in need. Program founder, Loek van den Boog, believes this approach should encourage people who might shy away from making donations due to the hidden administrative costs of many aid organisations. AIDopt is based on 1-to-1 (in this case beneficiary-to-donor) marketing principles and allows tailored selection, monitoring and reporting of aid projects - all via the Net.

Lowering child mortality
Net4kids, in their recent press announcement, guarantees that 100% of the contributions received via AIDopt reach the designated projects, bearing all indirect costs itself. Individuals or organisations can monitor their chosen projects via email, often with photo or video attachments, and even through internet chat sessions - where possible using webcam technology.
Whether or not the system works in practice should not take away from the desperate situation facing millions of children worldwide. Today, according to research by the World Health Organisation in 2000, the probability of a child dying before the age of five is, globally, about 7%. Although lower than previous decades (10% in the 1990 and 12% in 1980), the figure is still unacceptably high. Any programme or system, whether private or state-run, offering more effective aid distribution to those most in need is a step in the right direction.

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Source: Net4kids, EuropePR

Contact: info@net4kids.nl

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