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  Graphic element SATELLITES, TECHNOLOGY: Linking up in orbit (30/11/01)  
    A data link between two orbiting satellites has been established for the first time using a laser beam as signal carrier.  
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  Graphic element AWARD, CLIMATE: Leading the field in climate research (30/11/01)  
    The European Science Foundation has awarded the 2001 European Latsis Prize to Professor André Berger for his work in climate research.  
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  Graphic element FUNDING, FOOD SAFETY: Safer food standards for Europe (30/11/01)  
    The EU has recently awarded more than €560 000 to a two-year research project designed to improve food safety standards.  
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  Graphic element SPACE, TECHNOLOGY: A European space policy comes one step nearer (23/11/01)  
    Discussions at the European Space Agency Council meeting on 14-15 November in Edinburgh, UK, have helped to shape Europe's ambitious space strategy.  
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  Graphic element PHARMACEUTICALS, GMOs: Harvesting a green alternative (23/11/01)  
    The 2001 Joseph-von-Fraunhofer special-merit prize has been awarded to Dr Stefan Schillberg for his work in molecular farming research.  
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  Graphic element PHYSICS, DIAMOND: A valuable asset (23/11/01)  
    A new technical director has been appointed for the diamond synchrotron project - the largest science research facility to be built in the UK for over 30 years.  
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  Graphic element INTERNATIONAL, SCIENCE POLICY: A partnership with foresight (16/11/01)  
    A new agreement has been signed to intensify Finnish and Japanese co-operation in the fields of science and technology policy.  
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  Graphic element FORESTRY, FUNDING: Breathing life into Brazil's forests (16/11/01)  
    The European Investment Bank has boosted the reforestation effort in Brazil by granting a €32 million loan for the plantation of eucalyptus forests in the Bahia state.  
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  Graphic element NANOTECHNOLOGY, EU-US CO-OPERATION: Material benefits (16/11/01)  
    On 25-26 October, representatives of the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission met to discuss research co-operation in the fields of material sciences and nanotechnologies.  
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  Graphic element RESOURCES, POLLUTION: Waste water clean-up in China (12/11/01)  
    European expertise has helped to produce technology that is freeing a Chinese river of pollution.  
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  Graphic element ENLARGEMENT, DEVELOPMENT: Eastern promise (12/11/01)  
    A conference in Slovenia in September 2002 will focus on the challenges facing the EU and accession countries.  
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  Graphic element MOBILE TELEPHONY, HEALTH: A word in your ear (12/11/01)  
    Delegations from the EU, Japan, Korea and the US came together in Brussels recently to debate the health risks of mobile telephone use.  
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graphical element SATELLITES, TECHNOLOGY: Linking up in orbit (30/11/01)
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  A data link between two orbiting satellites has been established for the first time using a laser beam as signal carrier.
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Artemis and SPOT 4 communicating via the SILEX system (Source: ESA)
Artemis and SPOT 4 communicating via the SILEX system
(Source: ESA)
 

The so-called SILEX system which makes the link-up possible consists of two terminals: one on board ESA's advanced communication satellite - Artemis - and the other on the French space agency's earth observation satellite - SPOT 4. Both terminals were designed and built by Astrium, while the definition and procurement of the system were carried out jointly by ESA and the French national space agency, CNES.
When the two satellites are in direct line of sight, the laser data link can transmit real-time images taken by SPOT 4 to the image processing centre at Spot Image in Toulouse, France. In this preliminary experiment a link was established four times. During four successive SPOT 4 orbits, the Artemis SILEX terminal scanned the area where SPOT 4 was expected to be with its optical beacon. SPOT 4 then responded by sending back its own laser beam to Artemis, allowing an optical link to be maintained for a pre-programmed period lasting from four to 20 minutes.

Timed to perfection
During this 'communication', SPOT 4 transmitted a highly accurate data stream to the ground via Artemis at a rate of 50 000 000 bits per second (50 Mbps). Establishing such an optical link between satellites is a delicate operation and this experiment was performed under difficult conditions since Artemis is not yet in its final geostationary orbit at 36 000 km, but is in a lower parking orbit, circling the earth every 19 hours. The first experimental transmission of a SPOT 4 image is planned for early December this year. By mid-2002, the operational phase will get under way allowing the link between the two satellites to be established at least five times a day.

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Source: ESA press release

Contact: franco.bonacina@esa.int

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graphical element AWARD, CLIMATE: Leading the field in climate research (30/11/01)
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  The European Science Foundation has awarded the 2001 European Latsis Prize to Professor André Berger for his work in climate research.
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Every year the prestigious Latsis prize is awarded to an individual or group for significant contributions to a certain field of European research. This year's prize, with a value of €68 000, was awarded on November 22 to Professor Berger of the Catholic University of Louvain (BE) for his outstanding contributions to the understanding of the Ice Age climate cycle. Almost 30 years ago Professor Berger, who works in the university's Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics, was the first to accurately describe the variations of astronomical factors influencing our global climate. Since then his research work has focused on using complex computer models to better understand what triggers climatic changes during ice ages.

Building on the past
According to the early orbital theories of climatic change, polar insulation in summer is the critical determining factor behind ice ages. Persistent ice sheets are formed when frozen snow from the previous winter accumulates and then causes further cooling by reflecting sunlight. However, Berger's research went beyond these theories to accurately recalculate the long-term variations, over more than 1 million years, in the seasonal and latitudinal distributions of the insulation experienced daily by the earth. His work also showed the influence that these variations had on the energy received from the Sun and the subsequent effects on global sea level and ice volume. According to Professor Berger's astronomical data, the current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are already much greater than has been the case over the last 400 000 years - a phenomenon which may eventually lead to the disappearance of the Greenland and western Antarctic ice sheets and cause sea levels to rise by as much as 12 metres during the coming thousands of years.

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Source: European Science Foundation press release

Contact: jmartinez@esf.org

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graphical element FUNDING, FOOD SAFETY: Safer food standards for Europe (30/11/01)
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  The EU has recently awarded more than €560 000 to a two-year research project designed to improve food safety standards.
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The project to measure and monitor selenium supplements and arsenic presence in food will involve researchers from 20 laboratories across Europe. Selenium is an essential but highly toxic element, and today it is thought that the lack of the beneficial forms of this nutrient in our diet may be one of the reasons behind growing numbers of prostate cancer cases. The researchers plan to incorporate selenium into yeast, hence converting it into a favourable chemical form which can then be used as a reference standard for monitoring 'beneficial' dietary supplements currently on the market. 'Without this reference material, harmful supplements could be on chemists' shelves alongside beneficial ones. If, as expected, the clinical trails of these supplements show a way to reduce the incidence of prostate cancer, they will be of enormous interest,' explained Professor Les Ebdon of the University of Plymouth in the UK, who is leading the project.

Safe limits
The laboratories participating in the project will also investigate arsenic levels in chicken, rice, fish and oil in an attempt to improve the standardisation of food safety checks. Previous studies have highlighted the presence of a harmless chemical form of arsenic in fish which remains safe through cooking and digestion processes. Since fish-meal is now commonly included in the diet of many animals, especially chickens, it is important to check that it remains only in the harmless form. The project, which will continue until February 2003, is being carried out under the Growth programme's 'measurements and testing' activity.

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Source: University of Plymouth press release

Contact: ali@plymouth.ac.uk

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graphical element SPACE, TECHNOLOGY: A European space policy comes one step nearer (23/11/01)
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  Discussions at the European Space Agency Council meeting on 14-15 November in Edinburgh, UK, have helped to shape Europe's ambitious space strategy.
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ESA-Edinburgh (© ESA)
 

The European ministers responsible for space affairs have approved the next stages in a series of ongoing programmes, and committed to new initiatives to keep Europe at the forefront of space science and technology. On 14 November, Commission President, Romano Prodi, joined delegations from ESA's 15 Member States and Canada to present new arrangements for the creation of a European space policy. By moving towards closer co-operation with the European Union, ESA will be able to further its aim of putting space at the service of European citizens and focus attention on space at the highest political level in Europe.

Shaping future programmes
The Edinburgh meeting brought important decisions on resource distribution for the coming five years. Agreement on financial commitments for the development of Galileo - Europe's satellite navigation system - was close to the top of the agenda. Also in the spotlight was the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) project. This, together with several other earth observation projects, was approved as an important first step in ESA's 'Earth Watch' initiative. The delegations also agreed on financial support for a programme to allow the Ariane launcher to become more powerful and versatile, while ARTES - the ongoing telecommunications satellites programme - is set for continued commercial success in a rapidly moving market. On the issue of future planning for the International Space Station, the European ministers stressed the importance of continuing to pursue an intensive scientific research programme. The success of space programmes is largely dependent on the existence of a strong technology base in Europe and measures to encourage technology transfer and spin-off will be strongly supported.

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Source: European Space Agency press release

Contact: franco.bonacina@esa.int

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graphical element PHARMACEUTICALS, GMOs: Harvesting a green alternative (23/11/01)
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  The 2001 Joseph-von-Fraunhofer special-merit prize has been awarded to Dr Stefan Schillberg for his work in molecular farming research.
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Advances in molecular farming are beginning to make waves in the pharmaceutical sector. Dr Schillberg of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biotechnology and Applied Ecology in Germany has been awarded the 2001 Joseph-von-Fraunhofer special-merit prize for his contribution to new ways of identifying and treating certain types of cancer and infectious diseases. While biotechnology and genetic engineering methods currently help produce more than one in four pharmaceutical products, many of these drugs are derived from bacteria or animal cell cultures. This can have several disadvantages - for example, proteins produced in bacterial or mammalian cell cultures can trigger immune responses or transmit pathogens such as HIV or viral strains of hepatitis. 'Plants, on the other hand, do not produce any bacterial toxins, virus particles or pathogens that might represent a health risk for humans,' explained Dr Schillberg.

Organic factory
Molecular farming is made possible through the incorporation of an extra gene, such as the antibody that combats caries, in the genetic make-up of a plant. The genetically modified organism then automatically produces the new 'recombinant' protein as it grows, enabling scientists to isolate the active agent. This represents an important new resource for the large-scale production of effective drugs which is both cost-effective and safe. 'Another plus,' said Dr Schillberg, 'is the high quality of protein produced in plants, with its correct three-dimensional folding.' The Fraunhofer researchers have already produced 150 different types of recombinant protein in tobacco, wheat and rice, including a protein found in human blood, serum albumin.

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Source: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Contact: joh.ehr@zv.fraunhofer.de

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graphical element PHYSICS, DIAMOND: A valuable asset (23/11/01)
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  A new technical director has been appointed for the diamond synchrotron project - the largest science research facility to be built in the UK for over 30 years.
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The UK and French governments and the Wellcome Trust have appointed Dr Richard Walker as technical director of the diamond project at the CLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, UK. The synchrotron at the core of the 'diamond' facility is a large, circular particle accelerator capable of emitting brilliant light at all wavelengths - from highly penetrating X-rays, to far-infrared radiation - and which will enable scientists to investigate the structure of matter, such as biological tissues, polymers, magnetic materials and catalysts. This in turn will contribute to advances in medicine, the life sciences and surface science, as well as helping investigations into environmental issues like climate change.

Research tool
The diamond project, which is due to be completed by 2006, will be a welcome addition to the other third-generation synchrotron light sources which already exist worldwide, including the European Synchrotron Radiation Source (ESRF) in France, the Advanced Photon Source (APS) in the US, and Spring-8 in Japan. Its work will complement ongoing research at these other facilities, providing a valuable tool for both UK and international scientific teams. Professor Gerhard Materlik, who was recently appointed Chief Executive Officer for the diamond project, greeted his new colleague saying, 'I am very pleased to welcome Dr Richard Walker as Technical Director to the diamond team. His outstanding experience with today's most advanced synchrotron radiation sources guarantees that diamond will provide an excellent X-ray source for the UK science community.' Prior to this appointment, Dr Walker worked at the 'Sincrotron Trieste' in Italy as Director of the Light Sources Division.

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Source: Diamond project press release

Contact: s.e.moon@rl.ac.uk

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graphical element INTERNATIONAL, SCIENCE POLICY: A partnership with foresight (16/11/01)
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  A new agreement has been signed to intensify Finnish and Japanese co-operation in the fields of science and technology policy.
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The Japanese National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTEP), the Academy of Finland, and Tekes - Finland's National Technology Agency - have recently signed an agreement to promote co-operation between scientific experts in the two countries, and in particular to compare the methods which are currently used to forecast science and technology trends.
As the major funding body for R&D in Finland, Tekes is interested in exchanging foresight methods on the start-up possibilities for new technology enterprises, and the effect of research and development activities on the national economy. NISTEP falls under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan and is involved in the investigation of scientific and technological trends and their effects on society. The first Finnish-Japanese seminar will be held in Japan in December 2001.

Natural partners
"As high technology countries, Finland and Japan are natural partners in the development of evaluation and foresight methods that can be used as a basis for technology policy. Comparison of approaches and methods will benefit the innovation systems of both countries," explained Markus Koskenlinna, director of Tekes' evaluation and quality unit. Anneli Pauli, director of research at the Academy of Finland, which is the country's most important basic research funding organisation, commented: "It is a great challenge to evaluate the scientific and social effectiveness of the research financing provided by the Academy."

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Source: European Commission

Contact: jenni.jarvela@aka.fi
Markus.Koskenlinna@tekes.fi

More information on this subject:
http://www.aka.fi/
http://www.tekes.fi/
http://www.nistep.go.jp/

 
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graphical element FORESTRY, FUNDING: Breathing life into Brazil's forests (16/11/01)
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  The European Investment Bank has boosted the reforestation effort in Brazil by granting a €32 million loan for the plantation of eucalyptus forests in the Bahia state.
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Eucalyptus plantation - Source Veracel Celulose S.A.
 

The EIB investment will make a significant contribution to environmental protection in the Brazilian North-Eastern State of Bahia by helping to reverse tropical rain forest destruction, maintain biodiversity, and reduce the use of natural forests for logging. At a practical level this will involve land acquisition and preparation, plant production, and the plantation of more than 26 000 hectares, as well as the acquisition of forestry equipment and road construction and upgrading. The project will also improve the infrastructure, security and protection of the Veracruz reserve station - a 6 000-hectare area of preserved primary forest. This large private reserve develops various programmes in conservation and physical protection, as well as scientific research, environmental education and ecological tourism.

All-round impact
The loan was provided in the context of the EU co-operation policy with third countries, and its recipient - Veracel Celulose S.A. - is a private sector company created in 1991 to implement integrated eucalyptus plantations and pulp production projects. Among its experienced shareholders is leading Finnish forest product company, StoraEnso. The project, which is being implemented between 2001 and 2004, will aim to produce low-cost pulpwood for pulp production in the Veracel mill in the extreme south of Bahia and will see employment increase by about 50%. Investment will also be channelled into a nursery for native species, a natural history museum and wild animal shelters. An Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure, including public hearings, has been carried out on the project in compliance with Brazilian legislation.

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Source: Europe Information Service - Europe Environment

Contact: veracel@veracel.com.br

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http://www.veracel.com.br/inindex.htm

 
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graphical element NANOTECHNOLOGY, EU-US CO-OPERATION: Material benefits (16/11/01)
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  On 25-26 October, representatives of the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission met to discuss research co-operation in the fields of material sciences and nanotechnologies.
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These two bodies first began co-operating in December 1999 and the working relationship has since developed under the umbrella of the EU research programme 'Competitive and Sustainable Growth'. It is of particular relevance in light of the growing importance of the nanotechnology sector on the global market, encompassing areas such as material sciences, precision engineering, electronics and biomedical applications. Material sciences will lead the way for the next generation of products and production processes, with the promise of future 'intelligent' materials which will fulfil several functions. The result may be innovative new materials and medical devices.

Active exchange
The scope of the arrangement between the European Commission and the NSF in the area of material sciences extends to programme exchange opportunities for entities from the EU and the US; reinforced co-operation; co-ordinated calls for proposals; joint organisation of scientific events; extensive information exchange; and training support.
An inter-Atlantic workshop on nanotechnologies for materials production was recently organised in Toulouse, France, and four new workshops are scheduled to take place in France, Italy and the USA during 2002 on the topics of: Nanodesign, Service and Manufacturing; Nanotechnology - Revolutionary Opportunities and Societal Implications; Manufacturing with Nanotechnology: Tools, Instruments and Devices; and Nano-materials.

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Source: European Commission and National Science Foundation

Contact: renzo.tomellini@ec.europa.eu

More information on this subject:
http://www.cordis.lu/growth/
http://www.cordis.lu/nanotechnology/
http://www.cordis.lu/ims/
http://www.nsf.gov/

 
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graphical element RESOURCES, POLLUTION: Waste water clean-up in China (12/11/01)
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  European expertise has helped to produce technology that is freeing a Chinese river of pollution.
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Constructed prototype wetland in the Honghu city park of Shenzhen
Constructed prototype wetland in the Honghu City Park of Shenzhen
 

The Longgang River copes with the unfiltered effluent produced by the population and industry of Shenzhen City in the southern province of Guangdong. However, innovative surface water treatment technology has been developed through a European Commission INCO (International Cooperation) research project which will change all that.

In a scheme involving scientists from China, Germany, and Austria, two large, connected concrete basins have been constructed. They are filled with various types of sand, gravel and plants to form wetlands which filter out harmful products. Different types of pollutant-eating micro-organisms grow in wetlands and clean the water completely of nitrogen, phosphorous, heavy metals, and other common unwanted substances. The water flows from one basin to another during the cleansing process. Costing about half the price of conventional treatment plants, the wetland system delivers water of sufficiently high quality to pass through conventional processing for drinking.

Rural and urban benefits
It is the world's largest two-stage wetland operation with a 20 000m2 surface area, capable of cleaning 5 000 to 7 000 tonnes of waste water per day. Regular operation started in October. The INCO project originally focused on employing wetland technology in rural areas, but now it appears the main users could be larger centres of population such as Shenzhen City.

China is not the only country benefiting from this technology. Since 1999, a pilot plant has been operating in Cologne, and new plants are being built in Germany and Austria.

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Source: EC's S&T delegation to China

Contact:
aeb18@uni-koeln.de
wuzb@ihb.ac.cn
lzhihong@public.szptt.net.cn
jchang@mail.hz.zj.cn
perfler@iwga-sig.boku.ac.at

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graphical element ENLARGEMENT, DEVELOPMENT: Eastern promise (12/11/01)
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  A conference in Slovenia in September 2002 will focus on the challenges facing the EU and accession countries.
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The European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) is organising its tenth general conference on the theme "Eastern Enlargement of the EU: Implications for development strategies and development co-operation in the 21st century' in Ljubljana, Slovenia from September 19-21 2002. This event will provide a discussion forum for experts, scholars, researchers and politicians from both the current EU Member States and the newly invited States of Central and Eastern Europe - combining issues and themes related to Eastern enlargement with those on Europe's North-South relations. In particular the discussions will touch on two broad issues:

  • The impact of the accession to the EU of Central and Eastern European countries on their own economic and political development.
  • The impact that accession to the EU of countries which have several features in common with developing countries might have on Europe's continuing trade relations and co-operation with developing countries.

Have your say
The Institute for Economic Research in Ljubljana, an active EADI member institute, is responsible for organising the conference, in co-operation with the respective EADI committees.

The conference organisers invite researchers working in the development field to submit papers for the debate. While these should relate either to the overall theme or to one of its components, the approach may be conceptual, or relate to a particular field or discipline. Interested participants should send a one-page abstract with a clear title, explaining the objectives of the paper as well as its methodology before February 28 2002.

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Source: EADI - European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes

Contact: postmaster@eadi.org

More information on this subject:
http://www.eadi.org/

 
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graphical element MOBILE TELEPHONY, HEALTH: A word in your ear (12/11/01)
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  Delegations from the EU, Japan, Korea and the US came together in Brussels recently to debate the health risks of mobile telephone use.
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As the number of regular mobile telephone users worldwide continues to increase, public concern has focused recently on the possible health consequences of their use. Representatives from the EU, Japan, Korea and the US came together to pool their knowledge in this scientific forum held in Brussels from 29-30 October, and co-hosted by the European Commission and COST - the intergovernmental framework for European co-operation in the field of scientific and technical research. Members of the audience including scientific experts, policy-makers, interested representatives of industry, consumer organisations and the media were all invited to participate in the workshop's first day.

Looking ahead
The programme centred on presentations by leading experts in the field, as well as discussions on the international scientific and policy background. Notably, four co-ordinators from the EU Fifth Framework Programme's Key Action 4 funded projects - 'Electro-magnetic Fields and mobile phones' presented their work during this part of the programme. Specific points, such as the state of the art in mobile telephony and health; base stations; emerging technological changes (e.g. 3G technology); international and national outlooks for future health-related research; and scientific information as a basis for further policy development and for risk communication also came under the spotlight. During the second day of the workshop the four delegations held internal discussions on directions for future research, as well as the potential for further co-ordinated efforts.

* Environment and Health

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Source: European Commission

Contact: minna.wilkki@ec.europa.eu

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