‘What science? What Europe?' is the provocative title of a recent conference on the future of European research and development (R&D) policy, hosted by the Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA) in the European Parliament.
With its sextant focused on the horizon, the Parliament's Greens/EFA organised a conference to bring together European political leaders and research specialists to consider the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the next of a series of broad-reaching research and development budgets, and its contributions to science and innovation.
|The European Parliament building in Brussels.|
© European Parliament
Attending the event on 27 and 28 April were the Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik, European Members of Parliament David Hammerstein (Greens, Spain) and Claude Turmes (Greens, Luxembourg), and the German Green MP Hans Josf Fell. These men rubbed shoulders with a host of scientific decision-makers, including Denmark's Susana Borras of Roskilde University, who spoke on SME clusters and innovation, and Thomas Jahn of Germany's Institute for Social-Ecological Research, who tackled the environmental pillar of the Lisbon Strategy and the role of independent research centres in this. While Juergen Renn of the Max Planck Institute gave a historical account of science and how the Berlin declaration on open scientific publishing is changing the face of scientific reporting.
In addition, a number of delegates were on hand to present the ‘end user' perspective on European R&D funding, showing how SMEs, businesses, research centres, NGOs and other stakeholders view EU Framework Programmes (FP) and, in particular, FP7. For example, Jiri Gaisler, CEO of Gaisler, spoke animatedly on the limitations SMEs may face carrying out research under FP7.
As well as keynote addresses, several panel discussions took place to elaborate on some of the issues and possible concerns that EU R&D policy should be aware of. In the ‘Which research has added value for European quality of life?' session, presenters spoke about information communication technologies in the context of FP7, nanotechnology's impact on the environment, where energy fits into the Framework Programme budget and what research is needed to evaluate the impact of the environment on health.
On the ‘Science in society' day of the conference, several Commission officials presented the policy processes involved in increasing the relevance of science to society, including the role of scientific advice and governance and EU schemes available, such as CRAFT, to promote SME research and innovation.
A roundtable at the end of the second day, chaired by Belgian MEP Pierre Jonckheer, explored what the conference organisers called “the shadows of FP7”, which was a forward look at the potential pitfalls of the programme due to start in 2007 and last until 2013.