Apart from a relatively new web service on the EU's huge Europa server, helping to bridge the communication gap between science and society, European researchers are in for a treat later this month at the Brussels Researchers' Night.
Studies show that science is struggling to keep pace with what may seem to be more lucrative, high-profile career options. With the growth of the media, internet and technology, as well as a wider range of job opportunities in the service and finance-economic sectors, the appeal of the sciences and their vital importance to society have been overshadowed, according to the European Commission's ‘Researchers in Europe 2005' website.
|Get down and boogie at the Brussels Researchers' Night, 23 September.|
© ropean Commission
“The result is that fewer young people are being drawn to careers in science and research. It is estimated that we will need to attract and train between 600 000 and 700 000 new researchers by 2010 to meet our research needs. And this does not take account of the expected retirement of many senior researchers over the next ten years. The situation has become urgent,” it notes.
So, what is being done about it? By concentrating a large number of awareness-raising events and activities over a period of six months, the 2005 Researchers in Europe initiative hopes to focus media and public attention on the essential role of science and research in our society and on the many reasons why pursuing a career in the field may be for you – or someone close to you.
Between June and November 2005, activities are being held across the Union and Associated States to “inject a sense of creativity and ‘cool' into young people's perception of science”. The common theme of these events is to demonstrate why scientific research is the career of the future and why Europe is the place to pursue it.
Innovative thinking and actions have been identified as critical to making Europe the competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy called for in the Lisbon Strategy. This explains why Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik is keen on the idea of a ‘Knowledge for growth pact' to help the EU better create, diffuse and apply knowledge in the service of Europe's economic prosperity and quality of life. And, as innovators themselves, researchers play a major role in helping the EU reach its targets.
This is why the EU supports research and development activities and creates the right conditions to help scientists carry out their invaluable research in Europe. “Research budgets are increasing across the Community, with Member States committing themselves to investing an average of 3% of their GDP in R&D [the Barcelona Objective]. There are also numerous schemes and grants available to support the ongoing training of researchers and to promote their mobility – not just within the EU, but throughout the world. So, it is quite clear that there has never been a better time – or place – to pursue a career in science!” the website states.
The rationale for the Researchers in Europe 2005 is, therefore, clear: provide a Europe-wide platform to promote science and research. In so doing, it aims to make people think again about research and what it means in today's society. The envisaged activities should mobilise all areas of the research community, from universities and student associations, to industry and public research organisations. A range of actors – teachers, students, parents, researchers – are encouraged to exchange views and experiences during the half-year programme with the final goal of fostering research careers.
One activity, the pan-European Researchers' Night on 23 September in Brussels and other major cities across Europe, is being promoted as something like science with disco fever. The Brussels event will feature exhibitions, games, get-togethers and performances in venues spread across the Belgian capital. For example, in the Halles Saint-Géry, the headquarters for the night, visitors can meet Asimo, a robot with more than a hint of human charm built by Honda.