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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N° 43 - November 2004   
 Goodbye, Mr Busquin
 Reducing congestion on the inflammation highways
 Childhood diets
 Strengthening European research
 Neighbourhood science 
 A growing concern
 Capturing distant worlds on film

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Earthquakes: The united science of seismology Earthquakes: The united science of seismology

What can science do in the face of disasters unleashed from the depths of the Earth? Seismology and volcanology are young but developing disciplines. Geophysical and geological research, satellite observation, and the painstaking analysis of every major earthquake are fuelling the knowledge of researchers.


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Goodbye, Mr Busquin
Philippe Busquin has completed his mandate as EU Research Commissioner without fuss, in a manner typical of the man.  But behind the unassuming exterior, there lies an impressive tenacity that permitted an extensive renewal of EU science and technology policy. He leaves behind a clear and dynamic strategy, built on the creation of the European Research Area (ERA) and the vital mobilisation of the investment effort needed to achieve the famous R&D investment target of ‘3% of GDP’. Below, various figures who worked with him in discussing, preparing and putting into practice these new foundations for European research pay tribute to a colleague.
  Mastocyte: this immune cell that contains many granulations in its cytoplasm plays an important role in immediate hypersensitivity. These granulations release mediators – such as histamine – at the time of the allergic response. © David, B. / Institut Pasteur
Medical research 
Reducing congestion on the inflammation highways
Why are leukocytes, or white blood cells, attracted to areas of inflammation and how do they travel to them? By changing their migratory habits, can we stop the chronic inflammation associated with many diseases? A new European Network of Excellence made up of 13 institutes from five EU countries (DE, ES, FR, IT, UK), plus Switzerland and Israel, has given itself four years to come up with the initial answers to these questions.
  To what extent does manufactured baby milk compare with mother’s milk? A European project will monitor two groups of babies fed on preparations with a different protein content, with breast-fed babies as the control group. They will be studied over two years to define the relationship between diet, growth and the risk of obesity. © Christophe Reyners
Childhood diets
Diet during the first months of life and even before – the impact of the expectant mother’s diet on prenatal nutrition at the foetal stage – triggers a process of metabolic programming that marks the human being for life. Research in this area is very important in the field of preventive medicine. The three European projects that make up the Infant Nutrition Cluster are studying these ‘programmed’ relations in terms of pathologies of foetal growth, infant obesity and insulin-dependent diabetes.
  Achilleas Mitsos, Director-General for Research at the European Commission © Thierry Maroit
Interview with Achilleas Mitsos
Strengthening European research
At the beginning of 2004, the European Commission launched a very ambitious debate on the future of European research policy, proposing to double its budget. In June, it sketched the essential strategy to be pursued by this strengthened policy. RTD info talks to Achilleas Mitsos, Director-General for Research at the European Commission.
  Students at the Wageningen (NL) science shop analysing the water quality at the Beerendonck site at the request of the Dutch Association for Underwater Sports. © Guy Ackermans
Science and society 
Neighbourhood science 
In a sense, science shops are both shop and embassy. Rooted in the local community and working hand in hand with universities, they place research and know-how at the service of needs on the ground. Citizens, associations and NGOs make up their ‘clientele’, whose concerns they meet by carrying out audits, studies, investigations, research and sometimes even proposing innovative technical solutions. Originating in the Netherlands, this ‘science and society’ formula has now spread to much of Europe.
  Traditional agroforestry landscape in the Dauphiné, France. The trees are widely spaced and are isolated or planted in rows or clumps, but always in close vicinity to arable crops. © Fabien Liagre – Agroof
Agricultural research
A growing concern
Could the European countryside be about to undergo radical change? The promising results of the SAFE (Silvoarable Agroforestry For Europe) project, on which 70 researchers from eight countries worked for four years, suggest that this could well be the case. Their work calls into question a growing trend in recent decades associated with the drive to boost agricultural productivity: the disappearance of trees. The findings could well influence the future direction of the common agricultural policy.
  In the centre, in blue, the brown dwarf 2M1207. On its left, in red, the celestial body identified as its exoplanet. © ESO
Capturing distant worlds on film
Very close to the young brown dwarf is a cold object, clearly visible. This sensational picture is causing a frenzy of excitement among astronomers who interpret it(1) as the first picture ever taken of a planet orbiting a star outside the Solar System (an exoplanet). It was taken by a team from the astrophysics laboratory in Grenoble (FR), using the NACO optical system on the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile.