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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N° 49 - May 2006    
 Security: research under starter’s orders
 ITER settles in Cadarache
 Mapping the contours of humanity
 On the trail of the human phenomenon
 Ene Ergma: the political physicist
 The enigma of the blue algae
 The virtual encyclopaedia of fish

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Demography & Family - The changing face of the family Demography & Family - The changing face of the family

Europe is ageing, the age pyramid is being turned on its head and families are breaking up and new ones reconstituted. Meanwhile, women are trying to juggle work and family life and giving birth to fewer and fewer children. This dossier presents an analysis of the fundamental changes in society through the filter of various European projects.


  On 7 July 2005, in London, three explosions ripped through the Underground. © De Malglaice-Lafargue/Gamma-Photo News
Security: research under starter’s orders
On the long road – stretching back 15 years already – leading to the development of a genuine European security and defence policy, research and technology co-operation is making major strides. In addition to the progress achieved through increased military and diplomatic collaboration between Member States in a field that was once conceived along purely national lines, the EU’s role in supporting research is conducive to the implementation of a common policy. After three ‘pilot’ years of a preparatory action launched in 2004, security research is now set to become a fully-fledged research field for which the Commission has proposed a budget of around €1 billion over the seven years of the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013).  
  The ITER construction site in Cadarache
ITER settles in Cadarache
Would it be Japan or Europe? Few scientific events attract the media attention that surrounded the announcement, in 2005, of the international agreement on the construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor – otherwise known as ITER. On the day, the final choice was the Cadarache site, in France, which had been the European Union’s preference. A public debate is now being launched in the region to present the project as the international scientific teams come together and the seven project partners put the finishing touches to the project. All in all, this is the ideal moment to take a look at the progress of operations and the scientific and technological challenges ITER will be facing.
  Graphic element
NEST-Pathfinder Initiative
Mapping the contours of humanity
The ability to understand and to express emotions, a sense of orientation and inventiveness, plus fear, suffering and a need for others are all most certainly human characteristics. But they are not necessarily unique to humankind. A number of interlinked multidisciplinary research projects supported by the European Commission as part of the NEST (New and Emerging Science and Technology) initiative are currently endeavouring to understand our evolution and what sets us apart from other species.
  A little girl sleeping in a cage. © Michel Vanden Eeckhoudt
Pathfinder projects
On the trail of the human phenomenon
Eight new Pathfinder projects are now well and truly up and running. They are trying to understand the essence of what constitutes our humanity – that ‘little difference’ that gives us a special place in the living world.
  Ene Ergma
Ene Ergma: the political physicist
Originating from the outer limits of the European Union and one of its smallest Member States has never stopped Ene Ergma from saying what she thinks about the big issues of European science. Trained in her speciality by the cream of Soviet physicists, this energetic and determined woman has climbed the rungs of democratic power with her ability to learn and desire to communicate intact.
  The sea polluted by a profusion of cyanobacteria – Denmark © Kirsten S. Christoffersen
The enigma of the blue algae
Formerly known as ‘blue algae’ and widely dispersed in freshwater – both drinking water and bathing water – cyanobacteria are unicellular organisms that secrete dangerous toxins. Researchers on the European project PEPCY (PEPtides in CYanobacteria) are trying to gain a better understanding of the harmful effects of these surprising creatures by concentrating on the peptides they synthesize. Their results are bringing about progress in a field where many questions still remain unanswered.
  Rhinopias aphanes – New Guinea © Mary Jane Adams
Marine biodiversity
The virtual encyclopaedia of fish
With 29 200 species, more than 211 200 common names in ten languages, almost 41 000 photos, references to over 37 500 scientific articles, 1 300 collaborators and 23 million hits a month, FishBase is unique. Created with the support of the European Union and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Fishbase is the biggest ichthyological virtual library in the world. It can be used by anybody – fishing professionals, scientists or the merely curious – seeking to find out more about the characteristics and biodiversity of fish resources in all the seas and oceans on the planet.