In addition to advancing
knowledge and improving practice, science is now being called on to assist
in the protection of people and the environment, and to contribute to
sustainability in industry and in lifestyles. In this, 'precaution' has
become a new guiding principle.
When they are engaged on these tasks, researchers are now frequently in
a situation where facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high
and decisions urgent. They must appreciate that their expertise is but
one among several elements of a policy processes. Their contributions
can help to define the range of possible outcomes, but they can not determine
unique policy solutions. This context is so different from that of traditional
research, that it is well described as 'post-normal'.
For the public, science is no longer a closed area of exclusive expertise.
Rather, it is an endeavour which is open to comment, criticism and, some
time, participation. In this way there develops an 'extended peer community',
where those with different perspectives come to dialogue and to learn
from each other.
This new post-normal style is coherent with the general movement towards
greater public accountability and participation, which is now being articulated
at many levels within the EU.
ISIS (Joint Research Centre)
role for the universities?
Is Society willing to pay for the Core Business of Universities ?
In the last century, the universities have been tremendous knowledge factories,
in creating new knowledge through research. This has given the material
and basis for our modern society. As the second half of the last century
also saw a vast increase in the number of students, we face a situation
where almost half of future generations will take higher education in
some form. Intellectual capital is considered to be the most important
asset to secure a competitive national economy.
The core business of universities has become the core business of society.
But this awareness also has its consequences. Politicians want visible
return on the money spent. As a consequence, there are new demands on
the universities. They are expected to contribute more directly to innovation
and economic activity through contract research and in helping to establish
new companies based on the research results obtained by their professors.
At the same time, new actors are entering the educational market.
By demanding too much from universities, society weakens the core business
of research and education. The key question now is whether society is
willing to pay for the added value universities represent, namely a broad
intellectual environment that provides a basis for the widest possible
understanding and the healthy development of society.
Rector of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
sciences and nuclear research
from a letter from Erik Laes, researcher at the SCK-CEN (Studiecentrum
voor Kernergie - Centre d'Etude de l'Energie Nucléaire) in Mol.
In 'the age of risk', people feel insecure about the future. In this social
context of uncertainty, a new concept for policy making at the global
and local level has emerged: Sustainable Development. At present, the
nuclear expert is struggling with society, and he paradoxically lacks
a scientific approach and insight in complex human behaviour and societal
interaction. SCK-CEN already had some experience with multidisciplinary
projects (e.g. extending the research on nuclear complexity to economics
and liability), but in 1998 the board of directors decided to integrate
social sciences in a more co-ordinated way.
An original transdisciplinary approach was set up. A horizontal program
manager is co-ordinating 4 projects, joining 4 senior project leaders,
7 young scientists in social sciences and humanities, and interested SCK-CEN
experts. University professors and experts from different disciplines
and backgrounds accompany the projects. All researchers involved meet
monthly in two reflection groups, with active participation of SCK-CEN's
top management. These working groups are discussing two broad items: ethical
choices in radiation protection - focussing on ALARA(1)
and the precautionary principle within the context of new trends in low
dose effects, such as genetic susceptibility - and nuclear expert: role
and culture - analysing expert attitudes, behaviour and dilemmas in nuclear
problem solving and communication. The four projects are:
aspects and liability - trying to bridge the gap between law and complex
and nuclear development - looking through Technology Assessment on criteria
for Sustainable Development;
ethics related to the disposal of long-lived radwaste - exploring ethical
aspects when dealing with the time scales under consideration;
communication and risk perception - studying risk perception in the
situation of a nuclear incident or accident and its relation with communication
and emergency management.
of trust will require the integration of humanities and social sciences
in a transdisciplinary problem solving approach, far beyond the technical
dimension. Members of the academic community who show interest in our
projects can always contact us.
(1) Editor's note: general principle of radioprotection
whereby exposure to these rays is As Low As Reasonably Achievable.
Researcher on Sustainability and Nuclear Development SCK-CEN - Mol (Belgium)
When it comes to numbers
the beginnings of certainty
In the latest report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change), climatologists are increasingly categoric about the process
of global warming. The 20th century saw an overall rise in the temperature
of the earth's atmosphere of around 0.6°C - the biggest increase
for a thousand years - and this was most marked during the last decade
when 1998 beat all records. During the second half of the century, the
area of snow cover in winter on land and of ice on seas in the Northern
Hemisphere during spring and summer fell by approximately 10-15%, with
a 40% reduction in the thickness of the Arctic ice field over recent
years. Sea levels have risen by an average of 10-20 cm over the past
100 years. Climatologists predict an increase in the globe's average
temperature of 1.5-6°C before the end of the century (as opposed
to the 1.0-3.5°C announced in 1995) and a rise in sea levels of
latest S&T indicators
The figures below are taken from a new booklet, 'Science, Technology
and Innovation - Key Figures 2000', which summarises the results of
analyses of comparative development indicators for the research and
development performances of the European Union, its Member States, the
United States and Japan.
Contact: Jean Bourlès,
In 1999, technology-intensive industrial and services activities represented
just 20% of total employment in the Union, but experienced a job creation
dynamic double that of the rest of the 'traditional' economy (1.7% compared
to 0.9% in industry and 6.4% compared to 3% in the services).
in the knowledge-based society
The percentage of GDP devoted to research by the EU remains low and
stationary (1.8% since 1994), whereas - following a temporary dip -
R&D investments by its competitors now show a clear increase (2.7%
of GDP in the United States and 3.1% in Japan).
Just 5.1% of the EU's working population is employed in research, compared
to 7.4% in the USA and 8.9% in Japan. The difference is even more marked
if only research posts offered directly by industry are taken into account.
In 1998, 37.8% of scientific works published worldwide came from Europeans
(an increase of 1.7% on the previous year), with the Americans publishing
32.9% (down by 2.1%). But it was US publications that were the most
frequently cited (51%), despite an increase in European citations (up
by 2.1% to 38.2%). 53% of patents registered in Europe come from outside
the EU, whereas the share of patents registered by EU countries on the
US and Japanese markets remains very small.
of trans-European cooperation
Indicators of cooperation between companies engaged in innovative activities
give a clear lead to the Scandinavian countries.