We are doing science for policy
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
A new international study by JRC's Institute for Reference Materials and measurements (IRMM) suggests that the majority of laboratories around the world are capable of effectively testing for the presence of melamine in food. The study's results show that levels of the harmful substance in food samples can be accurately measured by the majority of laboratories tested, suggesting that the global response to the Chinese contaminated milk scare of 2008 has been effective.
114 analytical laboratories from around the world volunteered to put their measurement competence to the test for the study, which was organised and carried out by the JRC at the request of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection. Carefully prepared samples of contaminated milk powder and baking mix were sent to the laboratories for testing without revealing the known levels of melamine present. Participating laboratories measured the melamine content of these 'blind' samples to the best of their abilities and reported their results back to the JRC.
Laboratories from 31 countries participated in the test, including Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the United States of America, as well as 21 of the 27 EU Member States.
ERAWATCH, the European Commission's on-line information platform on research systems and policies in Europe, has published its 2008 Analytical Country Reports on research in individual EU Member States. The reports assess the performance of national research systems and enable the comparison of one country with another. This is the first time all 27 Member States have been covered.
Ireland's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Patrick Cunningham, made an extensive tour of over ten laboratories during a three-day visit to the JRC's Ispra site before chairing the African Session of the remote sensing conference in Stresa (Italy). During a guest lecture to staff he outlined his vision of the greatest challenges facing the planet today.
Scientists, engineers, policy-makers and industry representatives from around the world are gathering in Stresa, Italy, for the 33rd International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE). Jointly organised by the JRC and the International Center for Remote Sensing of Environment (Tucson, USA), the conference will focus on the use of Earth Observation systems and airborne techniques for understanding and managing our environment and natural resources.
The April edition of the JRC Newsletter has been published and can be downloaded here. It features an editorial by William Stokes of the US Interagency Centre for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM), on the signing of a cooperation agreement on validating alternatives to animal testing with the JRC. This month's edition also covers news of the JRC's involvement in disaster management in earthquake-struck L'Aquila, on assessing the environmental performance of buildings and studying the impact of climate change on ecosystems in the Adriatic Sea.
On Friday, 24 April, a flood warning for the river Po in northern Italy was issued by the European Flood Alert System (EFAS). EFAS, which is currently under development and hosted by the JRC's Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES), sent the flood alert to the regional water authorities (ARPA-SIM, Emilia-Romana), national partner organisations and the Italian Environment and Protection Institute (Instituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale). The system forecasted a high probability of flooding for the Po from 27 April onwards with a peak of the flood wave between the 28th and 29th. The EFAS alert was thus sent 4-5 days in advance, which confirms the system's potential as and effective early warning system.
Following the earthquake of 6 April 2009 near L'Aquila in the Abruzzo region of Italy, the European Commission-operated Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) has been closely following the situation on the ground in an effort to support management of the disaster.
In the first phases of the event, maps and situation reports produced by the JRC's Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen (IPSC) have been used in order to give an overall assessment to the MIC and to all civil protection agencies in Europe.
Two JRC experts also participated, along with an international team of engineers, in a post-earthquake field reconnaissance mission to survey damage to buildings and lifelines and examine geotechnical failures with a view to improving design and retrofitting. By sharing assessment techniques and methods, the presence of international experts contributes to the effectivness of operations. European experts from France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and the JRC collaborated with engineers of the Italian Civil Protection in the damage assessment to private buildings, as well as to buildings of historic and artistic value.
Closely supported by JRC-IPSC, the MIC is the operational heart of the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection. It serves as a communications hub at the centre of emergency relief operations, disseminates information on civil protection preparedness and supports co-ordination, facilitating the provision of European assistance through the Mechanism.
The core mission of IPSC's European Laboratory for Structural Assessment is to carry out research on structural behaviour of buildings and performs vulnerability assessment of civil infrastructures.
Further IPSC scientific and technical crisis management tools include the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS), providing a platform for stakeholders in international disaster response to exchange disaster-related information and automated analysis of satellite images for the processing, interpretation and analysis of geo-spatial data, which helps to quantify damages following conflicts or humanitarian and natural disasters.
Global efforts to promote alternatives to testing on animals have received a significant boost today, 27 April, through the signing of a cooperation agreement by the JRC and a number of international bodies tasked with the validation of alternative test methods.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the JRC Ispra site, a brochure on the site's evolution through the decades has been produced.
The JRC has published a report on possible additional policies aimed at improving the environmental performance of buildings. Authored by Andreas Uihlein and Peter Eder of the JRC Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), the report assesses the various barriers to energy efficiency and looks at measures necessary to overcome them.