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.
At the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the JRC has presented 10 symposia on topics ranging from animal cloning and soil protection to nuclear forensics and biometrics in border management. Over 30 partner organisations participated in these sessions, with speakers from e.g. London School of Economics, EUMETSAT, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency and several other well-respected organisations, universities and companies.
Technological developments in animal cloning are approaching the point at which the commercial use of cloned animals in food production is starting to attract public attention and raise policy issues. This technology may become economically significant and deliver beneficial goods to society, but it also raises controversial issues.
Information on the location, condition, and evolution of resources, the environment, and other critical societal functions in Africa is an important step toward sustainability and reaching the Millennium Development Goals. Unfortunately, such information can be hard to get, though Earth-observing satellite information and communication technologies can help fill the gap.
Several African nations are beginning to develop this capacity, but this project needs to be supported. The speakers present pertinent examples of science and technology transfer solutions and demonstrate the role technologies can play in helping Africa’s people eradicate poverty, sustain environment, and prevent conflicts.
The JRC Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) and Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen (IPSC) have for several years been engaged in researching into advanced techniques for extracting and analyzing information from satellite sensors. And advances made with regard to these techniques, are being applied today by the JRC to serve a number of EU policies concerned with sustainable development and global security.
This session is focusing on methodologies to assess the quality of soil and the need for protective measures to ensure the sustainable use of this key natural resource to support the well-being of people, particularly in developing countries.
Soil resources are limited on a global scale. Sustainable management of these limited resources requires implementation of innovative technologies based on in-depth knowledge of soil functioning and its chemical and physical properties. The high spatial variability of soil properties requires the integration of detailed knowledge of soil properties with geographic information system and spatial analysis tools.
This session covers the use of novel and innovative developments in the field of digital soil mapping to assess world soil resources and the implications for soil protection policies at global, regional, and national scales.
Digital soil mapping involves the creation of a spatial soil information system using field and laboratory observation methods coupled with quantitative spatial prediction techniques. Digital soil mapping follows the advancement in soil and environmental observations using proximal and remote sensing. It also utilises contemporary mathematical and statistical techniques that allow better prediction of soil properties in areas with little or no information as well as indicating the uncertainty of such predictions.
Digital soil mapping can be thought of as a means for modernising and systematising traditional soil survey. Digital soil mapping allows for a more accurate and efficient prediction of soil properties through optimal sampling strategies, rapid analysis of soil properties, rapid acquisition of environmental variables over large extent.
Currently a global consortium has been formed to generate a global soil map with a resolution of 90 m × 90 m using this new technology.
Speakers at this session present examples of applications of open source intelligence in the security field, including crisis management, where information derived from Internet and satellite sources are proving to be increasingly relevant and important. The speakers also present the state of the art in information extraction and analysis techniques and discuss future challenges they foresee in such techniques with respect to new applications and new sources of information such as very high resolution radar satellite data, blogs, and audio-visual.
The JRC Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen has for several years been engaged in researching into advanced techniques for automatic mining, extracting and analyzing information from the Web and also for automatic image information mining, extraction and interpretation from very high resolution satellite sensors. Advances made with regard to these techniques are being applied today to specific EU security policies concerned with improving the EU’s effectiveness in crisis management and conflict prevention.
IPSC activities in the field of webmining
IPSC activities in the field of external security
Factsheet: Multilingual news gathering, information mining and analysis
Factsheet: Health Emergency & Disease Information System
Concerns over energy resource availability, climate change, air quality, and energy security suggest an important role for nuclear power in future energy supplies. Governments, industry, and the research community worldwide have launched a wide-ranging discussion on the development of next-generation nuclear energy systems known as generation IV.
Because the next generation of nuclear energy systems will address needed areas of improvement and offer great potential, many countries share a common interest in advanced research and development.
Nuclear and radiological terrorism as major security challenges for the 21st century are a fact, not a fictional threat. Citizens internationally are aware of efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to protect them against the associated hazards, but are they fully in the picture with regard to what is going on behind the scenes and how science is playing a key role?
The beneficial aspects of nanotechnology for human health are expected to improve the quality of life for everyone. Applications of nanotechnology in medicine have the potential to improve the standard of health-care across the population by earlier and better diagnosis and by new therapies especially for those diseases that cause the most suffering for patients and the highest burden on society.
Many areas of nanotechnology do not present new hazards for human health and the environment, and in general, the present regulatory frameworks applied (e.g., in the United States and the European Union) seem to be sufficiently broad and flexible to handle most of the nanotechnology developments.
The management of highly radioactive waste is the main public concern hindering the acceptance of nuclear energy. However, if nuclear energy has to contribute to the fulfilment of growing energy needs and to the diversification of energy sources (also in view of climate change concerns), it is imperative to explore the different scenarios for nuclear waste minimisation that are under discussion
The symposium touches upon issues at the heart of the debate on animal testing, chemicals, health, the role of big business, and the duty of policy-makers to protect citizens. Work toward the greater safety control of cosmetics has helped to pioneer other areas of science that, in turn, have generated new toxicological toolboxes.
Enhanced border control is an urgent priority of most governments. Whereas current biometric technologies can help, what are the grand challenges in border security? Which technological breakthroughs are still needed? This symposium addresses the application of biometrics in border management from different perspectives: political, technological, and ethical.