JRC at AAAS 2011

The 2011's Annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science takes place in Washington D.C. from February 17 to 21. The JRC has organised a total of 7 sessions and JRC scientists have been invited to speak in other 4 sessions. Topics covered range from link between water and energy, measurements or biodiversity and protected areas.

JRC at AAAS 2011

At the AAAS Annual meeting 2011, the JRC organised the following seven scientific sessions:

In addition, JRC scientists were invited speakers in other 4 sessions:

Sessions organised by the JRC

Data Cocktails for Biodiversity:
Protected Area Management Without the Hangover

Today, the loss of species is estimated to be up to 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. The cause: human activities. Preserving biodiversity on Earth is a key 21st century challenge -- protected areas are a vital part of the response. 

Effective protected area management deals with complex links between environmental and anthropogenic factors, calling for information gathered by disciplines ranging from biology to sociology, on scales from molecular to global and over time periods of hours to centuries. Borders between disciplines and regions mean large volumes of data have been collected and maintained independently; models using these data were also operated in isolation. The use of distributed computing technology is revolutionizing the way we deal with information, and international initiatives, such as the Group on Earth Observations, encourage different communities to make their systems and applications interoperable. As interdisciplinary issues are tackled, the risk that data and analytical models are misused increases dramatically. The Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA) specifically targets the challenges of multi-scale, cross-disciplinary science for biodiversity protection. It overcomes risks from mixing disconnected data and models with undocumented uncertainties. It connects science from the field with current observations from space. This session will explore the use of data on the Earth's 24 million square miles of terrestrial protected areas.

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Measurements as a Cornerstone of Global Trade and Quality of Life

Innumerable products and services rely in some way on technology, measurement, and standards. We easily understand that from structural tests of building materials to patient blood tests in hospitals, accurate measurements are the foundation of global trade and a better quality of life. 

Most people are familiar with measurement standards for physical units such as the kilogram or the second. However, complex measurements, such as determining what fraction of human proteins function properly, do not have global standards. In such cases, reference materials containing a precise level of a substance or property are developed and produced by specialized institutions and distributed to laboratories around the world. This symposium brings together leading actors from some of the limited number of research centers around the globe with this expertise. Presentations will evidence how traditional boundaries between physics, chemistry, and biology are disappearing. Speakers will underscore how scientists must solve measurement challenges of an ever-increasing complexity and multidisciplinary nature. This work stimulates innovation, fosters industrial competitiveness, and advances the technological infrastructure needed to continually improve products and services. Speakers with direct experience of metrology applied to nutrition in large-scale population studies (United States), environmental monitoring (Korea), and emerging sciences (European Union) will participate.

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Cross-Border Responses to Global Challenges: Can Everybody Win?

This session brings together, for the first time, the experience of a world-renowned and world-class educational institution (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT]), the reference center in pan-European scientific cooperation for policy-making (the Joint Research Centre [JRC]), and the latest initiative taken by 27 European governments to drive sustainable growth and competitiveness through the stimulation of world-leading innovations (European Institute of Innovation and Technology [EIT]).

Speakers will examine the dynamics of what stakes really are at play when so many important decisions on security, education, health, sustainability of the planet, and the exploration of the universe move increasingly from local to national and from regional to global. The focus of the session will be to look at the real-life pros and cons of coordinated, innovative problem-solving across borders through the eyes of organizations tasked with solving the problems. The balance struck between the activities of MIT, JRC, and EIT allows for timely insights into groundbreaking areas of research, new and exciting developments, and cross-cutting activities in support of education, science policy-making, and innovation.

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Atomic Detectives:
Science Behind International Efforts To Combat Nuclear Terrorism

The nuclear security summit of April 2010 aimed at enhancing international cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism, an issue that has been identified as the most immediate and extreme threat to global security. International cooperation at the scientific, technical, and operational level is of key importance for sustainable success in combating illicit nuclear trafficking and nuclear terrorism. The three main steps related to combating illicit trafficking are prevention, detection, and response. 

If prevention fails and nuclear material is detected (through measurement systems or by intelligence), an appropriate response has to be initiated. An essential element of the response process is to provide clues on the origin and intended use of the material (that is, nuclear forensic investigations). The results serve for prosecution and for improving the control of nuclear material at the source (for example, physical protection and safeguards) to prevent future thefts or diversions. This timely session spotlights the forensic science, tools, and tactics operated by the European Union, the United States, and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Speakers will focus on concrete examples to demonstrate how seized nuclear material is analyzed and explain cross-border capacity-building measures. The session will equally underscore current scientific challenges and the extent of ongoing international cooperation.

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Joining Global Efforts in Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction

Natural disasters come in many shapes and sizes. Most are related to the weather. Some are predictable like a hurricane. Some, like an earthquake, surprise us. What is certain is that they cause more fatalities and notable/irreversible damage in developing countries than anywhere else. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the costs are now 15 times greater than in the 1950s, the number has increased 400 percent since 1975, and one-third of the world's population has been affected over the past 10 years.

The phase that follows immediate humanitarian aid is critical, but this may be precisely when the world's watching public loses interest. Often, the resources needed for reconstruction may well exceed the capacity of affected countries. This is why the United Nations, World Bank, and the European Commission are joining their efforts and resources. This session will explain the dynamics behind this emerging process and the details of the Joint Declaration for Post-Disaster Needs Assessment and Recovery Framework (PDNA). Speakers will evidence how combined efforts, for example in Haiti, are already speeding up recovery. In particular, they will provide insights into how shared advances in geospatial and information technologies are key tools to develop the data, assess the damage, and disseminate the results to all stakeholders in the PDNA process. The session will be a timely forerunner to two international workshops taking place in 2011 on this theme.

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Limiting Climate Change:
Reducing Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone Precursors

This session brings together eminent scientists and pressure groups from New York to New Delhi to examine available options that can allow society to deal with the urgent task of mitigating climate change, while continuing to improve living conditions. Speakers will evidence that although reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and other long-lived greenhouse gases are essential for mitigation of long-term climate change, real leverage over near-term climate comes primarily from the tropospheric ozone precursors methane, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds and, at least regionally, from black carbon aerosols. 

Case studies will show how these short-lived pollutants contribute to both global warming and many of the most alarming regional climatic changes, including the melting of Himalayan glaciers and Arctic sea ice and shifts in regional precipitation. They also contribute to air pollution, with adverse effects on human health, agricultural yields, and other social-economic costs. Speakers will argue for a new and more integrated approach, in which emission reductions in specific sectors are optimized to get benefits for air quality and climate. Presentations will show how this can be more robust and more cost-effective than policies that aim at air quality and climate targets separately. This session will report on recent studies in support of an assessment by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) of the above-mentioned options.

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The Energy and Water Nexus: Turning a Double Problem into a Solution

The two major challenges facing humanity today are related. Despite technological progress, society is incapable of providing the world's population with two basic needs: energy and water. By 2050, the global population is expected to level off at between 9 and 10 billion people -- 50 percent more of us than there are today. Population growth is pushing food production systems to new limits. Food production, estimated by the FAO to double by 2050, is in turn increasingly water and energy dependent, and in competition with energy for transportation and power. 

Fighting climate change may further increase the tension between the two and force trade-offs over water use by an increasingly decarbonized energy system. This session brings together experts from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and European Union to examine the growing inter-linkage between energy and water systems. Can biofuels or biomass see us through, or do they represent a growing strain on water systems? What is the hidden impact of cooling water needs for "green technologies" such as concentrated solar power, nuclear energy, and carbon capture and storage? The latest insights into innovative, multidisciplinary approaches to solving the energy and water nexus will underpin the discussion.

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JRC scientists invited to speak in other sessions

Energy Efficiency in Europe and the United States:
Success Stories and Future Potentials

Providing energy on a reliable and sustainable basis to improve energy efficiency is one of the most crucial challenges the world is facing today. This symposium will contribute to a vital dialog across the Atlantic about what has been achieved and still has to be done to build a more energy-efficient society. Experts from Europe and the United States will share their experience of the past and ideas for the future. The Joint Research Center of the European Commission will present research and development projects on end-use efficiency.

The application of this research in the development of codes of practice and European policies will be discussed. Research on energy efficiency includes technologies such as Solid State Lighting, efficient electric motors and power supplies, or building insulation. The contribution to energy efficiency of one of the most innovative regions in Europe, the state of Baden-Württemberg, located in the German Southwest, will be presented. The focus will be on international collaboration in energy efficiency science and technologies. An interdisciplinary perspective on energy efficiency science and its applications will be given by the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE), located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is partnered within the Fraunhofer-MIT-Alliance, which brings together Europe's leading research organization and one of America's most renowned universities, combining world-leading experience to tackle today's critical energy questions.

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Promoting Security and Sustaining Privacy:
How Do We Find the Right Balance?

We often consider data security to include confidentiality, so security and privacy are generally seen as being two sides of the same coin. If we broaden security to concerns about terrorism and serious crime, then increases in security often come at the expense of reduced privacy. Similarly, companies wishing to personalize the services offered to customers often infringe on the privacy of individuals. Actions by agencies can be direct and targeted at individual suspects or may be more generally applied. 

An example of a broader targeting approach is the amalgamation and analysis of content across social network sites in an attempt to identify anomalous behavior and predict intent. Although the various actors may have benign objectives, understanding the relationship between security and privacy is imperative to ensure against malign abuses. The core questions include the following: Can we develop an appropriate measure of the risks involved when security and privacy are traded off against each other? Is a sociological shift in expectations on privacy possible? Are there ways of robustly modeling such issues with a view to optimizing the balance between security and privacy? This problem requires collaboration between computer scientists, philosophers, and social scientists. In this symposium, we will explore ways to balance security and privacy, especially in today's interconnected world in which different countries may have different notions of security and privacy.

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Space Weather: The Next Big Solar Storm Could Be a Global Katrina

We are increasingly realizing the importance of space weather, i.e., the dynamics of near-Earth space and the sun, as a critical element of Earth’s environment. This is happening as our economic and security infrastructures have expanded far above Earth's atmosphere into space. Space has no borders. Our satellites all share the same orbits, and the impacts of space weather affect the entire planet, including airline transportation, navigation, communication, and electric power generation. The coupled sun-Earth system is far too vast and complex for any single nation or region to monitor and predict.

Through global coordination, we have the opportunity to improve our understanding of this critical component of Earth’s environment and to prepare for the continuous growth in our reliance on space-based assets. This symposium will explore the state of our understanding of space weather as well as strategies for coordinating our global efforts to mitigate its impacts. Recent efforts have focused on the international coordination of our research and services, as well as the development of our emergency-management-response procedures for large-scale infrastructure damage caused by space weather. The presentations and discussion at this symposium are intended to foster a greater awareness of space weather as a critical component of Earth’s environment and to increase opportunities to cooperate across borders to enhance our science and our preparedness.

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International Neighbourhood Watch:
Citizen Scientists and International Security

Continued developments in science and technology have given small groups and even individuals the power to commit harm that historically only states could. But this decentralization of capability has also given nongovernmental groups and individuals the means to detect illicit and unsavory activities in ways that only state or international law enforcement, intelligence, and monitoring systems could, and these means, in many cases, exceed the capabilities that any but the largest countries and organizations had until recently.

This session will explore the ability of scientists, engineers, and analysts, acting on their own or through nongovernmental (or non–security-related governmental) and civil society organizations, to observe or infer the existence of activities that threaten international security. How can technology and alert practitioners, ranging from seismologists to photo interpreters to data miners, supplement national and international law enforcement and intelligence systems to uncover threats to international security that others would prefer to keep hidden? How do these additional inputs complicate states' efforts to monitor each other’s behavior?

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