JRC at AAAS 2012

The 2012's Annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science takes place in Vancouver from February 16 to 20. The JRC has organised 3 sessions and JRC scientists have been invited to speak in other 3 sessions. Topics covered are permafrost soils, ICT and food security, space weather, climate change, assistive technologies and GMOs.

JRC at AAAS 2012

At the AAAS Annual meeting 2012, the JRC organised the following 3 scientific sessions:

In addition, JRC scientists were invited speakers in other 3 sessions:

Sessions organised by the JRC

Applying Assistive Technology To Improve Quality of Life

About 10 percent of the world's population live with a disability, and the aging population is one of the main challenges of the 21st century for developed countries. Recent improvements in computer science and new technologies have opened new perspectives on ways to help aging and disabled people.

Assistive technology has been applied for years, but it is not yet available to everybody. Major barriers include the availability of effective and affordable assistive technology and the necessity of individual tailoring. These issues have implications for research and development (R&D). Experts should involve end-users in their studies to ensure that information and communication technologies (ICTs) themselves do not end up creating barriers by being too complex or inaccessible. In spite of some progress, major improvement can be achieved by accelerating the uptake of ICT innovations, focusing on interoperability, reducing complexity, and promoting ways to cater to people with special needs through mainstream technologies. The scope of this session will be to discuss how these technologies can be improved, the challenges in R&D for coping with people's needs, and ways that service delivery can be enhanced and improved.

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  • Hans-Georg Frantz, FH Joanneum Gesellschaft mbH, Austria
    An RFID Based Indoor Navigation System for Visually Impaired and Blind People
  • Pierre Dumouchel, Centre de Recherche Appliquée en Technologies de l'Information (CRIM), Canada
    Research and Technology in Canada: How Can Technology Help Disabled People?
  • Stephan Lechner, European Commission, JRC Institute for Protection and Security of the Citizen
    E-Inclusion in Europe file [345 KB]

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The Role of Information and Communications Technology in Making Sense of Global Food Prices

Access to food in many countries is recurrently at risk due, among other reasons, to unexpected increases in the international commodity and food prices. The rationale behind commodity price spikes is complex. However, it seems clear that sudden market or policy reactions amplify the impacts.

To increase transparency and avoid these sudden reactions, international organizations are providing agro-economic monitoring tools. Research can and must contribute. It can be particularly useful in providing short- and medium-term market outlooks for agricultural commodities and their links to farm level impacts, which have some influence on investment, production, and policy decisions. Information and communication technologies also have a prominent role to play to adequately disseminate this information. Core questions include the following: What kind of information is needed for the different actors and levels (global, regional, and local) to better tackle food provision and food security issues? How can information from deterministic economic and food outlooks potentially mislead decision-makers and investors? And, finally, how can global partnerships contribute to the timely dissemination of validated information on the food sector? The solution requires collaboration between economists, market analysts, and information technologists. This symposium explores explore ways to "leak" information, to allow decision-making based on well-founded data and contribute to avoiding food crises.

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Northern Soils: What If They Thaw?

Regions above the latitude of 50°N (boreal and arctic regions) represent 16 percent of global land surface. So far, the public perception has focused on the melting of arctic ice as one of the indicators for climate change. However, 1,700 billion tons of organic carbon are kept in the soils of these regions, and their thawing could lead to the substantial release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and would further increase global warming.

Organic carbon in soils is the biggest terrestrial carbon pool and presents an important factor in future climate-change projections. Permanently frozen grounds, together with extensive peat lands, ensure that those soils are a significant carbon sink. These important carbon stores need special attention because the regions that house them are expected to warm more rapidly than the rest of the world. Similarly to what happens when you pull the electricity plug of a freezer, decomposition of organic matter starts with increased temperatures and leads, in the case of soil, to emissions of carbon dioxide and methane.
This scenario could have a large effect on the current atmospheric greenhouse gas balance. Additional consequences of these dramatic changes in the soils in these areas are related to the disruption of infrastructure and urban areas due to thawing of the underlying permafrost. Research aims to address these topics through extensive monitoring of the status of these soils as well as through modeling of possible scenarios affecting this part of the globe.

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  • Luca Montanarella, European Commission, JRC Institute for Environment and Sustainability
    What Lies Beneath the Soils of the Northern Circumpolar Region? file [5 MB]
  • Charles Tarnocai, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
    Soil Organic Carbon Pools in the Northern Circumpolar Region
  • Charles Koven, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    Frozen Soil Carbon and Its Impact on Climate Change

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JRC scientists invited to speak in other sessions

Conquering the Final Frontier: The Importance of Space Technologies in All that We Do

Famous futurologist Alvin Toffler observed trends in wealth creation in the postindustrial society: everywhere (globalization), nowhere (cyberspace), and out there (outer space). Space technologies are already becoming an integral part of modern society.

Satellite navigation based on the global positioning system (GPS) has become the basis for precision time and accurate location used worldwide by cellular phones, electrical power networks, and banking. GPS supports just-in-time manufacturing and worldwide logistics chains through precise tracking and is becoming central to commercial aviation. Satellite-based remote sensing supports improved agricultural productivity through high-precision farming and accurate weather forecasts, and helps in crisis management and disaster situation assessment. What are the most urgent challenges in space of the 21st century? Which kind of threats do we face from the outer space? How can we exploit space for the good of all humanity? How are space scientists collaborating across the globe? The symposium will bring together leading scientists and visionaries to present a unique perspective on the role of space science in meeting some of the most important challenges of the modern world.

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Exploding Myths on Reactor Security, Harm Reduction, and Genetically Modified Organisms

This session explores myths about the seldom-seen science behind some of today's most controversial public policy issues. Case studies will spotlight that crucial interface between science, policy, and society vis-à-vis nuclear energy, crop innovations (gentically modified organisms [GMOs]), and harm reduction (tobacco). Accepting that societal problems are not necessarily problems with purely scientific solutions, speakers will argue that calculated risks are fundamental to realizing proven benefits.

Fukushima or not, why is it so difficult to separate fact from fiction on nuclear reactor safety and waste management solutions? What are the known and unknown implications of innovation in biotechnology and genetic engineering? Is tobacco harm reduction the greatest public health imperative today or is quit or die enough? Their common cause will be to demonstrate that innovative science is ever more prevalent and important. Their common aim will be to urge the wider scientific community to think — and act — in the global interest, while pressing the reset button for evidence-based policy above policy-biased evidence.
Their approach will not be to assume that scientific consensus can exist or to frame issues as science versus the public with science in the right. Yet, governments face challenges in terms of how science is viewed and used, with the gap between public perceptions and scientific realities widening. Citizens are, nevertheless, unequivocal in their support for finding solutions to global issues.

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Non–Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Gases and Aerosols: Climate Science Information for Decisions

While carbon dioxide increases are estimated to be the single biggest contributor to the human-induced forcing of climate change, other species have also perturbed the climate system. This session will focus on the physical and chemical aspects of these non–carbon dioxide species; how they have forced the climate system; how they will contribute in the future; what are the telltale signatures of these agents; what have been and will be the impacts of these changes on climate, including precipitation and air quality; how to improve the level of confidence in the scientific knowledge; and how can the knowledge be framed as inputs into decision-making.

Important advancements have occurred in the scientific understanding of the processes governing the climate- and air quality–relevant properties using observations and models. Of particular interest are the effects of the non–carbon-based greenhouse gases, including stratospheric and tropospheric ozone, and the different types of aerosols on the key climate variables such as temperature and rainfall.
The geographical distribution and temporal variations of the climate change due to these species are to be compared with those estimated for carbon dioxide–related changes, with the impacts becoming significant considerations for adaptation and mitigation decisions. The scientific basis, including the characterization and quantification of uncertainties, enables sound inputs into the policy discussions.

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