Brussels, 03 Dec 2004
The 2004 EU Descartes prize ceremony, which took place in Prague castle on 2 December in the presence on European personalities such as Czech President Vaclav Klaus, EU Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potocnik, British broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and numerous renowned scientists, turned out to be a remarkable success, as CORDIS News found out.
This year's ceremony was different from previous Descartes ceremonies in that in addition to the one million euro prize for outstanding cross-border research, which was awarded by Mr Potocnik to two pan-European teams in the field of life sciences and physics; a new 250,000 euro EU Descartes Prize for Science Communication rewarded five personalities for their role in bringing science and technology to wider audiences in Europe.
'This year's Descartes prize is an extraordinary success from several points of view,' George Vlandas from the Science and Society Directorate in DG Research told CORDIS News. 'Firstly, the prize is in its fifth year and is starting to get recognition and prestige, which is a valorisation of the work of the European Commission. Secondly we have launched a new prize, which is already showing much promise. Thirdly, 115 journalists came to Prague to cover the event. This is more than double the numbers we got for previous years,' added Mr Vlandas.
The fact that the president of a Member State participated in the ceremony for the first time also illustrated the importance of this unique European prize.
Asked to give his opinion on the ceremony, 2001 Descartes Prize Winner Jan Balzarini from the University of Leuven in Belgium expressed his admiration.
'The ceremony has improved tremendously over the years. It has more style and more dignity. The prize, with this year's ceremony, has achieved the prestige it deserves,' Professor Balzarini told CORDIS News.
'Over the years, we have consolidated our partnerships and the process is widening and enlarging,' explained Mr Vlandas. 'A European Descartes family is developing and we are extremely pleased about this. More and more people are realising the importance of this prize'.
As the joint winner of the Descartes prize for outstanding cross-border research, professor Howard Trevor Jacobs, coordinator of the project MBAD (Mitochondrial Biogenesis, Ageing and Disease) said in his acceptance speech: 'The Descartes prize is unusual in a number of respects. Firstly it is awarded to a team of researchers, not an individual. It thus embodies the spirit of collective action and international collaboration that the European Unions seeks, as one of its founding principles, to promote. Secondly, the prize-winners use the very generous award not for personal enrichment, but to fertilise still further the soil of European scientific endeavour. Thirdly, it emphasises not only scientific excellence and effectiveness in collaboration, but also a social dimension in research, since it is rewarded within the framework of the EU's Science and Society programme.'
The other winner of the Descartes prize was Professor Anders Karlsson for his IST project QuComm (Long Distance Photonic Quantum Communication). He stated: 'With the Descartes award we as scientists and science policy makers have a good vehicle to highlight the joy of discovery in science, and to show that the results of science matter in society. That the prize is for collaborative research also furthermore needs to be stressed. Science today is an international multicultural and society activity.'
Asked about next year's prize, Mr Vlandas told CORDIS News that the new call for proposals would be published on 15 December and that a system of nomination would be introduced alongside the current system of self-nomination.
'We are also in contact with the UK and the Royal Society to see if we can organise the 2005 Descartes prize in London to coincide with the UK's EU presidency,' Mr Vlandas said.
For further information on the Descartes prize, please visit:
For further information on the MBAD project, please go to:
For further information on the QUComm project, please visit: