EU adds ethics to Framework

September 14, 2001

The EU's 6th Framework Programme is likely to cut funds to experiments using primates and to marine science. Keith Nuthall reports

Hints about the likely shape of the European Union's 6th Framework Programme on research (FP6) have been emerging and, according to officials, one of the big losers could be studies that involve experiments on primates.

Etienne Magnien, head of life sciences policy at the European Commission's research directorate-general, told the Brussels news service Cordis News that plans were being formed for a "complete and consistent framework" or a "code of conduct guiding researchers" seeking European funds.

He confirmed that European studies on chimpanzees, which are carried out in the Netherlands, are one of a number of areas of concern that these guidelines would address.

Magnien claimed that such guidelines would help satisfy the European Parliament, which has been "suggesting that the ethical framework for FP6 should be reinforced".

The commission has also been trying to allay the fears of marine scientists that there will be less money for their studies under FP6 than there was in the previous programme.

A commission spokesperson who spoke through Cordis confirmed that some marine research projects would be cut to make way for more pressing priorities. He said that this was merely a "streamlining exercise" and that work on marine ecology, biodiversity and seafood safety would be incorporated into environmental and food research programmes.

Earlier this year, Norway, which participates in some EU programmes despite not being an EU member state, called for more, not less, funds for EU marine research.

The commission spokesperson added that a contingency fund set aside for unforeseen demands could be used for studying "breakthroughs" or "gaps" in research.

The role of FP6 in tackling environmental issues has been highlighted by research commissioner Philippe Busquin.

Speaking at the Greens/European Free Alliance Research Forum, he said:

"Research is indispensable to environmental policy and to Europe's sustainable development strategy. To tackle the political challenge of an ambitious strategy, we must carry out more and more research and continue to build our knowledge. Only a truly European research area, well-established and organised, can ensure such progress."

Busquin said issues such as global climate change and sustainable development would be key priorities in FP6.

  • EU ministers have been asked to approve a plan to gather new European statistics on science and technology to help improve policy guidance from Brussels.

The European Commission has formally proposed that the EU has a legal duty to collect figures on innovation, human resources devoted to science and technology, patent statistics and figures relating to high technology, which would include the identification and classification of products and services, the measurement of their economic performance and their contribution to growth generally.

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