Life sciences and EU citizens: European think tank fosters better understanding between bio-sciences and society

May 9, 2002

Brussels, 8 May 2002

At a meeting in Granada on 7 May, the European Group on Life Sciences (EGLS), reporting to Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, set its agenda for the year to come. EGLS's work programme is based on the assumption that a major effort to fund science (particularly in connection to human health) is necessary to make the most of life science research in Europe.

Issues addressed by EGLS included the role of Life Sciences in sustainable agriculture, especially in Developing Countries, life science communication in the media, and the interaction between new biological knowledge and culture.

A particular attention should be devoted to encouraging young people to engage in scientific careers: young scientists should be fully involved in achieving the March 2000 Lisbon European Council objective of turning the EU into the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world. EGLS analyses developments in life sciences and contributes to EU policy debate. It aims at fostering dialogue between researchers, policy makers and society on life sciences. EGLS welcomed 4 new members and inaugurated its new president(1).

Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said: "I welcome timely advice from EGLS on life sciences. The Group is in a good position to participate in the scientific debate across Europe. It can also put forward new initiatives at EU level that will show our capacity to implement guidelines as detailed in the Communication on "Life Sciences and Biotechnology", as well as within the "Science and Society" Action Plan(2)."

Life sciences represent a wide range of scientific disciplines (including all branches of biology, such as botany, zoology, genetics, medicine and now biotechnology) whose aim is to study living organisms. Life sciences have become particularly important with the rise of molecular biology, which disclosed life's most secret mechanisms. However this newly found capacity to master some of the workings of life confronts man with new responsibilities and challenges.

In April 2000 Commissioner Busquin appointed this group of eminent and experienced life scientists. The Group aims at responding to the need for the provision of high level insight on life sciences and technologies. It also encourages better scientific information for European citizens. EGLS thereby launched a "life sciences discussion platform" to foster debate among the actors of the life science community and various stakeholders, on applications and dissemination of new knowledge in this field(3).

During the Granada meeting, hosted by the Spanish EU Presidency, EGLS defined its work programme for the year to come, including activities such as:

A large stakeholder discussion forum on "Sustainable Agriculture: the Value of Life Sciences for Development", to be held in Brussels on January 30-31, 2003. The event will address the potential, benefits and risks, of the steadily advancing knowledge in life sciences and biotechnology for sustainable agriculture, with a particular emphasis on the needs and constraints of developing countries.

A workshop on "Life Sciences Communication in the media", to be held in Brussels on July 9, 2002. Bringing together scientists and journalists from across Europe, the meeting will identify bottlenecks hampering the science communication flow as it reaches a broader public. The conference will focus on the point of view of the press and underline the constraints of science journalists working in different European cultural contexts.

A meeting on "The New Biology and cultures of the modern time: Challenges and Perspectives", to be held in Brussels on November 18-19, 2002. The event will gather scientists and other intellectuals from different European regions. They will exchange views and opinions on human values and society, the progress of knowledge, and relations linking biosciences and society.

For more on the EGLS: -sciences/egls/index_en.html

(1) EGLS, now chaired by Prof. V. de Lorenzo (CNB, Madrid), welcomed four newly nominated members: Prof. P. Kourilsky, Director of the Pasteur Institute (Paris), Prof. L. Kovac (Comenius University Bratislava, SK), former Minister of Sciences and Education of Czechoslovakia, Prof. Nadia Rosenthal, co-ordinator of the mouse biology programme at the EMBL out-station of Monterotondo (Italy), and Prof. J. van Bemmel, rector of the Erasmus University (NL). The other members are Professors D. Burke, UK, P. Cunningham, Ir., A. Mac Laren, UK, C. Nüsslein-Volhard, D, L. Santi, I, M. Van Montagu, B, H. Wigzell, S, E.L. Winnacker, D).

(2) Life Sciences and Biotechnology - a strategy for Europe. /pdf/policypaper_en.pdf
Science and society Action Plan: ciety/home.html

(3) Stem Cell conference in December 2001: ity-of-life/stemcells.html

DN: IP/02/691 Date: 08/05/2002

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