Brussels, 01 Sep 2004
The EU must identify obstacles to global collaboration and address them, urged non-European scientists at ESOF 2004.
The scientists - from Japan, the US and South Africa - who were asked for their opinions on how the future European science policy should look expressed their fear that a European Science Agency would be eurocentric and therefore risk making international collaboration more complicated.
Kiyoshi Kurokawa from the Science Council of Japan explained that in an increasingly global world that is experiencing dramatic advances in science and technology, three global issues need to be addressed: population growth; the stress on the environment due to population growth and the North-South dichotomy.
'These are the undercurrents that dictate global policy,' said Dr Kurokawa, explaining that these issues inevitably lead to an increased need for global scientific cooperation, an interlinked scientific policy and therefore a changing role of scientific academies.
'Whatever organisational structure the EU eventually goes for, it must make sure all the voices of science are heard,' added Dr Kurokawa.
Speaking next, Judy Franz from the American Physical Society explained the US hopes that, as the EU tries to form European-wide scientific institutions, it encourages international cooperation beyond Europe.
'Each region of the world thinks science is important for innovation and that innovation is important for economic stability. It is, therefore, important to find a balance between scientific cooperation and competitiveness,' said Dr Franz.
'Europe is outstanding in scientific research but needs to work cooperatively and we, the US, hope that the EU does not make collaboration more complicated when developing the new institutions.'
Presenting the view of the developing world, Khotso Mokhele from South Africa explained that the reality in developing countries is political indifference or at best ambiguity towards science.
'We are counting a lot on the EU to change this state of affairs,' said Dr Mokhele.
He noted, however, that while the EU considers Japan and the US as peers and has recently started to consider China as a peer, it will take a long time before the developing world will be considered as a peer.
He therefore called on governments in developing countries to stop their political indifference towards science in developing countries if they really want the self-imposed marginalisation to end.
The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) and future framework programmes could be a lever for endogenous investment in science and technology by developing countries, he said.
Responding to Dr Mokhele's address, an EU official in the audience explained that 32 million euro in the FP6 budget had been set aside for developing countries. Only 17 million euro has so far been used, mainly because the projects presented by these countries are often not up to the required standards.
'We have recognised that infrastructure is the main issue in those countries and we will address this issue in FP7,' he promised.
He also regretted the fact that European scientists are often unaware of this money and of the possibility of including developing countries in their consortium. He therefore called on EU scientists to increasingly include scientists from the developing countries.
Presenting a European perspective, Ian Corbett, from the European Southern Observatory, claimed that most European policy is eurocentric and does not take what is happening outside Europe into account. 'This is the Europe on top paradigm', he stated.
'At present Europe is too focused on collaboration rather than competition which is better for the economy. I hope the European Research Council will address competition by funding individual research groups. Competition boosts quality,' he underlined.
Furthermore added Dr Corbett, 'Large projects are increasingly transcontinental. EU policy needs to take this into account and make sure European scientists and agencies' views are fed into those projects and do not happen outside the EU's sphere of influence.
'EU policies are near silent on European participation in international projects and this must change,' Dr Corbett insisted.