A pan-European project recently submitted for funding under the European Commission's ERA-NET programme aims at harmonising European polar research strategies.
The 'European strategic framework for science and operational capabilities in the polar regions' (EUROPOLAR) involves 25 agencies from 19 EU countries with Russia as an external observer.
'We are developing the structure of a European polar consortium as the central European gateway into national polar research and technological development programmes and enhancing European critical mass,' explained Dr Paul Egerton, the executive scientific secretary of the European Polar Board, one of the partners in the consortium.
The consortium aims to construct a framework that will enable the increased integration of all the agencies involved in supporting and managing European polar research programmes. It would provide the structuring necessary for transnational and international partnerships, fostering common research strategies on a pan-European scale in the Polar regions.
'EUROPOLAR will enhance and deepen the information flow between European programmes in order to facilitate joint activities in major areas of European expertise such as polar climate research,' added Dr Egerton.
The EU is at the forefront of research efforts in polar science but large gaps remain in terms of understanding climate change and the role of the polar climate in this phenomenon. EUROPOLAR has therefore developed an artic science research plan focused on the main challenges posed by the deep Artic Ocean. Thus, EUROPOLAR would be able to provide science policy advice to European governments and the European Commission on the Polar regions.
'This is particularly important because at present there is no coordinated mechanism to advise the European Commission on polar issues,' emphasised Dr Egberton.
EUROPOLAR would work on the basis of a gradual commitment from countries as its polar programme develops. It would encourage a building of scientific and programme management capacity focusing on nations with emerging polar activities and which require integration with nations with well-established scientific programmes, such as Italy, France and Germany.
The proposal for EUROPOLAR was submitted to the European Commission at the beginning of October. 'We think we stand a good chance,' said Dr Egerton. 'Polar research in high on the EU agenda and we have enough critical mass for this.'
It is hoped EUROPOLAR will be fully operational by 2007 for the start of the International Polar Year.
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