Proposed data changes ‘threaten’ EU research

The European University Association warns restrictions could cause continent’s scientists to fall behind global rivals

May 1, 2014

Data protection proposals being brought before the European Council of Ministers in June could hamper the continent’s research competitiveness, according to the European University Association.

The goals of the European Union’s €80 billion (£65 billion) research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, such as tackling societal challenges and developing research infrastructures, could also be hit by the changes, the EUA said in a statement.

The amendments, suggested by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) in October, are designed to tighten the rules that protect personal data. But they also “unintentionally threaten” scientific advances, according to the EUA.

The EUA is urging member states to preserve access to data for use in scientific research at the upcoming meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers that will discuss LIBE’s proposal.

More than 30 national bodies representing universities across Europe have signed the EUA statement, which follows arguments made by the Wellcome Trust in a petition in January.

The EUA says that the research tools used in the development of personalised medicines could be “severely compromised” by the changes. Also at risk are long-term studies such as the European Social Survey, which monitors social change across the continent, it adds.

The EUA explains that Europe’s universities are increasingly collaborating with organisations in other parts of the world. It calls for specific recognition of the value and need to transfer personal data internationally to maintain the “competitiveness of European research at a global level”.

“The strengthening of international research collaborations between universities is crucial for reaching Horizon 2020 goals and for addressing social challenges,” the statement says.

The European Parliament accepted the proposal that contained LIBE’s changes in March. The new regulation would replace a 1995 data directive, but has yet to be approved by EU ministers.

holly.else@tsleducation.com

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