Science and Technology Landscape in a Changing World – Enhancing Collaboration with the EU and its Member States

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Publication date: 
23 December 2011

The Polish Presidency of the Council of the European  Union and the Delegation of the European Union to the United States led a  conference in cooperation with the American Association for the Advancement of  Science on enhancing collaboration between the US, the EU and its Member  States.

At the December 12, 2011 conference, ambassadors,  professors, and directors of science-related organizations met to highlight the  need to strengthen and shape the strategies for collaboration, assess existing  collaboration efforts, and identify opportunities for future transatlantic  collaboration in science and technology.

The European Commission and EU Member States have  launched a joint effort to promote and stimulate transatlantic collaboration in  science, technology and innovation.  The  conference provided information for the EU and Member States on their Pilot  Initiative USA, which will be developed within the framework of the Strategic  Forum for International S&T Cooperation (SFIC).  Also, the European Commission presented a  legislative proposal for a new EU Research and Innovation Program – Horizon  2020. 

Many collaborative efforts between the US and EU  were highlighted, including:  the EU-USA  Transatlantic Council, the cross-Atlantic Science and Technology Agreement, the  Energy Council, Science Across Virtual Institutes (SAVI), the Coulomb Program,  Homing Plus Program, Parent-Bridge program, Link2US, and Bilat-USA.  Knowledge networks between Portugal and MIT, the  University of Texas at Austin, Carnegie Mellon, and Harvard Medical School were  presented as examples of international university-government partnerships.  Notable international projects such as the  Decade of the Mind, the International Cancer Genome Consortium, and the Human  Genome Project were presented as excellent examples of large international  scientific efforts.  The 7th  Framework Program was discussed as it emphasizes international cooperation  while supporting a wide range of private companies, public organizations, and  researchers. 

Many of the speakers emphasized policy concerns that  often hinder scientists’ research.  They  also contended that while each of these programs was said to bring together the  international science community to tackle challenges and to reach new levels of  understanding, they also help to define and address policy and logistical  hurdles faced by scientists.  The  challenges in science are too complex to be solved by one nation or one  lab.  Fostering collaboration while  working towards specific research goals leaves room for bottoms-up innovation  and greater scientific advancement.

Among other points made were that international  science programs allow nations to share their science infrastructure so that  expensive experiments do not need to be repeated by each nation involved.  Allowing scientists to share their materials  and equipment is an important aspect of many partnerships.  Smaller nations or institutions can build on  research developed by larger institutions, therefore increasing their capacity  and their contributions to research.

The issue of grant mobility was discussed as a  global concern for scientists.  Regulations  allowing a scientist to carry a grant with him or her when he/she changes  institutions or research centers are critical to the continuation of the  research associated with the grant.  Many  speakers mentioned that without these regulations allowing for scientific grant  mobility, research projects are often discontinued. 

There was much consensus on the need for uniform  funding mechanisms as well as consistent international regulations regarding  clinical and ethics rules and standard laboratory procedures.  Edward Trimble of the National Cancer  Institute of the National Institutes of Health pointed out that scientists in  Europe and the US have been forced to repeat trials and have not recognized the  work of other scientists due to discrepancies in regulations which exist in one  country but not in another.  There was uniform  consensus among the panelists that working around these regulatory differences  is a huge burden for researchers and causes many road blocks to the scientific  process.

Many speakers remarked on problems with intellectual  property (IP) which exist in rapidly developing economies such as China and  India.  They stressed the importance of respecting  the intellectual developments of each country and promoted the idea that  scientists should abide by one consistent set of international IP laws.

Welcoming new economies on the world stage is an  important step to furthering scientific developments and the speakers remarked  that there is a need for a transparent peer review system in order to provide  these developing economies with the same chance for funding as any other  country. Sujai Shivakumar, of the National Academies, remarked that the US and  Europe need to work together to ensure that attention is given to the  composition of the developing economies.   This would thus ensure that industry surges are balanced to allow  scientific developments in many high-tech industries rather than favoring one  industry. 

The collaboration efforts described in the  conference allow for the exchange of scientific ideas between researchers but  also enhance international learning opportunities and provide a forum for  addressing science policy issues.   Scientists involved in international partnership programs have the  opportunity to discuss scientific problems as well as regulatory,  administrative, and legal problems which hinder their work.  This conference shed light on these issues  and highlighted the benefits of international collaboration.

More information on this conference is available  here.   

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