Go back

The policy agenda

From open-data rules to the role of industry advice

Commission pushes forward open data
Horizon 2020 will require research data to be made openly available by default from now on, EU research commissioner Carlos Moedas announced in Monday’s plenary. The European Commission will also tackle responsible research by asking 2017 grant recipients to respect principles including honesty, objectivity and care for future generations in their contracts.

Synergy Grants back on ERC agenda
European Research Council president Jean-Pierre Bourguignon said that the council’s interdisciplinary Synergy Grants, which make multimillion-euro awards to senior researchers, would probably be reintroduced in 2018 and 2019. During the conference, the Commission announced that it was upping the ERC’s budget to €1.8bn in 2017, while the ERC published an impact report that found a fifth of grants led to a “major scientific breakthrough”. 

Fear of science eclipsing humanities…
Social sciences and humanities are suffering from reduced profile in universities around the world, as students opt for the natural sciences, a Wednesday session heard. Student choices were driven in part by the attraction of projects such as the Human Genome Project and the International Space Station, attendees said. SSH researchers outlined efforts to promote international, large-scale projects, such as the Clarin database, in an attempt to revitalise their fields.

…and first social science winners celebrated
The 2016 European Young Researchers Awards for postdoctoral researchers were awarded to Marta Entradas of the Centre for Socioeconomic and Territorial Studies in Lisbon for her research into scientific communications; and to Martijn Wieling of the University of Groningen for his studies of quantitative variations in language acquisition.

Societal Challenge pillar under fire
EuroScience and the Initiative for Science in Europe presented commissioner Moedas with a statement calling for the Societal Challenges pillar of Horizon 2020 to support more basic research. Identifying a goal for projects, rather than expected outcomes, and leaving it to researchers to determine how that goal should be reached would be “the best way to encourage novel approaches and innovation”, the groups said.

Not all industry advice is ‘tainted’, EU told
The UK’s chief scientist Mark Walport warned against the dangers of relying solely on academic opinion in policymaking. His statement followed a presentation by  Sierd Cloetingh, president of Academia Europaea, on the Science Advice for Policy by European Academies initiative. “It’s a big mistake to think that anyone associated with industry is tainted,” said Walport.

Personalised medicine needs to refocus on patients
The field of personalised medicine is more likely to progress if emphasis shifts from drug development to simple diagnostics and patient tools, participants at a Monday session heard. Gael Yvert, a cell biologist at Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon, said that there had been a huge focus on genomics to date, but that disease prediction was still poor. Evidence-based models, technology integration and patient empowerment are much more important, said Mark Kroese, deputy director of the PHG Foundation, a health policy think tank. 

This article also appeared in the ESOF 2016 Special