This article is sponsored by
ESOF2016
Find out how to become a sponsor

Sound policies needed to frame scientific and technological progress

Science policy is one of the key topics on the agenda of the European Science Open Forum event, ESOF2016, in Manchester in July 2016. This article looks at various examples of fields where science policy has a key role to play; be it to convey acceptance of new technology, accompany key funding decisions for large international research projects like the largest radio telescope ever developed–the Square Kilometre Array–or simply help fundamental research turn into innovative solutions.

Progressive policies to improve the gender balance in scientific research

The Irish funding agency, Science Foundation Ireland, is at the forefront of progressive policies designed to improve gender balance in the research they fund. These policies have gradually been introduced to respond to a need to ensure that excellence–and not whether they are having children–is the only criteria determining women’s chance of being funded. In this opinion piece, SFI’s Fiona Blighe explains how the various schemes in place work.

Arthur Healy: Building EFSA’s impact and reputation through scientific publishing

Arthur Healy heads up EFSA’s scientific publishing programme. He has worked in publishing for most of his career after studies in human nutrition and medicine at University College Cork. He has spearheaded the recent development of the EFSA Journal which has seen it blossom from a DIY publication on EFSA’s website to becoming one of the most accessed journals on Wiley Online Library since its launch there in mid-2016. EuroScientist caught up with him to better understand EFSA’s publishing programme.

Scientific Evidence about vaccines and the EU Court

A controversial European Union court decision about vaccines raises two interesting scientific questions: How do scientists decide whether vaccines can cause conditions such as autism or multiple sclerosis? And how certain can they be when they make their conclusions? Recently news outlets ran headlines saying that the highest court of the European Union ruled, “Vaccines can be blamed for illnesses without proof” or “without scientific evidence.” But the EU court decision is a bit more complex than the headlines claim. In this piece of investigative journalism, Vanessa Schipani examines the case.

Scientific integrity: dropping points

Scientific integrity has become a major issue in scientific research. The debate about scientific fraud, plagiarism, and other forms of scientific misconduct has its origin in some highly publicised cases of eminent scientists accused of publishing fake data. These observations raise many questions. One of the known misconducts is the deliberate dropping of data points, acknowledged by 15% of scientists surveyed in recently published integrity studies asking them about their behaviour in the previous three years. This misconduct originates in a wrong understanding of what scientific knowledge is, and how it is progressively constructed, argues Michel Morange, director of the Centre Cavaillès for History and Philosophy of Sciences at the Ecole normale supérieure, Paris, France.

Does mobility boost early scientific careers?

Young scientists are expected to change country and jobs every few years on average to get a chance to progress their academic career. Mobility in science stems from a long tradition. It is favoured for bringing very enriching experiences. But post docs and their scientific work do not always benefit from mobility. Here, EuroScientist looks into how being on the move every few years affects the life of researchers and looks at ways of enhancing work/life balance.

Data sharing shifts scientific culture

Reproducibility of research is at the heart of science. However, old habits die hard. And the custom of making all data fully available so that others can reproduce them is not yet fully ingrained in scientists’ modus operandi. Some likely changes that may encourage data sharing include the introduction of training modules on good sharing practice and the practice of crediting the author of the original data set used in new work. These could go a long way towards unlocking the reproducibility challenge.

Russian science oscillating between progress and backlash

Last year, Russia’s president Putin took away all the assets of the Russian Academy of Science . Putin has also created a sort of mega-academy, merging the academies of Sciences, Agricultural Sciences and Medical Sciences. However, its control was not bestowed upon the forward thinking chairman of the RAS, Vladimir Fortov. Instead, it was attributed to one of Putin’s finance manager, creating fierce controversy in the country and abroad. These events have come to disrupt parallel attempts to put Russian science back on the world map. For example, through initiatives such as the creation of a Russian Silicon Valley and the support of a mega-grant programme to reverse the brain drain.

How can we trust scientific publishers with our work if they won’t play fair?

I am angry. Very, very angry. Personally I have never liked how scientific publishers charge us to read the research that we produce, and that we review for them free of charge. But that is another debate for another day. What I really hate is how they abuse this power to stifle debate in the name of their business interests. This is now going to dramatically affect the quality of a paper into which I poured a huge amount of effort – a critique of the (lack of) evidence for striped nanoparticles.

Anne Glover: the art of providing scientific advice to policy makers

Anne Glover currently serves as Chief Scientific Adviser to the President, European Commission. She is also a Scottish biologist and professor of molecular biology and cell biology at the University of Aberdeen, UK. She was previously the first ever Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland, between 2006 and 2011. We present here an exclusive Skype interview of Anne Glover with EuroScientist. In this interview, Glover talks about the art of providing science policy advice to policy makers, using evidence-base…

Human rights: a responsibility of scientific organisations too

A 30 years old Iranian physicist, called Omid Kokabee, languishes in jail in Teheran since January 2010. He has been condemned to 10 years for spying for the US government. His case has received the support of major scientific societies. But does it make sense that scientific organisations care about human rights issues, beyond their main, scientific mission? Is it useful? Or even desirable?