All posts by Michele Catanzaro

Michele Catanzaro is an Italian journalist based in Barcelona, Spain. He has a PhD in Physics and works as a freelance for Nature, Physics World, El Periódico de Catalunya, Spain, Le Scienze, Italy, and other media. He is the co-author of the book Networks: A Very Short Introduction and of the documentary Fast Track Injustice: The Óscar Sánchez Case.

Scientific advice for politics: The European way

Politics is not an exact science: moral choices, traditions, communication and many other aspects play important roles. But working on politics without caring for scientific evidence is almost certainly a recipe for failure. In the last few years, the European Union has struggled to find its own, formal model for conveying scholarly knowledge in its policies. After a tangledattempt to concentrate this task into a single Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA), the Commission opted in 2015 for a much more complex Scientific Advisory Mechanism (SAM). The High Level Group at the top of the mechanism was appointed in November 2015. The seven prominent scholars that form the committee discuss their first year and a half of work in a debate at the European Conference for Science Journalists, taking place in June in Copenhagen, Denmark. Read more [...]
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Climate change: It’s a business matter too

In 1973, a group of scientists published a report linking rising CO2 with global warming and some of the resulting meteorological patterns. It was one of the first publications on what would later be called ‘climate change’. Surprisingly, the report’s authors worked at Munich Re, one of the big players in the global insurance business. “Our industry […] started monitoring this issue long before the public even noted that there was a problem,” says Peter Höppe, head of the company’s Geo Risks Research division based in Germany. Höppe will join the roundtable “Climate: facts, figures and future” at the 4th European Conference of Science Journalism. Read more [...]
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Self-organised scientific crowds to remedy research bureaucracy

In an era where research bureaucracy is the biggest burden bestowed upon scientists, some are seeking practical solutions. Inspired by the science of complex networks, new ways of harnessing the wisdom of the scientific community are emerging. This leads to new decision-making mechanisms to allocated the limited amount of resources, which is bypassing the biggest plague affecting the research endeavour. Michele Catanzaro investigates out-of-the-box solutions to this bureaucratic conundrum for Euroscientist. Read more [...]
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Speech forensics: when Hollywood seldom mirrors real-life court cases

Actors of the justice system often bestow very high importance to forensic evidence, which is sometimes misguided. In this piece of investigative journalism, EuroScientist looks at the case of speech forensics, in which charlatanism, the lack of regulations and controversies within the scientific community sometimes act together to the detriment of justice. Further validations of the methods used in speech forensics have yet to be established so that they become as reliable as DNA profile or fingerprint testing. Until then, experts warn, caution is in order. Read more [...]
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Is Europe to enjoy science advice or camel design?

A camel is a horse designed by a committee, a proverb says. Policy experts doubt whether a new high level group of eminent scientists will work as planned. It is part of a new scientific advice mechanism, announced on 13 May by the European Commission. In parallel, a completely new feature of the new science advice mechanism is its structured relationship with national science academies and learned societies. The real test will come when controversial issues such as GMOs, shale gas and stem-cells come back to public debates in the future. Read more [...]
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Spring of discontent in the European science community

The new Juncker Commission is attempting to tackle the sluggish economic climate by introducing a punchy new plan. It involves the creation of the European Fund for Strategic Investment to invest in job creation and growth. This initiative has generally been welcome. Except that the proposal involves taking €2.7 billion away from Horizon 2020, the very programme supposed to produce the innovations that would contribute to the growth of the economy. This has triggered uproar in the European science community. This reaction was further compounded by criticism from the European Court of Auditors pointing to the many gaps in the proposed plan. Finally, additional concerns that further funding restrictions could be imposed on the way structural funds are permitted to be used have also emerged, given that research features low on the list of EC priorities. Read more [...]
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