EuroScience, a pan-European association established in Strasbourg, shares the pain of the inhabitants of Strasbourg and of all visitors to Strasbourg during the holiday season affected by the recent 12 December attack. We will be a partner in all efforts to uphold, not only for Strasbourg but for all of Europe, the values for which we stand : freedom from fear, freedom of speech, mutual respect and tolerance.
We have witnessed a successful EuroScience Open Forum in Toulouse in July 2018. We have issued with the Initiative for Science in Europe and ESF/Science Connect a policy paper on Mission, one of the new elements in Horizon Europe, the EC’s proposal for the 9th Framework Programme for Science and Innovation. That is issue has not by far been settled; there are simply too many initiatives around that have a very similar purpose: the Missions in Horizon Europe, the European Institute for Technology and Innovation EIT, the Flagship programmes, the European Innovation Council, the Joint European Initiative for Disruptive Innovation JEDI, and there are more. Work to be done, also for EuroScience.
The year 2018 also saw a lot of new developments within EuroScience in the making and in the coming. EuroScience has new President, prof Michael Matlosz (get to know Mike Matlosz and EuroScience in the Technoculture podcast). A new Governing Board (see its composition on EuroScience website) took over on July 14 at the ESOF hand-over ceremony from Toulouse to Trieste; Prof Gail Cardew, professor of Science, Culture and Society and Director of Science and Education at the Royal Institution in London, and Professor Lorna Hughes, professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Glasgow have been appointed Vice-Presidents, and Prof Carl Johan Sundberg, professor of Human Physiology and Head of the Department of Learning, Informatics, Innovation and Ethics at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm as Treasurer.
At the Office in Strasbourg we will see changes as well. Julien Lorentz has served EuroScience very well, including taking care of EuroScientist after March 2018, as well as ESOF 2018 in Toulouse and the initial period for ESOF 2020 in Trieste. He will leave EuroScience by the end of 2018. I wish him very well. His successor has also been appointed. It is Maria Altieri. She is Italian and has worked for the Council of Europe, the Strasbourg Business School and the International Space University in Strasbourg. Welcome, Maria. I will also step down as Secretary General sometime in 2019.
Many important topics will be on EuroScience’s agenda for 2019, and EuroScientist will continue to offer a platform for wide-ranging information and discussions on these issues. The more detailed elaboration of Horizon 2020 as well its funding is one of them. But there are others. We have seen in 2018 continued attacks on academic and scientific freedom.
The concerns about restrictions on freedom for an increasing number of professions and institutions in Turkey do not diminish, to the contrary. Journalists, academics and universities and many in the judicial system feel the pressures from the government. The decision by the Hungarian government to not sign the agreement with American Education Authorities whereas the Central European University by getting the approval and accreditation for its US-based operations fulfilled all conditions imposed by a new law of 2017 forced the CEU to move its US-degree courses to Vienna. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences has run into troubled waters by the decision of the Hungarian government to take decisions on which areas to spend a significant part of its funding on in its own hand. Independent press publishing houses have been largely taken over by government-related organisations. New laws in Poland on university funding and appointments by giving the rector a crucial say in funding allocations and in appointments, or on introducing “Polish sensitivities” in criteria for appointing persons threaten academic freedom and may lead to implicit or explicit censorship, andin practice my pave the way for the unhealthy relationship between e.g. a rector and a party representative as we still witness in China. The latest example comes from Italy where Italy’s health minister has removed 39 doctors and scientists from the ministry’s public health advisory committee in order to open the board to “other worthy members”. Apart from being a demonstration of “a government of change” it also seems part of the battle on vaccination.
There is the Plan S for Open Access. EuroScience welcomes the Plan but there are important things to be settled yet. Making sure that overall, academia and all others who are writing in, subscribing to or reading journals will be paying considerably less is one concern. Making sure that authors from less rich countries or developing countries will be able to publish in highly-ranked journals is another one. EuroScience will actively participate in answering the consultation now put out by the Plan S partners and we will create one or more focus groups with individual scientists to get a wide basis for our responses.
Of course, you will hear a lot about the next ESOF in Trieste in July 2020. Preparations are in full swing, the Call to propose sessions will be published early 2019, and we hope once more to interest many of you to submit session proposals.
EuroScientist will be off during a few weeks, we will be back in January with many new articles!
Finally, after expressing once more my thanks to all of you, may I conclude by wishing every one of you happy holidays and a productive 2019. We count on your continuing indolent.