A better management of chronic illnesses such as dementia can be done by harnessing technological solutions. But this kind of innovative support cannot be used unless it respects the rights of people affected by the disease. In contrast, those close to dementia patients have a responsibility to adopt preventive steps to manage the disease. But this can only happen once governments implement adequate level of support. In this exclusive EuroScientist interview, June Andrews, director of the Dementia Services Development Centre at the University of Stirling, in Scotland, UK, analyses the potential and the drawbacks of innovation for the 50 million people worldwide affected by this condition.
In Greece and Spain, a new generation of left-wing academics has now entered polictics. They claim to reinvent the way policy is shaped by relying both on evidence and on meeting the need of citizens. However, the way in which the results of academic research are actually taken into account in policy making is not straightforward. So are they likely to rely more than their predecessors on evicence-based policy?
E-cigarettes have great potential for helping to quit smoking, so we should avoid laws that hinder smokers from switching to less harmful alternatives.
An anti-vivisection citizen initiative has gathered over 1.2 milion signatures. Despite lengthy debates related to the Directive on the use of animal in research, anti-vivisection campaigner still oppose any use of animals in research. The initiators of the petition, who include some scientists, argue that animal studies cannot predict how humans respond to drugs or chemicals. The move has triggered a strong response from the science community. Yet, some anticipate there could be a better way of dealing with such issues involving greater citizen engagement.
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.
A new episode in the controversy related to the evaluation of Portuguese research units has recently been played out. The high profile resignation of the president of the Portuguese funding agency FCT in March 2015, is yet another chapter in an unfinished murky business. Now that half of the country’s research units have been earmarked for closure, the science community is attempting to fight back to save the fate of the country’s research talents, built over the past few decades by pouring large amounts of tax payers’ money to create such science expertise.
The ongoing opposition between the scientific community and science publishers is evolving. The latter have tarnished their reputation on the count of greed and inability to give back to the community. Now, however, grassroots innovators and legacy publishers have started to develop tech-centric solutions to better serve the community. These could soon make a noticeable difference to the scientific process itself and bring tangible benefits to scientists. Time will tell whether the tide will turn and trust between the protagonists will return.
Half of all clinical trials never see the light of day. There are regulations in Europe and the US; they are often ignored. But public pressure has begun to push the pharmaceutical industries to make trial data available. However, in a world where industry, clinicians and medical publishers are complicit in not having clinical trials published in full, it may be necessary to give ownership of clinical data back to patients to gain greater transparency and accountability.
What can a conference like this one bring to you? Those among our readers who have a sweet tooth will agree that such events can be compared to the cherry on the cake of academic life. Once every two years, it is time to enjoy a stimulating flow of discussions. Participants are guaranteed to have fruitful encounters with other people from various horizons. They may not be like-minded but, at least, share similar concerns about European science, policy or science communication. This is what ESOF 2014 is about!
Health, transport, science and security: these are the areas of government where the mantra of ‘evidence-based policy making’ is repeated across departments. Especially for science, one would think that each European member State would have an easily identifiable individual that can provide independent, trusted advice to leaders on controversial topics such as shale gas or genetically modified crops.
In the past few weeks, European elections debates to elect members of the European Parliament (EP) have been in full swing. The vote will take place between of the 22nd to 25th May 2014, depending on the country. In most territories, the mainstream press appears to have little concern over higher education, research and innovation. It is also worth distinguishing the debate taking place in academic and research circles. There, the debate is only touching a few of the issues pertaining to research and education that would need to be addressed.The EuroScientist following its vocation as a participatory magazine, has called upon its network of loyal readers, supporters and reporters to gather an overview of issues that are relevant to scientists debated during the various campaigns across Europe.
The debate in the running up to the 22nd and 25th May 2014 vote to elect members of the European Parliament, is also taking place among academic and research circles. Opinions and analyses have been published in the specialist press and on the pages of science and higher education advocacy groups across Europe. A few of them have questioned the main political parties about their intentions in relation to topics relevant to scientists, innovators and academics. Below are outlined the key issues featured in this debate, ranging from the ERA, mobility, higher education, H2020 funding and the national target of investing 3% of GDP in R&D.