A new statement of European academies provides recommendations to help overcome obstacles posed by the current IP system so that all stakeholders can fully benefit from new genomic techniques. These techniques, such as CRISPR-Cas, entail a significant potential to contribute to sustainable crop development and food security. However, the current intellectual property system poses challenges for breeders and farmers: patenting harvested materials is controversial, and there are concerns about unintentional patent infringement as well as monopolisation of these technologies and the resulting plant varieties. After exploring how the current IP system affects the operations of European breeders and farmers, the statement provides recommendations to overcome possible obstacles. These recommendations were drafted by an expert task force of the All European Academies (ALLEA), co-chaired by Heinz Müller, member of the Swiss Academies’ Forum for Genetic Research and formerly with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property.
Our planet is drowning in plastics: more than 353 million tons of plastic waste were produced in 2019. Without drastic measures, 1,014 million tons annually will pollute waters and land by 2060, according to the OECD. To tackle this serious global environmental problem, the UN is seeking a treaty. An important meeting for this purpose takes place in April 2024. To inform these negotiations, European science academies make 10 recommendations.
The urgency of measures is emphasised by András Báldi, co-author of these recommendations: «Plastics do not rot, they only break down in smaller pieces and do not decompose. Meanwhile, the resulting micro- and nanoplastics have spread everywhere on the planet and are even found in our bodies.»
Reshaping career paths for doctoral and postdoc researchers outside academia: new OECD report with recommendations and policy options for that purpose. These recommendations focus on eight areas: promote engagement with employers outside academia, provide researchers with skills for diverse careers, valorisation of diverse career options, support career development for researchers, promote inter-sectoral mobility as well as reconfigure and support careers in academia. According to Verity Elston, co-director at the University of Lausanne’s Graduate Campus and chair of the international expert group that drafted the report: «The recommendations provide starting points for those of us who work in the development of doctoral and postdoctoral frameworks: whether we are in government departments, funding bodies, university administration or faculty management.»
Good practices for the establishment of Very Large Research Infrastructures (VLRI), options for improving their operation and strategic considerations: this is the contents of a new OECD report for managers, funders and decision-makers.
The report was produced by an OECD Global Science Forum (GSF) expert group that reviewed more than 60 VLRI and conducted stakeholder interviews. Delegated by the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, astrophysicist Willy Benz from the University of Bern co-chaired the group.
VLRI are unique, complex undertakings with a strong international dimension. However, evolutions in the political, socio-economic and scientific context challenge their planning and management. As Willy Benz notes: «Budgetary constraints and expectations to meet sustainable development goals are driving the need for VLRI to demonstrate impact beyond the production of world-class science: socio-economic returns, talent and skills development, capacity building, outreach are some examples ».
The Global Science Forum provides senior science policy officials of OECD member countries a venue for consultations with the objective to support improving science policies of these countries and share in the benefits of international collaboration.
It is obvious that we humans have a global responsibility, also in our own interest. In this situation, however, we lack not only a holistic strategy and an organisation capable of acting globally but also generalists who understand the bigger picture, who can discern the relevant connections and who – thanks to holistic methods – can propose and implement holistic solutions. Without this strategy, without this organisation and without these generalists, our future will increasingly become an odyssey in dense fog with a high probability of collapse.
The project “Unity of science and a real studium generale” has, in fact, the not-so-modest aspiration of providing the foundations not only for the strategy and organisation mentioned above but, above all, for the urgently needed generalists. When building these foundations, we must first of all bear in mind that our world today is increasingly dependent on the sciences (from German: Wissenschaften), if only because of the growing complexity. Secondly, our fundamental problems such as energy, the environment and population growth are transdisciplinary problems in scientific terms. These problems elude the grasp of the individual scientific disciplines – also when they are added together in a more interdisciplinary approach. Rather, we need additional transdisciplinary approaches that can unite the scientific disciplines under superordinate aspects and thereby change them: It is a matter of bringing together the different scientific disciplines, which is tantamount to a second enlightenment. Thirdly, today‘s sciences cannot guarantee this transdisciplinarity because they are led by specialists and lack the necessary generalists.
In order to guarantee this transdisciplinarity, the general part of the sciences is required as a basis in which the individual scientific disciplines can be embedded. This leads to the unity of science. And on this basis, the unity of science, a real studium generale of two semesters‘ duration must be institutionalised at our universities. Such a studium generale is therefore a real studium generale because, in contrast to existing studia generalia, it is holistic. This studium generale could also be called studium fundamentale. The graduates of this real studium generale are the generalists we so urgently need. And these generalists should ultimately be able to assume our responsibilities in the Anthropocene, in cooperation with all of us, especially with regard to strategy and organisation.
Saner, Luc (2023). Allgemeiner Teil der Wissenschaften. Auf dem Weg zur Einheit der Wissenschaft und zu einem echten Studium generale.
Towards sustainable food consumption
Making sustainable, healthy food an easy and affordable choice for consumers: this is necessary to transform food consumption because it has a major impact on the environment and because obesity and overweight affect ca. 60% of adults and 30% of children in Europe. A scientific report by the academy consortium SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) comments on the influence of food consumption. Based on this, the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors makes policy recommendations. Both were developed within the framework of the EU Scientific Advice Mechanism. Tanja Schneider from the University of St. Gallen contributed to the SAPEA report on behalf of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences.
Natural gas is no cleaner than other fossil fuels and no alternative to coal on the road to a CO2-free energy supply. This is made clear by this new report by European researchers.
Using natural gas instead of coal or oil reduces greenhouse gas impacts only slightly or not at all. To mitigate climate change, it is crucial to stop using all fossil fuels, ban new natural gas boilers and massively expand electricity generation from renewable sources. Methane emissions have a lifetime in the atmosphere of only about 10 years, which is ten times shorter than that of CO2, but their 20-year global warming potential is more than 80 times that of CO2. The new scientific report recommends heat pumps and district heating as alternatives to gas boilers.
The EU must close loopholes to prevent the 2018 ban on the three main neonicotinoids from being further undermined, according to a new report by European Academies.
Neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides, indiscriminately affect pollinators and other beneficial insects, thereby threatening biodiversity and longer-term food security. The scientific report commends the EU’s Integrated Pest Management as the primary route to sustainable agriculture, that included banning three neonicotinoids. Yet it identifies loopholes in its implementation: studies that show that seven out of ten honey samples in the EU still contain traces of at least one of the bee-toxic pesticides. “It is counterproductive to kill everything, since once the pest adapts to the pesticide, there may be no natural enemies remaining, let alone essential pollinators. It is a similar problem to that we are seeing with the wide use of antibiotics,” comments Edward Mitchell of the University of Neuchâtel, who had contributed to the new report as delegate of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences.
Read-and-publish agreements, so-called “Big Deals”, facilitate Gold Open Access publications. ALLEA, the European federation of Academies, applauds this but stresses that they fail to deliver on the promise of an equitable system for sharing and accessing research publications. While EU and national copyright laws provide for many rules to foster such systems, current agreements do not take them into account. ALLEA therefore recommends researchers and libraries to better consider their rights when negotiating future deals and to depart from the rights assignment model that prevails today. Also, national copyright legislation should be harmonised , EU-wide Secondary Publication Rights without embargo introduced and community-driven non-profit publishing ecosystem further developed.
The Group of Chief Scientific Advisors’ latest report recommends the EU to plan and prepare for the entire timescale of crises, from preparedness to response and recovery. The report stresses that risk and crisis management approaches need to be rethought, because crises are changing in nature, crossing borders and sectors, with cascading and overlapping effects on society, the economy and the environment. The EU authorities are therefore advised to reinforce synergies across European institutions as well as between those and Member States. The Chief Scientific Advisors’ recommendations are based on the analysis by the academy network SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) in the context of the Scientific Advice Mechanism that provides independent and interdisciplinary advice on request to the European Commission to inform policymaking.
A new European Academies report makes recommendations to mitigate detrimental effects of the academic system on the climate. Showing that air travel is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, it suggests that virtual interactions are critical to bring about a sustainable academic system, with a careful choice of in-person, hybrid, hub-based or fully virtual meetings to coexist. The report, however, emphasises that for example supercomputing, buildings and electricity may be equally or more important emission sources than air travel, depending on the nature of the operations of the stakeholder. The report was drafted by ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, and the Young Academy in Germany. On behalf of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, Agnes Kreil from the ETH Zurich, was a contributing author.
Examining the current patent system in the context of the objectives of open science, a new statement contains several recommendations to reconcile these two apparently contradictory elements of research policy. Key among them is the suggestion to introduce a grace period of at least one year in patent applications to make knowledge open as early as possible. In addition, the authors of the statement by the European Academies’ federation ALLEA conclude that patent income must not be seen as a substitute for public funding and patent activity should be used with great caution as an evaluation metric in assessing the performance of research institutions, projects, and individuals.
Regenerative agriculture holds promising keys to reducing climate risks while providing the growing world population with food and enhancing biodiversity. Such the conclusions of a new report with first-time scientific analysis by European science academies. Pascal Boivin (HES-SO Geneva) contributed to this report on behalf of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and Christian Schöb (ETH Zurich) was one of the reviewers.
Improving existing screening programmes for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer, extending their application to lung and prostate cancer and making it easier for people to access such programmes: these are the scientific recommendations for the EU initiative "Europe's Beating Cancer Plan". The recommendations of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors of the European Commission are based on a report by the academies’ consortium SAPEA (Scientific Advice for Policy by European Academies) under the EU's Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM).
Covid-19 vaccine equity requires measures with immediate effect on their manufacturing and distribution in the Global South as well as improved compulsory licensing mechanisms, rather than a patent waiver. The low Covid-19 vaccination level in low- and middle-income countries is unacceptable and risks prolonging the pandemic, but a patent waiver will not solve this situation in the short-term. Instead, measures should be taken to accelerate local manufacturing and distribution of vaccines in these countries, ramp up investment in vaccination campaigns, and facilitate the compulsory licensing of patents and transfer of know-how. These are the main arguments in a new statement by ALLEA (European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities).
Das Jubiläumsbuch schildert den langen Weg von den bescheidenen Anfängen zur anerkannten und breit vernetzten Akademie im Kontext des Schweizer Wissenschaftssystems. Das Buch ist im Auftrag der SAGW entstanden und erscheint im Schwabe Verlag in Basel. Recherchiert und verfasst hat das Buch die Zürcher Historikerin Monika Gisler unter Mitwirkung von zwei Mitarbeitern und dem «Center for Higher Education and Science Studies» der Universität Zürich.
A new generation of scientific methods can contribute to reducing health inequalities in Europe are helping to better understand health inequalities in Europe. Fully realising this potential will require investment in data infrastructures, according to a new report by European science academies. The Covid-19 pandemic struck disadvantaged groups in society most severely. As a result, this has widened the health gap between socio-economic groups. It is therefore more important than ever to better understand these inequalities as an adequate basis for corrective policy measures. The report was drafted by researchers from the All European Academies (ALLEA) and the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM).
Better connect climate and biodiversity policies as well as address climate change and biodiversity decline together is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This is the call of the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), a global network of more than 140 science academies. Climate change and biodiversity decline are predominantly caused by human activities and have profound consequences for people and the ecosystems on which we depend. The UN conferences on biodiversity (COP15) and on climate change (COP26) in 2021 and 2022 provide an opportunity to focus international attention on the interconnectedness and interdependence of climate change and biodiversity.
Maria J. Santos, University of Zurich and Swiss Biodiversity Forum, contributed to the IAP statement on behalf of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences.
Global warming is getting faster and faster and biodiversity loss continues. As the two crises potentiate each other, Europe’s science academies urge governments to treat them as one, and as equally urgent. A new European academy report focuses on 16 areas requiring urgent action to shield humanity from the worst: if humanity wants to stop climate change and preserve the biodiversity that it needs for survival, it must change the economic system to one that rewards and incentivises sustainable choices and behaviour.
A carbon-neutral future by 2050 is possible, but requires urgent action. The energy transition is more than a purely technical challenge. Making it a reality requires solving a huge systemic problem, coordinating countless individual voluntary investment decisions, consumption and behaviour across Europe. This transformation of the European energy system will affect every part of society, relies on huge investment during the transition and must be done in a socially equitable way. These are the conclusions of a new scientific report produced by the consortium Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA). On this basis and a series of evidence-based policy options, the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors (GCSA) of the European Commission presents key policy recommendations.