ack in March I discussed one of the biggest scientific discoveries
of the last century – the confirmation of gravitational waves.
This, it seems, has set a precedent, and in the intervening
months scientific research has continued unabated to deliver
breakthroughs and innovations across the entire R&D spectrum. For
instance, Einstein’s general theory of relativity has been validated via a
3D map of 3,000 galaxies 13 billion lightyears from Earth; and a
completely new state of matter, so far known as ‘a quantum spin liquid’,
has been found in graphene. In the field of health, evidence of how the
ABC-F protein family protects the bacterial ribosome that produces
protein in cells from being blocked by antibiotics has been found, thus
shedding light on the secrets of AMR, while, with regard to the
environment, a new report from the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, UK,
has shown that 2,034 vascular plant species new to science were
registered in 2016 before March.
Meanwhile, the European Commission’s Flagship projects – Graphene
and the Human Brain Project – are also making headway. The former is
now progressing towards its core function: the expansion of graphene
from the laboratory into society. The latter is promoting a shared European
research infrastructure to examine brain organisation using simulations,
with the aim of tackling neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Additionally, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been switched on
again, having been fine-tuned using low-intensity beams. Following pilot
proton collisions, the LHC is now ready to experiment and, following
confirmation that it is functioning well, will begin taking vast amounts of
data for the 2016 season, during which CERN scientists hope to achieve
more ambitious goals than previous seasons – and as those included
the discovery of the Higgs boson, these goals will truly be ambitious.
However, Europe’s R&D landscape is also being presented with challenges.
Horizon 2020 has recently come under fire from leading members of
several European scientific bodies who have been critical of its focus on
innovation rather than blue sky research. The framework programme has
also been labelled as ‘too complex’ for some SMEs, with the European
Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) releasing
a report arguing for more transparency for Horizon 2020 applicants.
There is also the issue of Britain’s potential exit from the EU, which has
received attention regarding the country’s science base. In the last edition
of this journal, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor Lord Martin Rees,
argued the case for the UK to remain a part of the EU project. In this
edition, Professor Angus Dalgleish from Scientists for Britain provides
the opposing argument, stating that R&D in the UK would not only survive
but may, in fact, flourish outside of the union.
It is with these challenges and successes in mind that I welcome you to
this edition of Pan European Networks with a foreword from the interim
director of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, Martin
Kern, who outlines the importance of co-operation in boosting innovation
The Research and Development section then opens with a subsection
on Materials and KETs, including my coverage of the European Materials
Research Society’s annual Spring Meeting in Lille, France, where I was
invited once more to act as a judge on a panel of ‘distinguished
researchers and science communicators’ for the 2016 instalment of the
Reach.Out! competition (which is designed to award scientists for their
Pan European Networks’ continuing work to highlight gender inequalities
in science features in a further subsection, where my colleague Michael
Brennan discusses the launch of GenPORT, an FP7 project developing a
portal for quality resources on gender and science, at which, during a
panel discussion, he spoke to highlight the communication aspect of
gender and science from a journalistic standpoint.
The Health section provides foci on areas such as diseases and viruses
– including an informative article on the IPROVE project (which will
produce a comprehensive roadmap on the future of vaccine research in
the EU), cancer, CVD, the brain and public health – which features an
article from the WHO’s Clayton Hamilton on the potential of e-health. The
Energy section includes coverage of the ICOE 2016 event I attended in
Edinburgh, UK (which focused on the importance of ocean energy), as
well as other areas within the sector, such as energy storage.
The closing section of this edition hones in on the various facets of
sustainability – from agriculture and the environment (here, renowned
economist Professor Jeffrey Sachs talks about the importance of meeting
environmental and public health challenges, while the UN’s Paola Deda
explains how forests can contribute to a more sustainable fashion
industry while strengthening and greening their own) to human impacts.
Finally, we end on the topical area of drug use in sport where the World Anti-
Doping Agency’s Ben Nichols outlines the efforts to ensure integrity in sport.
As ever, I hope you find these pages as interesting and informative a
read as I have found in their creation, and, of course, I welcome any
comments you may have.
Pan European Networks: Science & Technology
Pan European Networks