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ALLEA calls for amendments to proposed priority areas for FP6

'All European Academies' (ALLEA, or the federation of national academies of sciences, arts and humanities in 38 European countries) is calling for changes to two of the Commission's proposed priority areas, a wider definition of fields of application in areas driven by scienti...

'All European Academies' (ALLEA, or the federation of national academies of sciences, arts and humanities in 38 European countries) is calling for changes to two of the Commission's proposed priority areas, a wider definition of fields of application in areas driven by scientific developments and more cooperation between DGs in its position paper on the Commission proposals for the next framework programme. The two priority areas identified for amendment are 'aeronautics and space' and 'citizens and governance'. ALLEA recommends that the research area 'aeronautics and space' be focused on space research, that its budget be adjusted to reflect this change of scope and that the aeronautics issues of safety and environmental concern be dealt with under other headings. 'One area, aeronautics and space, appears to be of a different nature from the five areas considered so far. European added value is justified mainly in terms of scale,' states the opinion. 'Interest in aeronautics is not driven by developments in fundamental sciences. Nor do we see sufficient grounds to make aeronautics an area with higher priority than other areas of public interest such as transport by road or rail,' continues the paper. ALLEA concedes that there may be a civic interest in reducing the environmental impact of aeronautics, but would like to see this covered in the programme on sustainable development, where emissions are also considered. Research on aircraft safety 'appears to focus on a topic area which is too small and narrow and which makes a limited contribution to scientific and public knowledge; this does not warrant the creation of a separate priority area,' argue ALLEA. They suggest incorporating aviation safety into the Joint Research Centre (JRC) programme. ALLEA would like to see 'citizens and governance' broadened and changed to 'citizens, communities and quality of life'. Although ALLEA agree that the relationship between citizens and institutions in the emerging European knowledge society is an important and consequential issue, they are concerned that the programme may focus too narrowly on institutional arrangements. ALLEA endorses a report by the British Academy, which suggests a reformulated 'quality of life' programme, incorporating issues of social and economic participation. 'The expanded scope of this priority area should also be reflected in the budgetary allocation,' the paper continues. ALLEA welcomes the proposal's emphasis on the three areas driven by science: genomics, information and material sciences. 'However, as priority areas driven by fundamental research, the scope of the application should not be defined too narrowly.' The document stresses that fundamental research in the field of genomics and biotechnology not only needs to be supported in relation to health, but also in relation to ecosystems and increasing our understanding of plant and animal physiology. The ALLEA opinion notes that including such important areas among the priorities creates a risk that different responsibilities may become confused. According to ALLEA, research in service of public policy, whether on food safety, environmental issues or other topics should be funded by the appropriate Directorates or national government departments. 'At the European level there is a need for increased information exchange between the Directorate-General for Research and the other Directorates-General in areas connected with policy development, so as to avoid duplication and maintain clarity regarding responsibilities.' The European institutions need to arrange for a faster and simpler European patent system and fiscal mechanisms that support research and development. ALLEA says. It also argues for the allocation of EU funds to the European Science Foundation (ESF), matching the financial contributions of national research councils. 'Such support would certainly give further boost to the coordination of European research, and would be a means of securing wider implementation of the intention expressed in the Explanatory Memorandum with respect to the priority themes that the EU should participate in research programmes carried out by Member States acting jointly,' claims ALLEA.