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Conclusions of the European Science Summit

A European Science Summit organized by the European Parliament and the Commission of the European Communities took place in Brussels on 14-15 October 1993. Focusing on the theme "Science, Technology and Society in Europe", the Summit was supported by European industrial resea...

A European Science Summit organized by the European Parliament and the Commission of the European Communities took place in Brussels on 14-15 October 1993. Focusing on the theme "Science, Technology and Society in Europe", the Summit was supported by European industrial research bodies and the Belgian Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FRNS). The two-day meeting brought together over three hundred key figures from European industry and research, policy makers, and members and representatives of the Community Institutions. The Summit was timed to coincide with the legislative process deciding the future of the Community RTD effort. On 6.10.1993 the Commission issued a communication detailing the content of the specific programmes planned within the Fourth Framework Programme of Community Research and Technological Development for 1994-1998, and, the following week, the Council debated in depth the Commission proposals regarding the Framework Programme (11.10.1993). The Science Summit particularly aimed to increase awareness of the importance of the decisions being made, as well as to widen and publicize discussion of the overall role of science in Europe. Sessions covered the vital contribution of science and technology to industry, sustainable development and the quality of life, the central place of science in European culture and society, and the position which European scientific achievement occupies in the world context. In a forceful keynote speech, Professor Antonio Ruberti, Commission Vice-President responsible for Research Policy and Training, insisted that economic recovery resides to a large measure in RTD and the successful exploitation of its findings. The speech developed a number of themes he established during an inaugural press conference on the "European Week of Scientific Culture", which will take place on 20-27 November 1993. Professor Ruberti again emphasized that scientific research must win back its rightful place in the structure of European life. In addition, he underlined that "even if the public does not fully realize it, and if enterprise leaders do not always grasp it, or politicians sometimes disregard the consequences, nevertheless, to a large measure, science and technology will be the source of solutions to the problems relating to the quality of life and the environment facing our countries today". At a press meeting, Commissioner Ruberti also expressed concern about "the evident gap between, on the one hand, statements of principle made by politicians on the role of research in economic recovery, and, on the other, the reduction in financial resources destined for research in the different Member States". A variety of opinions were exchanged during the parallel Sessions and the subsequent discussions. Programmes such as ESPRIT, the Community's information technology programme, came under criticism for a lack of commercial impact, while some industrialists complained that the Community avoided market-oriented projects for fear of distorting competition. Several of the speakers stated the need to ensure that Community research provision is not confined only to precompetitive research. However, a strong consensus was established that investment in science and technology represents investment in the future, and that this is particularly necessary during a situation of economic recession. Most participants agreed on the need for priority support for research in the area of social sciences and the solution of social problems. It was felt that research projects must be geared more towards examining the relationship between research and human activities, with work focused on the social, environmental and demographic effects of research. Greater prominence should also be given to the moral significance of technological advance, and in this light, a better dialogue should be established with Community citizens. In the summation, it was noted that the European Parliament will take account of the contributions made during the Science Summit, not only in its consideration of immediate research policy, but also as preparations are made for the Fifth Framework Programme, which will take Europe into the 21st century. Conclusions of the Summit were presented by Dr. Linkohr, of the European Parliament's Energy Committee, who stressed that the global budget of 13,100 million proposed by the Commission for Community RTD during 1994-1998, under the Fourth Framework Programme and the linked Euratom Framework Programme, was small in proportion to either US or Japanese research spending.

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