FP6 eighth priority is too broad, says Parliament report
A paper written by Aly Siby of the European International University, and published by the European Parliament has questioned the effectiveness of the eighth thematic priority proposed for the Sixth Framework programme (FP6). The report claims that the subsection 'Supporting policies and anticipating scientific and technological needs' encompasses too many issues of high importance without a clear indication of how priorities will be decided when assigning the budget. The paper, 'Analysis of the special programmes of the Framework programme 2002-2006' runs through each of the eight thematic priorities, praising some aspects of the Commission proposals and suggesting improvements to others. The paper is unlikely to have a huge effect on the planned priorities, however, as the Research Council is expected to adopt the Commission's proposal by written procedure during August. Some of the subjects included in the eighth priority 'are too broad in scope and should also be dealt with under the relevant priority research themes,' claims the paper. This is underlined as particularly true for research relating to fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture and the forestry sector. 'It is not normal for such important, urgent issues as the modernisation and sustainability of [these sectors] to have no other instruments for carrying out the necessary research and reforms,' states the report. For the first priority, 'Genomics and biotechnology', the paper emphasises the importance of not overlooking ethical aspects, particularly in relation to stem cell research. The report also calls for the inclusion of xenotransplants (transplants between species) and further research into animal welfare in this priority. Under the heading 'information society', the second thematic priority, the author calls for more attention to knowledge interfaces, particularly in the field of education. 'The road towards the European research area should begin with improved education, better learning and greater information in general,' claims the report. The inclusion of 'Nanotechnology, intelligent materials and new production processes' as the third priority is welcomed. It is vital that environmental and energy issues are taken into consideration in the fourth priority, 'Aeronautics and space', asserts the paper. The Commission must also establish a mechanism to ensure that SME participation in this programme increases to 15 per cent, the Mr Siby adds. More attention should be paid to fisheries, forestry and aquaculture under the priority 'Food safety', according to the paper. 'Efforts should be made to facilitate the jobs performed by these workers through progress in informatics and new maritime technologies,' it states. Mr Siby also requests that animal and human health are approached in parallel as they 'cannot be dealt with completely separately.' 'Sustainable development' is welcomed as the sixth thematic priority. The report calls however for better use of the results obtained by academics. 'Academic research is the strong point of the EU research sector and European researchers and companies do not take sufficient advantage of the possibility of applying their findings to cutting edge technologies such as non-pollutant and environmental technologies.' Finally, the inclusion of the seventh priority, 'Citizens and governance', is applauded by Mr Siby, his only recommendation being that a higher percentage of the FP6 budget should be channelled into this area.