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Coordination of structural biology in Europe

The European Commission, DG XII, has developed a new method of coordinating research efforts at national, Community and industry levels, with the aim of increasing cooperation and avoiding duplication of efforts. The field of structural biology was used to test the new methodo...
The European Commission, DG XII, has developed a new method of coordinating research efforts at national, Community and industry levels, with the aim of increasing cooperation and avoiding duplication of efforts. The field of structural biology was used to test the new methodology, and a report has recently been published on the basis of this.

The growing trend towards inter-disciplinary science, the need for major equipment and costly facilities, and the complexity and urgency of scientific challenges mean that more sharing of intelligence and cooperation between researchers from different Member States is needed. Furthermore, despite these trends, and efforts to increase coordination at European level, Member States' research policies are still largely developed individually, without reference to each other.

The structural biology sector was chosen for testing the new method, since it illustrates these trends well, and as a sector which touches on most scientific and industrial fields. The approach comprises three main steps:

- To gather together and share information on national research programmes;
- To formulate recommendations for improved coordination of structural biology in Europe. This involved two position papers, one from industry, and one from the national programme managers;
- To propose operational scenarios for the practical implementation of these recommendations.

The experience with structural biology has led to a number of observations. Whilst all parties consider the sharing of information on national programmes to be an essential step, it has proved much more difficult in practice than expected. The needs identified by industry corresponded very closely to those identified by national programme managers. Developing scenarios for putting these recommendations into practice has therefore been relatively straightforward. The scenarios proposed are all compatible with the Community's existing Biotechnology programme, meaning that those active in the sector will have the opportunity to demonstrate their willingness to put coordination into practice. An unexpected spin-off from the project has been the establishment of the Structural Biology Industrial Platform, which aims to increase coordination within the industry.

Source: European Commission, DG XII

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