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European Joint Programme for the Integration of Radiation Protection Research

Periodic Reporting for period 5 - CONCERT (European Joint Programme for the Integration of Radiation Protection Research)

Período documentado: 2019-06-01 hasta 2020-05-31

Issue being addressed

The ‘CONCERT-European Joint Programme for the Integration of Radiation Protection Research’ under Horizon 2020 aimed to contribute to the sustainable integration of European and national research programmes in radiation protection. CONCERT as a co-fund action strived to achieve the attraction and pooling of national research efforts in radiation protection with EURATOM research programmes in this field in order to make better use of public R&D resources and to tackle common European challenges in radiation protection more effectively by joint research efforts in key areas. In order to rise to this challenge CONCERT was operating as an umbrella structure for the research initiatives at the start jointly launched by the European radiation protection research platforms MELODI, ALLIANCE, NERIS and EURADOS and later supplemented by EURAMED and SHARE.
Given the limited, indeed even diminishing resources available nationally, in Europe and globally for research on radiation effects in humans and the environment and for radiation protection, and the loss of scientific as well as professional competence in recent years, every opportunity needs to be taken to tailor research activities to the needs of society, authorities and stakeholders, to develop synergies and economies of scale between national competent institutions in this field, particularly to link access to research infrastructures to international research efforts, and to optimise impact of the EURATOM RTD programme by further integrating the radiation protection related education and training activities across Europe.
CONCERT strived to stimulate the contribution of Member States to the development of a joint European strategic research agenda (SRA) in the field of radiation protection. This research agenda has to be multidisciplinary in science, tailored to societal needs, make full use of newly gained knowledge in all disciplines of life sciences and humanities and to fully integrate education and training especially for the young generation to build up and maintain competences needed for a successful, harmonious and sustainable radiation protection regime in Europe today and in future.
Furthermore, CONCERT stimulated the contribution of all national and European actors to the development of a European Joint Research Roadmap (JRM) in the field of radiation protection to lead the way to a sustainable research landscape for radiation protection in Europe.
The work of CONCERT was also of importance for the society. CONCERT had the mission to address and further reduce uncertainties in the assessment and management of radiation risks to humans and to the environment by targeted science. The promotion of joint national and European research and other co-funded integration activities will ensure that human health risks and possible impacts on the environment are better understood and quantified and that radiation protection strategies are optimised. This was achieved by an open exchange of knowledge and information between scientists, regulators, stakeholders involved and society as a whole.
Excellence in research is indispensably linked with fair and open competition for research resources. From the beginning, CONCERT was designed around the central idea to organise open research and development calls as well as calls for activities in education and training. These calls were open to research partners from within and outside the CONCERT consortium. To promote open and fair competition between the research proposals to CONCERT calls, a peer review process with scientists not involved in CONCERT and largely from outside Europe was organised to avoid conflicts of interest influencing the scientific rating of the research proposals.


Importance for society

The work of CONCERT was of importance for the society in broading the scientific basis for optimisation in radiation protection in all fields where ionizing radiation and radionuclides are used and where radiation exposures or contaminations may occur during planned applications, as the result of unplanned accidents, or as consequence of malicious use. CONCERT had the mission to address and further reduce uncertainties in the assessment and management of radiation risks to humans and to the environment by targeted science. The promotion of joint national and European research and other co-funded integration activities will ensure that human health risks and possible impacts on the environment are better understood and quantified and that radiation protection strategies are optimised. This was achieved by an open exchange of knowledge and information between scientists, regulators, stakeholders involved and society as a whole.


Overall objectives

The overall mission of the CONCERT umbrella structure was to plan, manage and administer radiation protection research in Europe in a sustainable and open way by
• Co-ordinating the SRAs, research priorities and long-term roadmaps of all the European Radiation Protection Research Platforms
• Developing joint research priorities and a joint research roadmap
• Promoting the integration of research groups from radiation protection institutions, research centres and universities
• Promoting the integration of research organisations and funding agencies
• Building a research network open to new partners
• Integrating Education and Training (E&T) and access to infrastructure in the research programme

CONCERT initiated and supported the development of strategic research agendas (SRA), the recommendation of research priorities and the development of research roadmaps in all major sectors of radiation protection research via the platform activities of MELODI, ALLIANCE, NERIS, EURADOS, EURAMED and SHARE. These developments were also discussed with and disseminated to European and international organisations involved in radiological protection.
CONCERT considered the integration of research activities in the field of medical applications of ionising radiation and of research in social sciences and humanities (SSH) related to radiation protection to meet the need for a reinforced multidisciplinary approach to research and innovation. Therefore, CONCERT actively supported the establishment of a new research platform in the field of Radiation Protection in Medicine – EURAMED (European Alliance for Medical Radiation Protection Research) and recently of a new platform of Social Sciences and Humanities in Radiation Protection - SHARE.
CONCERT and its main achievements in a nutshell:
• CONCERT project ran over 60 months from 01 Jun 2015 to 31 May 2020.
• CONCERT produced and submitted 212 deliverables (which span across all work packages and nine integrated research projects as part of work package 9. All deliverables are openly accessible via the project’s public website)
• Development of a joint SRA bringing together the SRAs of the EURATOM Research Platforms in Radiation Protection as basis of the call texts of two open research calls
• Successful launch of two open transnational CONCERT Calls for Research Proposals (2016/2017) and funding of 9 research projects with a total of 94 partners
• Successful launch of five E&T Calls for Courses and funding of 57 E&T courses
• CONCERT courses and travel grants strengthened European competence in radiation science by exchange and training of junior scientists CONCERT actively supported the establishment of a Research Platform in the field of Radiation Protection in Medicine – EURAMED and social sciences and humanities –SHARE and added both RP research platform to its consortium
CONCERT was structured in nine work packages (WPs) to achieve an efficient realisation of the project’s objectives and implementation of a bottom-up approach towards developing, delivering, match-making and promoting of a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) for radiation science. Until the end of project in May 2020 the following work has been conducted and main results achieved were:

WP1
The project’s kick-off meeting took place in Munich, June 2015, with representatives of all beneficiaries. A Consortium Agreement was established. During the 5 years of CONCERT eleven amendments of the Grant Agreement have been conducted to a) add further beneficiaries, b) add Linked Third Parties, c) add a new work package - WP9 - to bring together RTD activities selected through two open calls for research projects organised along the CONCERT project, d) add new tasks to the WP9, e) add new deliverables, f) change deliverables and g) change of name and PIC of beneficiaries
All WP 1 deliverables were submitted in time. Summary reports of the activities carried out on CONCERT’s projects progress (D1.1-D1.5) and all 212 deliverables that have been due were submitted to the European Commission. All milestones scheduled were achieved. The 1st and 2nd transnational and open CONCERT Call for Proposals were prepared and published after approval by the European Commission.
To extend CONCERT's scope as well as its co-fund capability new beneficiaries (POM) were added as mutual benefit of the consortium and the joining institutions and foster the integration of radiation protection research in Europe.
With beneficiaries joining CONCERT, the action extended to countries not represented within the beneficiaries of the consortium at the beginning. The participation strengthened the integration of the respective countries' research communities into CONCERT's activities. This also was a step to align radiation protection research activities in Member States and to avoid disadvantages to individual partners when competing in CONCERT's transnational open research calls due to the lack of responsible national Programme Owners and Managers (POM) able and competent to provide co-funding from national resources .
From the start of CONCERT the development of a platform for radiation protection in medicine and social science and humanities, respectively, was envisaged. EURAMED was founded successfully and joined CONCERT in 2018. SHARE was established as an association in July 2019.
With EURAMED joining the consortium, CONCERT united the necessary scientific expertise from research fields such as radiobiology, biophysics, radioecology, dosimetry and medicine among other things at the European level and integrated them into joint research planning and joint research projects. These activities are based on the SRAs of the five European research platforms MELODI (radiation effects and risks in the low dose range), ALLIANCE (radioecology), NERIS (nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness), EURADOS (dosimetry) and EURAMED (radiation protection in medicine).
CONCERT as a co-fund action (70% EURATOM and 30% national funding) was designed to support co-ordinated European funding of successfully evaluated projects. It aimed to attract and pool a critical mass of national resources on objectives and challenges of Horizon 2020 and to achieve significant economies of scale by adding Horizon 2020 resources to joint efforts. The ambition was to use the most efficiently financial resources available for radiation protection research, adjusting national research programmes, and fostering synergistic efforts, leading to benefits to radiation protection research in Europe.
Added value was given for example to joint efforts undertaken with a strategic perspective on supporting excellent science, on building and maintaining high competence in radiation science and radiation protection as well as further promoting integrative and multidisciplinary research at the European level, i.e. by initiating and funding concerted joint research actions, promoting access to research infrastructures and optimising radiation protection related education and training activities across Europe.
All CONCERT activities build on the Strategic Research Agendas developed by the originally four European Radiation Protection Research Platforms MELODI, ALLIANCE, NERIS and EURADOS. This grouping of four platforms was later extended, with the specific support of CONCERT to six platforms, i.e. the extension to research in radiation protection related to medical applications as represented by the EURAMED platform and later to research of aspects of radiation protection in relation to social sciences and humanities as represented by the platform SHARE.
CONCERT organised two major open research and technological development (RTD) calls to strengthen the scientific research in strategic priority areas of radiation protection as described by the European Radiation Protection Research Platforms in their SRAs. CONCERT committed in total EUR 17.1 million (EUR 10.5 million in call 1 and EUR 6.6 million in call 2) in the funding of the open research calls. In total nine joint research projects were selected for funding.
The European Commission initiated and performed a peer review of the CONCERT EJP by independent external experts. This special mid-term review of CONCERT was recommended in the interim evaluation report of the Euratom Research and Training Programme 2014 – 2018 published on December 1, 2017. The CONCERT review took place on 27/03/2019, in Brussels and covered all CONCERT activities carried out so far. Following the review meeting the Commission considered the project implementation and performance as satisfactory.

WP2
During the fifth year, last updates of SRAs during the EJP CONCERT project were reported. The updating of SRAs was initially foreseen to take place on a 5-year interval, which was considered as a suitable strategic planning period. The draft SRAs were typically prepared by the SRA working groups followed by an open consultation among the members as well as by any other interested party. Workshops organized by the individual platforms and, more recently, the European radiation protection week jointly organised by all RP platforms were used as a forum for the dialogue. Comments and feedback have also been collected via web and by e-surveys.
During the CONCERT EJP, the platforms have provided their annual statements on current research needs in order to guide the preparation of call texts for CONCERT. The work on long-term roadmaps of MELODI, ALLIANCE, NERIS, EURADOS, EURAMED, and SHARE has been carried out in parallel of the scenario-based joint roadmaps.

WP3
The first version of the joint roadmap submitted in 2017 served as a basis to collect feedback from the wider research community and other stakeholders until mid-2019. Stakeholder involvement along the course of the development of the joint roadmap is important, since the joint roadmap is meant to be a guide to plan research and develop radiation protection tools for the benefit of the society. This stakeholder process received strong support from WP5, notably from the task responsible for the organisation of the CONCERT Stakeholder group, to collect comments on the joint roadmap version 2017: Various meetings were organised the past years to collect the points of view of different types of stakeholders in the CONCERT stakeholder group.
In May 2019 a joint meeting of the CONCERT WP2-WP3 working group was organised, to discuss the comments received from these different stakeholders and end users, and to discuss which elements should be amended to the first version to become a real updated joint roadmap. In the October 2019 WP2-WP3 working group meeting a new structure of the joint roadmap was agreed. New elements are (1) how research can be of support in the different areas of radiation protection (principles, standards, practice), (2) planning research (3) priority setting, (4) resource identification, and (5) identification of the end users and stakeholders within the different research challenges, and (6) the game changers to enable priority setting and planning. Game changers were defined as research issues that, when successfully resolved, have the potential to impact substantially and strengthen the system and/or practice of radiation protection for man and/or the environment through 1) significantly improving the evidence base, 2) developing principles and recommendations, 3) developing standards based on the recommendations 4) improving practice. These game changers are strongly multidisciplinary, requiring input from the different research areas of the radiation protection research areas, demonstrating the “joint” character of the joint roadmap, needed to tackle the radiation protection challenges from the point of view of realistic or potential exposure scenarios.

WP4
To meet the research needs of the European Union, the call priorities of the open CONCERT calls were developed by joint programming taking into account the SRA of the European Radiation Protection Research Platforms and favouring multidisciplinary approaches. The two open transnational calls for proposals on “Radiation Protection Research in Europe” were a unique added value of the CONCERT-EJP, taking on board the broad spectrum of scientific disciplines relevant to radiation protection research. They allowed CONCERT to support nine scientifically excellent evaluated projects. The projects have been successfully completed and have contributed to a significant increase in knowledge in radiation effects and risks as well as in knowledge in radiation protection measures.
During the fifth year of the EJP CONCERT, WP4 was in charge of the follow-up and closing (scientifically) of the nine research projects funded in the two CONCERT calls, three projects in the call 2016 and six projects in call 2017.
WP4 implemented and managed a final scientific evaluation of the nine research funded projects. A panel of five international experts that already participated in the evaluation process of one or both CONCERT calls reviewed the outcomes of the projects, via remote evaluation of the scientific reports in a first stage, including the midterm and final reports, as well as available deliverables and the presentation of the research projects in the CONCERT Air2 bulletin. The evaluation was completed with a panel discussion.

WP5
CONCERT Work package 5 concerned stakeholder engagement activities; from the outset four main activities were envisaged: (i) Prepare a CONCERT stakeholder management strategy, (ii) establish a stakeholder panel, (iii) plan, launch and analyse a public facing survey, (iv) develop core information on radiation exposure and risk for the CONCERT web page. The CONCERT stakeholder group continued its work in supporting the development of the Joint Roadmap for Radiation Protection Research by the European platforms. An important feature of this work has been a series of web meetings to discuss CONCERT projects, European Research Platform SRAs and the Joint platform Roadmap for European radiation protection research content. The final meeting of the stakeholder group was held in February, 2020. The objective was to have a general discussion on the CONCERT Joint Roadmap and on the outcomes and future of the stakeholder group. This meeting confirmed the interest of feeding the research needs with the comments and expectations from a large variety of stakeholders.
In the current period, since the close of the survey for responses, an analysis of the stakeholder survey activities and the use of social media, has been undertaken and reported. An open literature publication on the survey, its findings, strengths and weaknesses is in preparation. The analysis provides useful information on respondent’s perception of radiation risks and their management. Additionally, the survey response provides insights into the information that respondents would find useful. Information on radiation exposure and risk has been developed and posted on the CONCERT website (http://www.concert-h2020.eu/en/Stakeholders). In addition to a Stakeholder landing page that integrates the information, sections covering ‘What is ionising radiation?’, Natural sources, artificial sources, health effects and radiation risks in context are available. The material draws on and integrates relevant resources available from trusted and credible sources elsewhere on the Internet. This information has been reviewed and minor modifications made in the reporting period.

WP6
WP6 activities included three tasks: Promote the visibility of research infrastructures, harmonise practices and protocols and develop a strategy for facilitating their access. During the last period, these 3 topics were merged and the final deliverable D6.6 “web-handbook” could be considered as a synthesis of the efforts done about those three axis.
CONCERT has prepared and made available a database of relevant research infrastructures operated in EU member countries, a list of existing databases, including sample banks of biological material – aiming at facilitating access to Radiation Protection research infrastructures and to strengthen and expand cooperation between Radiation Protection stakeholders in Europe. All related information can be found in the final version of the web-handbook that compiles the articles on the 120 infrastructures published in the CONCERT Bulletin AIR², with 45 radiation exposure facilities and contaminated sites, 35 databases, sample banks and cohorts and 40 analytical platforms, models and tools. AIR² was received by more than 1000 readers and was relayed for diffusion by the European Radiation Protection Research Platforms MELODI, ALLIANCE, NERIS, EURADOS, EURAMED, and SHARE. The present status is not already a network with legal links between them, but the links could be considered as stronger, because they are based on confidence, respect of independency, without technical control or evaluation, without a superstructure as lead which could not be considered as legitimate. This approach is an important part of the built strategy where activities dedicated to harmonisation has promoted firstly the sharing of data produced on/by them. This work done through the database STORE and the “FAIR standards” could be considered today for the radiation protection research field as better understood and also a true step of integration. Finally, the added final part dedicated more to E&T on infrastructures through sharing protocols and know-how has been considered as a good and crucial step to implement the promotion for using these infrastructures by demonstrations and exercises and finally to increase the c
onfidence by potential users.

WP7
Work package 7 of CONCERT was dedicated to education and training (E&T) for the development and maintenance of the expertise and competence of the community of research scientists working in the area of radiation protection research. The specific activities organised by the work package, and funded as integration activities, included: (1) running a programme of student travel grants to allow students to attend relevant training courses at other institutions, or attend conferences to present their work.
Within its E&T efforts, CONCERT ensured the inclusion of the interests and requirements of E&T Working Groups of all six radiation protection research platforms involved in the EJP and established a system of student travel grants to promote participation in relevant training courses at other institutions, to present their work, and to attend conferences. In the five years CONCERT awarded 83 travel grants.
In addition, the EJP-CONCERT project organised five annual open calls for E&T courses, with which 57 courses were funded in total, for training courses in topics of interest to the participating radiation protection research platforms for the purpose of further developing and sustaining expertise and competence of the research community and attracting new students into the field of radiation protection research. These courses were not primarily concerned with practical operational radiation protection, but they were potentially of interest and benefit to radiation protection professionals in providing the background science that underpins the principles of radiation protection.
Encouraging the career development of new scientists entering the field through interaction with the European Radiation Research Association for Young Scientists (EURAYS, http://www.eurays.eu/) have been started.

The work package 8 sets out the 'ethics requirements' that the project had to comply with.

WP9
The objective of WP9 was to bring together the RTD activities selected through two open calls for research projects launched by the CONCERT EJP. This work package includes the nine different research tasks that have been selected through the two transnational call for proposals on “Radiation Protection Research in Europe” through the EJP CONCERT:
• Task 9.1 CONFIDENCE
• Task 9.2 LDLensRad
• Task 9.3 TERRITORIES
• Task 9.4 ENGAGE
• Task 9.5 LEU-TRACK
• Task 9.6 PODIUM
• Task 9.7 SEPARATE
• Task 9.8 SHAMISEN-SINGS
• Task 9.9 VERIDIC

Through intensive collaboration with the nine CONCERT project-coordinators CONCERT ensured the smooth running of all CONCERT funded projects.
As a whole, the CONCERT project supported the development of strategic research agendas, the recommendation of research priorities and the development of research road maps in all major sectors of radiation protection research via the platform activities of MELODI, ALLIANCE, NERIS, and EURADOS.

In addition CONCERT stimulated similar developments in the field of radiation protection in medicine and in social sciences and humanities. The work for the development for joint SRA for radiation protection in medicine was finalised. A representative working group formed by the European professional associations interested in medical radiation explored the most effective way to integrate radiation protection in medicine in a wider radiation protection research umbrella structure in Europe. Subsequently, the medical SRA was published during the Radiation Protection Week in Oxford in September 2016 and the creation of EURAMED association under Austrian law was initiated. Since October 1st, 2017, EURAMED is a non-profit organisation registered in Austria. SHARE was established as an association in July 2019. SHARE SRA has been using a stakeholder consultation and dialogue approach. This process was initiated by social scientists at the annual RICOMET conferences (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019), and the International Symposia on Ethics of Environmental Health (2014 and 2016) and included other dialogues with members of the radiological protection research platforms. In March 26, 2018, the SSH SRA was presented at the Society for Risk Analysis community and Science and Technology in order to collect input from broader SSH community.
From the sectorial strategic research programmes and research priorities CONCERT extracted by joint programming major research priorities for the open CONCERT calls. Projects (3) of the first call (2016) started in January 2017. The six successful proposals of the second call started in 2017/2018

Further priorities of CONCERT’s integrative activities are the development of a joint research roadmap for all radiation protection research sectors, increased education and training activities for young scientists and provisions for optimal use of European research infrastructures for radiation protection research.
These integrative activities of CONCERT together with the research funding activities stimulated multidisciplinary work in research and translational work towards societal needs in radiation protection for the general public, for workers, for patients and for the environment.
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