Science can bring together countries which are in conflict with each other, Europe’s Research Commissioner told an event in Brussels on collaboration between the EU and neighbouring countries.
‘Science is really a common language around the table,’ Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, told the conference at the European Parliament in Brussels on 31 March.
One concrete example of this is SESAME, a particle accelerator in Jordan that is being built with the support of other countries in the region, including Israel and Palestine.
‘It’s a project that unites the peoples of Iran with the peoples of Israel, of Palestine, of Cyprus, of Turkey, of Egypt, and the EU has contributed a great deal to that,’ Commissioner Moedas told the event, called Building Together Knowledge-orientated and Forward-looking EU Neighbourhood.
‘It holds a great significance at a regional level because it unites people through the elevated language of science, providing local employment and investment.’
The event, which comes just a week and a half after Ukraine became a full member of the EU's research funding programme Horizon 2020, was the first time that the ITRE European Parliament committee on research and the AFET committee on foreign affairs met jointly to discuss research.
Moment of hardship
Becoming part of Horizon 2020 represents an important step towards the EU for the former Soviet country.
‘We all live from the same earth, and we all drink from the same water cycles.’
Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation
‘We know that Ukraine has been going through a unique moment of hardship, and for Ukrainian scientists especially it is and it was a moment in time where they found that they were left alone,’ Commissioner Moedas said. ‘So the fact that the European Union was there for them was extremely important.’
Becoming a full member of Horizon 2020 means that Ukrainian scientists have the same opportunities as researchers in the EU to apply for funding.
‘I do think that Horizon 2020 will be one of the major contributions to the development of the innovative society in Ukraine,’ Ukraine’s First Deputy Minister for Education and Science, Inna Sovsun, told the meeting.
As well as bringing together nations that are in conflict with each other, science diplomacy can address issues which cross borders such as water security. That's important because, as the world warms, researchers fear that there will be shortages of water in the Mediterranean.
‘We all live from the same earth, and we all drink from the same water cycles, we need our neighbours to be close partners in this challenge,’ Commissioner Moedas said.
All technology and innovation have a science base but to get there requires patience, as the journey from curiosity-driven basic research to a world-changing technology can take six months or 50 years, a panel of Nobel and Kavli prize laureates has said.
As our world becomes more digitalised and connected, we can actually make a virtual copy of it. And such replicas are now being used to improve real world scenarios, from making aircraft production more accurate to preventing oil spills.
Consciousness – the awareness we have of our self and surroundings – is often referred to as ‘the hard problem’. It’s not easy to scientifically explain how a subjective experience, which is something intangible, can be created by the brain – a physical object. But understanding more about how consciousness works could help us find treatments when things go wrong.
Virtual simulations can also help build aeroplane wings more efficiently.
Understanding consciousness in healthy people could help when things go wrong.
Dr Michaël Gillon on what's next for exoplanet science.