President's page#

Sierd Cloetingh

Letter to AE and YAE members and guests from the President Sierd Cloetingh#

December 2016#

Dear AE member, member of the Young Academy and guest readers,#

My final letter of 2016 seems to have come around very quickly and as the year winds down, I would like to thank the teams at all of our regional Knowledge Hubs for an outstanding year of activity. Their dedication to the AE and to you, the members, is heart-warming. You should all have recently received E- newsletters from Wroclaw, from Cardiff and from Barcelona.

I would especially like to thank Professor Ricard Guerrero, the Barcelona Hub Academic Director, for his organising of the 2016 ‘Disputatio’ in the presence of the President of the government of Catalunya and the week of events that followed. I know that our Wroclaw and Bergen Hubs intend to develop their own version of the annual ‘Disputatio’ following this wonderful best practice.

The Bergen Hub is in transition, but I was pleased to participate last week in a two-day series of discussions covering the role of Bergen science in Medical Nuclear Physics past, and prospects for the future. The Rector, Professor Dag Rune Olsen [one of our members] hosts the hub in new offices and was able to participate also over the two days. I wish to thank Professor Jan Vaagen and the Bergen Hub team for organising a fascinating event.
I would also mention here an excellent partnership event between the Wroclaw Hub and the ERC. The Hub organised an ERC “Widening European Participation” event in Wroclaw on 14 November. I am pleased that this relationship is strengthening and that our Board member and ERC Vice President Professor Eva Kondorosi, is leading the ERC initiative. I thank our Wroclaw team of Ola, Kasia and Professor Tadeusz Luty[Academic Director] for an excellent 2016 programme.

The team at our Graz information centre, Robert Hoffmann, Dana Kaiser and Helmut Leitner are our essential ‘behind the scenes’ magicians. Thanks for supporting us through a complex 2016, in supporting the new member elections administration; maintenance of the content of the ae-info website and development of the members’ data and for unfailing courtesy when faced with many technical questions.

We are a very small organisation in terms of human resources at our HQ office in London – only two staff (David Coates and Teresa McGovern) – the support provided at the hubs is critical.


Now to the most significant announcement I have to make in my letter.

A few days ago, I was in Brussels for the official launch of the European scientific advice for policy SAPEA project. The project, funded from Horizon2020 is now operational.

This work will be co-ordinated and managed through the excellent team at our Cardiff Hub who, along with the Academic Director Professor Ole Petersen, have provided us with our main involvement in the process leading up to this point, and will develop our engagement throughout the coming years.

The SAPEA project will demand of us the highest quality of expertise available. In addition, we intend to establish an AE-SAPEA Forum (co-ordinated by Professor Enric Banda (Barcelona)), to link with other relevant European associations and organisations, so as to maximise the impact, outreach and added value of the scientific advice that the project will deliver to the European Commission. This project is a significant development for us and for other national academies involved through their European umbrella organisations [ALLEA, FEAM, Euro-CASE and EASAC]. Over the next four years we will work closely with the High-Level Group of independent advisers to the European Commission to identify topics where our scientific expertise can inform public policy development in a rigorous, systematic and independent way.

This is a major challenge for us and for our partners and so I am pleased to announce that for 2017, the SAPEA consortium will be chaired by Professor Günter Stock (an AE member) who is the current ALLEA President. The SAPEA Chairmanship will operate on an annual rotation basis. You can read the launch event press release and find out more here.

My colleagues and I recently met with the Commission’s High-level group of experts. One outcome that has emerged following the meeting, is that we (AE) have provisionally offered to lead a major policy advice project. We will announce more detail soon and we will be actively seeking your help for this and for the many other topics that arise as the SAPEA project unfolds.

At this point, I would like to give personal thanks to Louise Edwards at the Cardiff Hub for her influential background inputs into the SAPEA group efforts and Judith Lockett for the smooth operation of the Hub. The consortium itself will establish a regular SAPEA newsletter- briefing papers and a website. Moreover, we will ourselves ensure a regular dialogue with you, our members and guests.


A word about the Annual Conference 2017#

I now take the opportunity to announce our 2017 Joint AE-ALLEA annual conference.

This will take place from 4-6 September at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. The topic will be ‘Sustainability and Resilience’.

This event will have some very notable components, including; the award of the AE 2017 Erasmus Medal and the Heinz-Nixdorf Lecture to our distinguished member and influential economist, Professor Andreu Mas-Colell; the award of the first senior AE-Adam Kondorosi prize and lecture in plant sciences; the award of a Gold medal of the Academia Europaea to Helga Nowotny, for her services to European science and scholarship and the first ever prize awarded by the Young Academy of Europe.

As this is our first joint annual meeting with ALLEA, we will also see the award of the annual ALLEA Mme de Stael prize for 2017.

Detailed announcements about all of these awards will appear over the coming weeks. Registration is scheduled to open mid- January 2017. Please try to attend.

AE Members who were elected in 2016 will receive a specific invitation to attend their dedicated welcome and introduction event.

In addition to the main programme, social events and a ‘not to be missed’ excursion to the Lake Balaton region on 7th September: there will also be a number of AE and ALLEA organised thematic side-events, including for our sections on Sunday 3rd and Monday morning 4th September. Again these will be fully advertised, both on the conference website and through future newsletters.

As a new development: I am also pleased to announce that for the first time, the Balzan Prize Foundation has kindly sponsored two of their three 2016 prize winners (all three 2016 winners are members of the AE) to deliver Balzan keynote lectures at Budapest. The keynotes will be Professor Reinhard Jahn (Molecular and Cellular Neurosciences) and Professor Federico Capasso (Photonics). The third prize-winner of 2016 – Professor Piero Boitani (Comparative Literature) should also be congratulated, and I hope something might be arranged at a future date, perhaps in cooperation with one of our Hubs and Humanities Class. Information about the Balzan prizes and the winners.

A final word now about the first interdisciplinary event for 2017#

Our HERCuLES group, in collaboration with the Wenner Gren Foundations, will run an international symposium in Stockholm, 18 - 20 May. The topic is “Crossing over to the future: Interdisciplinarity in research and higher education”.

These are always well attended events and demand is always high. Registration is open now on the ae-info home page. Please do register (via our website) and spread the word to your colleagues – all are welcome. The topic is of general relevance to all University based scholars.

So, there I will stop. I hope you will be able to find some time and space for a little restful contemplation over the coming few weeks. If you find you are not busy [I know this is unlikely], why not nominate scholars as candidates for election? The 2017 nominations cycle is open and information is available via our home page.

I would like to personally thank all of you for your continued support of our Academy and I am looking forward to engaging with you in the exciting challenges of 2017.

Have a happy and productive new year.

Sierd Cloetingh
Utrecht, December 2016

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