President's page#

Sierd Cloetingh

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

May 2017#

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

The month of May is always exceptionally busy. I have just returned from Stockholm, where I chaired a meeting of our Board of Trustees and attended an excellent symposium organised by our HERCuLES group. The topic was “Crossing over to the future: Interdisciplinarity in research and higher education“, and I must here thank the organisers: Milena Žic Fuchs (Chair), Zagreb, Erik De Corte, Leuven, Lars Engwall, Uppsala, Liesbet Geris YAE, Liege, Svend-Erik Larsen, Aarhus, Bert Weckhuysen, Utrecht for an outstanding programme of speakers. This event is part of the strong and continuing links with the Wenner Gren Foundations, which sponsor these biennial events and the resulting publications. I would especially like to thank Britt-Marie Sjöberg, Chief Executive Officer of the Wenner-Gren Foundations for her support and involvement and Maria Helgöstam who together with Teresa McGovern in the London office always ensure that these events are enjoyable, productive and perfectly organised.

This brings me to our annual conference in Budapest. The programme is of an exceptional quality. Please register as soon as possible and book your hotel. Accommodation demand in September is very strong and the recommended list of hotels (discounted) all have specific closing dates coming up very soon – some in June!, after which you will be left to luck. I would also encourage members who were elected last year (in 2016) to come to Budapest as we want to specifically welcome them on 4th September. You can find all the information on I am pleased to report that following recent very constructive meetings with two other European Academy organisations; the EASA (Academia Scientiarum et Artium Europaea - Salzburg) and the EURASC (European Academy of Sciences - Brussels). Their members have been invited to attend the Budapest conference. This can be the start of a long-term collaboration.

Can I remind members that we will award three AE medals during the conference: The Gold Medal to Helga Nowotny – for services to European science; The 2017 Erasmus Medal to Andreu Mas-Colell for economic scholarship, and for the first time, the AE Adam Kondorosi advanced award for excellence in plant science to Allan Downie.

Also linked to the Budapest annual conference is the formal Annual General Meeting for AE members (the business meeting) 4th September, and a number of workshops organised by our Sections on 3rd September. The details for these Section meetings are also on the conference website.

The SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) project is gathering momentum. Louise Edwards our Senior Policy Officer based at our Cardiff hub is now actively supporting the two expert groups that will draft the report for ‘Food From the Oceans’ [FFO] in the autumn. I expect that the official SAPEA website will become operational in the next few days and we can then make sure that all members are regularly updated and links established on Please remember that FFO is just the first topic and over the next four years there will be many more topics open for you as members to be nominated experts. We are also developing our own internal forum system to identify bottom-up topics that might be suitable for advice reports.

Some members ask why they should pay a subscription or make a donation to the Academia Europaea, especially as a lot of European National Academies do not require this. The answer is simple. The AE is a pan-European organisation with members drawn from the entire continent and beyond. As such and unlike National Academies, we do not receive any national governmental funding and although we are successful in getting project money from sponsors, we must increasingly rely on you, the members for the finances to operate and support as many activities as we can. The four regional knowledge hubs are supported by local sponsors and not directly by the centre and for this we are grateful. We do not link your membership to payment of fees, but we really hope that you recognise the importance of the AE as a mechanism for better Academic community development across borders- particularly given some recent events! So, please do try to support us financially.

I have been pleased to be involved in an extensive ERC initiative on widening European participation. This was staged in Tblisi (Georgia) and involved delegates of the Eastern Partnership countries, from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine and the Belarus. It was organised by our member and Trustee – Eva Kondorosi (Chair of the ERC ’Widening European Participation’ working group) as part of the EU- eastern partnership, on the 10th anniversary of the ERC. We met several excellent scientists who however suffer from the lack of state of art or even just good quality infrastructure. They expressed interest with great enthusiasm to join AE and I have been discussing in the Board of trustees a strategy for recruitment of members from these very under-represented countries. In a similar context, I am a member of the steering committee for the upcoming Estonian EU presidency event, scheduled for 11 – 13 October in Tallinn. We (AE) through our SAPEA partnership will organise a parallel event on ’Crossing boundaries: new approaches to science for policy in Europe’ on October 13.

We are all very aware of recent developments in Hungary with the CEU. I have written to the Prime Minister and other Ministers and my letter was circulated to all members some time ago. I received a reply that was extensive, but as expected, did not address all the issues raised. Our initial concerns remain on the table. I am in regular communication with our Hungarian members and with key colleagues so that as the situation unfolds, we can keep the situation under close scrutiny and again respond when or if matters demand.

On a personal note. I was recently appointed by the COST committee of Senior Officials as the next President of the COST Association (COST is an acronym for European Cooperation in Science and Technology). My two year term starts in June. COST is a very long established research network funding mechanism created in 1971. It currently supports 350 large networks, across six domains . It is an intergovernmental organisation that has 36 COST member countries and a budget of 300 M Euros over the Horizon 2020 period. In this role, I am hopeful of being in a position to promote COST and to enable COST researchers to engage with the Young Academy and with our own membership; strengthen the widening European participation agenda and provide a greater range of expertise and input for the SAPEA policy advice project. I am also hopeful that AE and COST can work together to develop new joint activities and that AE and the YAE will have more opportunity to participate in COST events.

Let me offer a final reminder. The new President of the Young Academy of Europe – Marcel Swart, has asked me to invite senior members of the AE to nominate possible new Young Academy candidates for membership. A specific appeal will be included into the next general AE newsletter.

Sierd Cloetingh
Utrecht, May 2017

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