President's page#

Sierd Cloetingh

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

September 2017#

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

A very special welcome to our new 2017 cohort of members who were formally elected at the Council meeting in Budapest on 4th September. As I write, our new members are accepting the honour of membership and I am looking forward to meeting as many as possible at our events over the coming months.

Firstly, I would like to thank those members who attended our Annual Business Meeting on 4th September - in particular for re-electing me for a final term as your President. This is a great honour for me and I have prepared a set of priorities that I intend to try to deliver over the coming three years. These are set out in the section below this letter. In particular I would like to emphasise that we will strengthen our role in SAPEA [Science Advice for Policy by European Academies] and our visibility, including further extending our links with our eastern European scholarly communities in practical ways. In addition, we are putting together a forum that will provide a way for us to develop real collaborations with other European Academy organisations and learned society associations. There is a need to maximise scientific expertise for the SAPEA science into policy project, including outside of the traditional Academies. It is also a practical way for AE to develop our own portfolio of new activities in an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary way.

I must now mention our 29th annual conference in Budapest (4 – 6 September). I start by expressing our sincere thanks and gratitude to Professor László Lovász – President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, who was our host and generous supporter – their professional staff (especially Gergely Böhm and Katalin Fodor) and helpfulness ensured we enjoyed our best ever meeting. We had over 350 delegates – of course also as a consequence of our joint organisational partners of ALLEA and the Young Academy of Europe. A stimulating programme of sessions and speakers, including the awarding of the AE Gold Medal to Helga Nowotny, (Vienna); the 2017 Erasmus Medal to Andreu Mas-Colell (Barcelona) and the first ever Adam Kondorosi Advanced Prize for Plant Sciences to Allan Downie (John Innes Research Centre, Norwich, UK). I hope that many of the papers will be published in the European Review. None of the programme could have taken place without the immense personal effort of Balazs Gulyas as our master of ceremonies and principal organiser and also of Eva Kondorosi who oversaw many of the details of the event. A significant achievement.

I was also very happy to personally welcome over 54 of our 2016 cohort of “new members”. I can assure the 2017 cohort that we will prepare a suitable welcome also for you.

Our members based in Hungary, together with the Hungarian Academy identified and selected ten excellent young researchers to receive the annual Burgen Scholarships. I am always greatly pleased by the confidence and professionalism shown by the scholars who are put ‘on the spot’ and have to give a short oral presentation of their research to our assembled members. You can find details of these Burgen Scholars on the ae-info website, together with information on the 2017 medallists and links to the many photographs taken over the course of the conference that have been provided by the Hungarian Academy (see these two links - all pictures and relevant session's).

All of this and further information regarding a call for nominations for a new Vice President and a Treasurer will follow my letter in a subsequent E-zine that you will all receive shortly. Please do look at it. I must mention also here the Heinz-Nixdorf Foundation (who sponsored the Erasmus Lecture); the Balzan Foundation (who gave us permission to invite Reinhard Jahn, a recent Balzan Prize winner, to give a keynote ‘ Balzan’ address) and World Publishing Ltd (Singapore) who provided book prizes for the Burgen Scholars.

Finally, my personal thanks to Csaba Szabó [Eötvös University] who organised the now traditional post-conference ‘Geology with Culture’ field trip to the Lake Balaton region. We had a group of over 50 who despite a long and very busy day and not so good weather, nonetheless enjoyed some fascinating science, excellent wine and food and I hope all felt the spirit of the AE – ‘Excellent science with fun’.

I want now to mention three specific items:

Firstly, the Science Advice for Policy by European Academies project [SAPEA]. The project website is now published. AE is pleased also to have been the lead partner on the first full SAPEA topic of Food from the Oceans. I am now inviting all of you as members, to think about potential future topics that have European policy relevance and are in need of scientific evidence, analysis and input. Initial thoughts can be sent to Louise Edwards who is our SAPEA Science policy manager, based at the Cardiff Hub.

Secondly, we have been involved in assisting in the preparations for a series of events to be held under the auspices of the Estonian Presidency of the EU. There will be an ERC widening participation event on 11th October. There will be a one-day workshop “European Research Excellence – Impact and Value for Society” on 12th October – see this link. Followed on 13th October, by an event organised by SAPEA on “Crossing boundaries: new approaches to science for policy in Europe” – see I do hope that many of you will participate.

Thirdly, On November 22 – 23rd our Barcelona Hub will run the 2017 “Disputatio” debate – “Supercomputers: are they an instrument for science, technology and the progress of society, or not?” These are debates between two opposing international scholars who address a topic of general scientific and public interest. They are supported by the city of Barcelona and follow the old medieval tradition of open and public debates. More information will be posted onto the Barcelona Hub website and our own website.

Our intention is to establish the annual Disputatio events as a fixed-date annual AE meeting, always held in Barcelona in the third week of November. So, from 2018 onwards we will enhance the debate, by organising additional activity to create a more substantive AE meeting. The 2018 general theme is already in place and will be “Building Bridges”. You will be notified of the details of the 2017 event and our plans for 2018 as soon as possible.

Please keep looking at the corporate website and the links to our Regional Knowledge Hubs, who are constantly organising regional activities.

Sierd Cloetingh
Utrecht, September 2017

My Presidency priorities for 2017 – 2020#

Election statement by Sierd Cloetingh#

Our regional knowledge hubs in Barcelona, Bergen, Cardiff and Wroclaw and the Graz data centre are now well established and functioning at a high-level, providing us with distinct and valuable foci of activity. Our diverse and excellent membership is expanding and this diversity is a major strength. I would therefore like to focus a second term on enhancing the opportunities for more trans- and interdisciplinary collaboration across our four classes of expertise. Having a membership drawn from across the continent and beyond and comprising all fields of the physical, natural, social sciences and the humanities together, gives us a unique constellation of excellence and cultural diversity that must be utilised. The mandate described below sets out my priorities. I will work with the Board and the Class and Section chairs to provide a robust and sustainable Academy, in terms of organisational structure, membership composition, resources and relevance.

Our influence is growing, in part as a result of our expanding membership, and in-part because of our involvement in the European Science Advice Mechanism (SAM Horizon 2020 project) and our participation in the Scientific Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA), where we work closely with other pan-European organisations. This has been something that I, together with the Board have worked hard to achieve in my first term. So, I will use my next term to continue to develop these strong links and relationships. With the assistance of the members, and through the Council and the Board of Trustees, I will seek to re-configure the AE as necessary, to allow us to capture new opportunities, ideas and expertise in an optimal way. The overall objective, will be to put the AE rightly where is should be - at the centre of European research and science, providing a clear voice of collective excellence across the European Science landscape, that will benefit our community of scholars.

To achieve this overall objective, my key priorities will be;

  • I will put into place actions to further strengthen our independent voice in the policy advice sphere, using our existing relationships, and also by forging new and sustainable working links with other pan-European academic and research organisations across the continent;
  • I will ensure that we continue to provide mentoring and support for the development of the Young Academy of Europe and to strengthen the opportunities available for the wider, emerging young scholar population to engage effectively;
  • I hope to provide ways for the AE to continue assisting in the continuing development of an integrated European scholarship capacity and a direct engagement with the less favoured regions of Europe and beyond, as our resources allow and in collaboration with other European organisations;
  • To enhance our visibility and academic presence. I have launched a review group that will build on the platform of our historical journal - The European Review, and is charged to recommend a new and comprehensive publications and communications strategy that will enhance the Academia’s offering to the members and bring our internal and external communications up-to-date;
  • Together with the Board, I will explore ways to simplify the governance and decision making of the AE and give greater devolution of responsibility for members’ activity and community to the Class structure, to find more “bottom-up” ways to enhance the opportunities to support members’ own initiatives and to recognise member contributions to their fields and to the AE.
  • I shall seek to develop stronger and more integrated links between the Classes and the Regional Knowledge Hubs, including exploring partners willing to support and host potential new Hubs and finance activity.
  • I will continue to encourage and wherever possible support the excellent work of our thematic interdisciplinary groups, such as the HERCuLES group (Higher Education Research and Culture in European Society) and help them to provide more opportunities for collaborative activity, joint projects and links with other external organisations.

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