A Farewell from the President#

Dear fellow AE member and colleague,
Dear member of the Young Academy of Europe,
Dear guest reader,#

This is my last message to you, as President of the Academia Europaea.

I will complete my term on December 31 after having served Academia Europaea as President, for seven years. Seven is a happy number and for me these 7 years have been most rewarding due to the wonderful interactions with so many of you.

Prof. Sierd Cloetingh
Prof. Sierd Cloetingh (Foto: Photo: Tamás Szigeti/MTA)

Academia Europaea was the first Academy I joined as a member. As with the first love, I never forgot the moment when I was welcomed in such a friendly and warm manner as a new member. The founders of our Academy, including our current Vice President Ole Petersen and brought together by our first President Arnold Burgen, had a vision. They realized in 1988 at a time of great changes in the political landscape in Europe, that our continent needed a Pan-European academy. Today more than 30 years later you will agree that their vision is more timely than ever before.

As many of you know, I am an Earth scientist, a field which is by its nature cross border and Academia Europaea has served as an important platform for community building in my field. I am very grateful to Academia Europaea for synergizing my passions for Earth science and for the European Project including the European Research Area.

The Academy has developed over the past decades under inspiring leadership of my predecessors and collective dedication of successive Boards into a true voice for science in Europe. A number of steps in this process should maybe be highlighted here:

A breakthrough has been our involvement in the recently established Scientific Advice Mechanism to the European Commission. Academia Europaea is a member of the SAPEA consortium, an acronym that stands for Science Advice for Policy by European Academies, working closely together with the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors to the Commission. I am very pleased that our hub in Cardiff under the leadership of Vice-President Ole Petersen, assisted by Louise Edwards and Juliet Davies, is making such a great contribution to our successful functioning in SAPEA. Academia Europaea is also very happy with the harmonious atmosphere in which the cooperation of the academies in SAPEA functions and with the very professional coordination of the SAPEA project by Rudy Hielscher.

The establishment of seven regional knowledge hubs of our Academy, starting with our first hub created under the Presidency of my predecessor Lars Walløe, has been another game changer. Today Academia Europaea is present all over Europe. We have hubs in Wroclaw (directed by Arkadiusz Wójs), Barcelona (directed by Ricard Guerrero), Bergen (directed by Eystein Jansen), Tbilisi (directed by David Prangishvili), Budapest (directed by László Lovász), Munich (directed by Don Dingwell) and the already mentioned Cardiff hub. The hubs are complemented by our Data Information Centre in Graz under the leadership of Dana Kaiser and Helmut Leitner. Coordinated by our headquarters in London, under the directorship of David Coates, assisted by Teresa McGovern, we have an optimal operational structure for reaching out to our membership.

At the occasion of my farewell to Academia Europaea it has been my privilege to acknowledge exceptional service to our Academy by awarding the Presidents Merit award to the following persons: Theo D’Haen (Leuven), Ricard Guerrero (Barcelona), Kasia Majkowska (Wroclaw), Jerzy Langer (Wroclaw), Louise Edwards (Cardiff), Teresa McGovern (London), Dana Kaiser, Helmut Leitner, Robert Hoffman and Hermann Maurer (all from Graz), Jan Vaagen, Laszlo Csernai and Dag Rune Olsen (all associated with Bergen), Enric Banda (Barcelona), Erik de Corte and Lars Engwall (both associated with our HERCuLES group), Cinzia Ferrini (Trieste), Svend Erik Larsen (Aarhus) and Balazs Gulyas (Singapore).

Following the above spirit, a recent Board decision has been to link all the hub directors with the Board. Our hubs also give substantial logistic support to the functioning of the classes as evident from the very successful virtual Class meetings organized this year. These welcomed the new members elected in 2020. The Class meetings were set up to complement our first hybrid Annual Conference in Barcelona. This (COVID limited) re-start for our physical meeting programme was attended by some fifty participants on site and a further three hundred and twenty-five online. Also in 2021 we continued to enjoy a demand for membership from our European and global community and we are experiencing a steady growth of our Academy, with the election of three hundred and sixty-one members. I am sure they will be keen to come to Barcelona again in 2022.

The Academia Europaea has also this year been active in supporting scholarly excellence, through awarding prestigious Prizes and awards. This has included our Erasmus medal (with the recipient being the 2020 Nobel Laureate, Roger Penrose), the Gold Medal (Recipient Ole Petersen), the Adam Kondorosi Prize in Plant Sciences (Recipient Paola Bonfante) and the Barcelona Hypatia Prize (Recipient Ilaria Capua). Our HERCuLES group on higher education, research and culture in European society is functioning extremely well with its dedicated leadership of Lars Engwall and a delayed event is planned for 2022.

Another important development has been our growing synergy with the Young Academy of Europe, founded by the late André Mischke and today under the inspiring leadership of Gemma Modinos. I am very happy that YAE will be, on behalf of the consortium of the Young Academies of Europe (YASAS), a designated grant recipient in the next phase of the SAPEA consortium.

Building on these developments, last year the Board adopted our Strategic Plan for the period 2019-2024. This year, we have already implemented a number of important elements. An interdisciplinary Task Force on Climate Change and Environment has been established and coordinated by our Board member and Academic Director of the Bergen Hub, Eystein Jansen. Another important decision made by the Board has been to establish a new and exciting initiative called the Academia Europaea College. There will be an accompanying program of ‘Academia Europaea Distinguished Professors’. This will start with a pilot phase in the Social Sciences Class, under the leadership of its Class Chair Björn Wittrock who is the champion of the scheme. The Board has also decided to publish a call for ‘bottom-up’ proposals for new initiatives in 2022/23 from members seeking ‘seed funding’ from the Hubert Curien fund. We have agreed an initial budget for the first (open) call of 30.000,00 Euro.

Networking is key for our academy, both internal and external. Academia Europaea is well presented through participation of its Board members in a number of platforms and organizations that are vital for the functioning of the ecosystem of research and innovation in Europe. Partnership with these organizations is in the DNA of our Academy. Here I would like to mention as examples, our distinguished Board member Eva Kondorosi who is member of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors to the European Commission, our incoming President Marja Makarow who is a member of the European Innovation Council, and our Board member Eystein Jansen, who is a member of the ERC Scientific Council.

Prof. Sierd Cloetingh
Prof. Sierd Cloetingh at his valedictory lecture in Budapest (Foto: Photo: Tamás Szigeti/MTA)

As illustrated by the above, the functioning of our Academy is characterized by a collective effort of its members and of the Board in a bottom-up spirit, serving our Academy and through this contribution, serving the scientific community in Europe at large.

The Board meeting on December 10, was the last one attended by Theo D’haen. Theo has served Academia Europaea in numerous capacities for over twenty-two years. He has variously been Section Chair, Council and Board member and organizer of a very successful annual conference in Leuven. On top of that, he served from 2007 onwards as the Editor-in-Chief of our journal “The European Review”, published by Cambridge University Press. During his term, the impact factor of “European Review” has significantly increased and the number of issues per year has gone from four to six. Theo will be succeeded as Editor-in-Chief by Alban Kellerbauer. The end of this year also marks the completion of the term of our elected Vice-President, Genoveva Marti. She served previously as the first Director of our Barcelona hub. Fortunately, Genoveva will stay on as section Chair of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies (Class A1 – Humanities). We are also saying farewell to Alexej Verkhratsky as the Chair of the Life Sciences Class, after having served for five years. He remains an active member of Academia Europaea, through for example, his role in the Editorial Board of the journal Biology Direct, affiliated with our Academy. Alexej will be succeeded as Class Chair by Eva Kondorosi. Don Dingwell will complete his term as Chair of the Exact Sciences Class at the end of the year. He will be succeeded as Class Chair by Paolo Papale. Don will stay with us as Academic Director of the Munich hub. Balázs Gulyás has been re-confirmed by the Board as Chair of the Erasmus Medal Committee after having served in an exemplary manner as such for the past seven years. The Academia Europaea is extremely grateful to Theo, Genoveva, Alexej, Don and Balazs for their dedicated engagement over so many years to the mission of our Academy.

With the above appointments, the Board has secured continuity in the functioning of the Classes where all Class Chairs (Poul Holm], Class A1; Björn Wittrock, Class A2, Paolo Papale, Class B and Eva Kondorosi, Class C) will also serve as members of the Board of Trustees of Academia Europaea.

Presidents come and presidents go. That is what should happen. I would like to thank the Boards that I have been chairing throughout my Presidency, for their collective engagement, pro-active attitude, confidence, inspiration and above all friendship.

I would also like to thank the Executive Secretary, Dr. David Coates, who has served with four Presidents, for his strong commitment to the prosperous functioning of our Academy, over so many years.

I will stay with the Academy as an enthusiastic member and I am very pleased that the Board has asked me to take on next year the chairmanship of the Advisory Board of our Academy, composed of Helga Nowotny, Robert-Jan Smits, Andreu Mas-Colell, Rolf Heuer and Carl-Hendrik Heldin.

I trust this will not be too heavy a task, as the Academy is in good shape and in good hands with the incoming President, a dedicated Board and the Executive Secretary and a dream team of hub directors and their staff. I am confident that they will secure continuity, stability, and a further dynamic evolution of our Academy. The Academy is worth this. I wish them success in this endeavor.

Finally, I must thank all of you, members and colleagues, for your friendship and commitment to the mission of our academy.

Wishing you all the best and excellent health for 2022.

Sierd Cloetingh MAE
15th December 2021
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