March 2017Monthly Archives

EU Research Experts to Assist Hungary and Bulgaria in Defining Standards

Bulgaria and Hungary are the first E.U. member states to enlist the European Commission’s help to reform their research policies. The two Eastern European nations will receive guidance from external reviewers as a piece of the commission’s new Policy Support Facility (PSF), declared here yesterday.

For registering for the scheme the countries were praised by moedas. “Having a [science] minister [who] says: ‘we’re committed to doing the reforms, please include independent experts and tell me if I’m doing the best thing’; I think it requires a lot of bravery,” said Moedas, who presented the strategy with Bulgaria’s science minister Todor Tanev.

Bulgaria has requested “peer review” and advice in three areas: public funding of research, science professions, and knowledge transfer from academia to business. The commission has collected a number of five external reviewers and five “peers”–senior government officials involved in research policy within their particular state. The panel, headed by Luc Soete, rector of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, will conduct state visits in April and June and is anticipated to provide recommendations by the end of July.

The media on the whole don’t cover this sort of European cooperation but it makes interesting reading in these times of Brexit and other countries questioning the advantages of the European Union. SOme of the bigger broadcasters do cover these events to some extents though for example the BBC, you can actually watch the BBC in France and other European countries – see here.
This type of exercise is not completely new: there have been reviews of national science systems before, through consulting companies or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for example. But Soete says PSF could carry more weight if its recommendations are linked to the European Session, the annual evaluation of financial reforms in member states of the commission. Presently, the commission’s prescriptions focus mainly on budget area, but armed with the reviews of PSF, it might make more powerful recommendations about research and initiation reforms. (All member states have signed up to align their policies under the European Session, but its recommendations remain nonbinding.)

The commission has consented to prepare the ground to get an identical exercise in Hungary after in the year. Other nations, including Poland and Italy, have expressed an interest in setting their research policies beneath the microscope too. “The countries that feel the most powerful pressure as being underperforming [will] be the first to rap on the door,” while other nations “wait and see,” Soete says. Nonetheless, “I wouldn’t be surprised if many nations took advantage of this” eventually, he adds.

Authorities who use PSF will also have the ability to get practical assistance from your commission officials to roll out reforms.

 

Additional Sources:

How to Access BBC iPlayer Outside UK

The Martin McGuinness Paradox

The death of the Sinn Fein leader, Martin McGuinness has caused as much controversy as he did in life.   If you read the opinion pieces in the media there is a definite split, should we remember McGuinness for the latter part of his life involving the peace process and compromise or the violence of his IRA days.

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Much of course probably relies on your age and experiences to how you viewed the controversial figure.  Norman Tebbit of course, who’s wife was paralysed in the Brighton bombing orchestrated by the IRA has more reason than most to despise McGuinness.   For those unaffected directly though perhaps the most inspiring moment was when Arlene Foster joined the funeral congregation and was applauded by all the those who sat around.

The DUP leader has more reasons than most to despise Martin McGuinness,  she lost her father when he was shot by the IRA.   When she was 16 years old, her school bus was attacked by an IRA bomb.    Yet for the last 15 months she has worked with Sinn Fein and their leader in an attempt to maintain the peace process and lead Northern Ireland forward.

It was a bright moment which surprised many, yet the reception she received from the largely Catholic audience seemed genuinely affectionate.   Was it a political stunt, no-one except Arlene Foster would know but it’s moments like these that give hope to maintaining the peace of Northern Ireland.  The tribute was extended by Bill Clinton who praised the DUP leader, he also empathised with how difficult it was to attend the funeral of someone involved in her father’s killing.

It is important because hate and division has for so long been ingrained in the very fabric of Northern Irish society.  Even if the attendance was merely a political gambit, it had real power and demonstrated that it was possible to forgive even in the most extreme situations.  The symbolism was powerful, it might inspire others to follow her example on both sides of the political divide.

It will be interesting to see if McGuinness’s death  has any impact on the negotiations for power sharing, but it is hoped that something positive will develop.  It’s worth keeping an eye out on the local media for a fuller picture.  The Irish broadcaster RTE in the Republic of Ireland has good coverage but you’ll need to use the same technology people use to watch BBC iPlayer in Ireland like this to access it from the UK mainland for example.

Additional Sources:

BBC in Ireland