STRASBOURG, FRANCE--Some 200 prominent European researchers met here over the weekend to launch an association that will speak for working researchers across the continent. But the newborn organization, called Euroscience, faces stiff competition for a voice in European politics.
"European scientists of all disciplines do not have a common means to express themselves, or a place where they can interact with other elements of society," says astronomer Françoise Praderie of the Paris Observatory. That's why Praderie and several other Euroscience instigators met to form the association, hammer out bylaws, and discuss how Euroscience should pursue its overall goals of raising the profile of science and integrating it into European culture. The organizers are unabashed in their use of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, ScienceNOW's publisher) as a model.
The founding members set up three working groups to look at particular problems and compile reports. One will deal with the future of young scientists in Europe as academic jobs dwindle. A second working group was charged with strengthening scientific collaboration with central and Eastern European countries, while the third will consider how to make science more accountable to "European society, industry, and other societal demands"--by making it easier for scientists to switch between academic and industrial jobs, for example.
The hottest debate at the meeting was reserved for how Euroscience would find a niche among all the other organizations seeking to represent the interests of European science. Bruno Schmitz, a science adviser at the European Commission, the European Union's executive in Brussels, said he cannot see much of a role for Euroscience, given the existing bodies already providing science advice in Brussels. Whatever its role, Euroscience will need more members to have any real influence, as well as a governing board, which members will vote on in a few weeks. And some delegates think the organization's program needs to be defined better as well. Says Peter Gahan of London's King's College, "We need to focus on a few of the topics discussed and come up with some swift action."