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Research in Europe: an update on the research base of European Universities and the new audiovisual information portal of the Union

Research in Europe is a constantly evolving environment with complex needs and many audiences to serve.  The following offers a brief overview of new developments in research including “Athenaweb” a science portal recently launched by the European Commission and the new report “European Univerisites: Enhancing Europe’s Research Base”. (For more on research funding see "EU research funding in jeopardy" in this issue).

Athenaweb is a portal for audiovisual information on science and was launched in June by the European Commission. This new platform was designed to support scientific communities in Europe in sharing information that is of the highest quality with the public. Functions of this new platform include an electronic library of science programmes, an online agenda of key events, a European science news service and a forum for co-productions and partnerships. Athenaweb was launched here:

European Universities: Enhancing Europe’s Research Base was released in May 2005 by the Forum on University-based research working closely with DG Research.  The forum was established by Former Commissioner Busquin as a follow-up to the Liège Conference last year. The Forum considered many issues facing the university system. The issues are primarily about changing roles in the face of changing requirements. Along these lines, autonomy is seen as a good orientating principle as there is no single model for Europe.  The specific recommendations of the report are:

  • reinforce an emerging message within European Higher Education related to closer ties between universities and industry.  For example, the group recommended that universities strive to provide continuing education not only to individuals but also to companies and build concrete synergies between themselves and surrounding society (companies, chambers of commerce, public authorities, etc).
  • stress the importance of “trans-disciplinarity” including greater exchange of students between disciplines and support for trans-disciplinary coverage of the European Credit Transfer System.
  • call for universities to be recognized as institutions in the EU Research Framework Programme (FP7) and allow identification of the full cost of their research.

The Forum urges their implementation at EU, national/regional or university level, including actions to be integrated in the next Research Framework Programme, in order to create the conditions that will strengthen research-active universities and support their efforts to enhance their performance.  Next steps would be that the Commission produces a related strategic document on the role of universities in Europe’s research base.

Commission Press release Athenaweb
Report by the Forum on University-based Research