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UNESCO: Making the European Research Area pan-European

In the July-September issue of “A World of Science”, UNESCO takes a close look at how scientific cooperation in Southeast Europe may reach a truly pan-European dimension. Since 2001, UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Science in Europe (ROSTE) has been fostering regional co-operation, and has helped to heal some of the wounds inflicted by the violent break-up in the 1990s of the former Yugoslavia, once a major player in European science. Howard Moore, Director of ROSTE explains how his team in Venice has been implementing the ‘mandate’ entrusted to ROSTE by the Balkan countries three years ago.

Since ROSTE was established in 1988, much of our work has been concerned with research training and institution building or upgrading. We are fortunate in receiving generous extra-budgetary support on an annual basis from the Italian government to the tune of 1.3 million euros for our natural science and culture programmes.

In a region where the recent conflict has driven a wedge between religious communities and between neighbours, how do you go about bringing scientists together?

Much of the capacity-building I have spoken of takes the form of summer schools and workshops. We organize these in the Balkans themselves rather than sending students outside the region, not just for economic or logistic reasons but also because we believe the Balkan institutions should have the opportunity to learn how to put this training together themselves. This approach has the added advantage of bringing students from the same region together when they would not otherwise have much opportunity to mix. Further, it is important to distinguish between brain drain and mobility.

Science requires interaction with others. To know who is doing what, and how, scientists cannot stay cooped up in their faculty; they have to move around. Together with organizations like the Marie Curie Fellowship Association, ROSTE is looking at how best to foster appropriate and pain-free mobility within Europe. Countries realize that, if the European Research Area13 is to work, it has to be truly pan-European and that means using the talent from every corner of Europe.
The Seventh EU Framework Programme beginning in late 2006 will grant access to scientists from Southeast Europe wishing to participate in the Union’s scientific programmes.

UNESCO: A World of Science July-September 2005
UNESCO Office in Venice: Regional Bureau for Science in Europe