New European partnership launched to foster research and education

3 September 2001 Seven of Europe’s leading international research organizations have joined forces to promote and co-ordinate quality European research and foster public understanding of science.

The birth of EIROFORUM was announced on 23 May 2001 by the European Space Agency (ESA), which initiated the project.

ESA’s partners in this endeavour are the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), European Southern Observatory (ESO), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) and the French Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL). The current EIROFORUM chairperson is Dr Catherine Cesarsky of ESO.

EIROFORUM plans to mobilize the network’s substantial combined expertise in basic research and in the management of large international projects for the benefit of European research and development.

One of its tasks will be to simplify high-level interactions with the European Commission and facilitate an effective response to specific requests for expert advice in its areas of expertise.

It also plans to take an active part in examining promising research directions and priorities, in particular in relation to new large-scale research infrastructure. Wherever feasible, it will optimize the use of resources by sharing relevant developments.

EIROFORUM will also have an ‘outreaching’ arm which will co-ordinate such activities as technology transfer and fostering of public understanding of science.

It is in the area of education that EIROFORUM has been most active to date. Even before the EIROFORUM Charter was formally adopted, the group organized a Europe-wide event entitled ‘Physics on Stage’ in November 2000. Over 400 physics teachers from 22 European countries attended the event, which was hosted by CERN (Switzerland).

The twin goals of ‘Physics on Stage’ were to attract students to physics and to improve physics teaching at elementary and secondary level, in order to raise the scientific literacy of the general public.

A follow-on ‘Physics on Stage’ is being hosted by the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the spring of 2002.

In November 2001, EIROFORUM member organizations are sponsoring a similar event of even wider general interest, on the theme of Life in the Universe. The event will be hosted by CERN and will involve the participation of young people selected through a competition.

ESA likes to think of itself more as a ‘facilitator of science’ rather than a real actor in the conduct of science, although it does have some internal research activities. For ESA’s Science Advisor, Martin Huber, who attended the World Conference on Science, EIROFORUM constitutes ‘an important partnership serving science’.

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