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The Future of Science and Technology in Europe

04/07/2008 4:00 PM 10-105 Bush Room
Jose Mariano Gago, Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Portugal

Description: Jos_ Mariano Gago draws the title of his talk from a book written collectively by European Union research ministers, following years of discussion. While it is the result of a long"term bureaucratic process, the book and the agreement it represents also constitute a political triumph of sorts, suggests Gago.

In a nutshell, says Gago, "the EU intends to become the most advanced knowledge"based economy in the world while achieving at the same time social cohesion and sustainable, environmental development." A tall order, but one on which consensus was struck among very different member nations, and which is being translated in a variety of ways. A prominent concern for the EU, Gago notes, is the increasingly competitive global market for human resources. Ultimately, Europeans hope their policies will reverse the brain drain with the U.S. in science and technology.

The EU has spelled out specific steps for achieving its goals, which include increased public funding of and private investment in R&D, reforming universities (and pushing for their internationalization), and developing and extending R&D infrastructure such as distributed computing networks. The landscape of European research is complex, and driven not by a solitary political structure but by the means and needs of many nations, Gago reminds us. The mechanisms for taking on these challenges are consequently multifaceted. Among other initiatives, the European Research Council hopes to develop "high class basic research" in all fields, including the humanities and social sciences, with a "large sum of money at stake." There will be joint technology initiatives, partnerships between public and private organizations that will receive funding for a decade. The EU also hopes to internationalize industrial research, encouraging collaboration among commercial groups from different nations that normally compete against each other. There is also the hope of spawning new international research organizations modeled on the highly successful CERN. Gago mentions the recent launch of a Portuguese"Spanish International Nanotechnology Laboratory.

Gago runs through some R&D statistics pulled from research by the Organization for Economic Co"operation and Development (OECD): Portugal, he's proud to say, has the highest proportion of women researchers, "after being one of the most traditional and backwards political systems in the 20th century." The biggest European country, Germany, boasts fewer than 20% female researchers. European development, believes Gago, depends on building up women in the ranks in science and technology. Gago finally asks whether the U.S. and Europe might ultimately share a common vision, and if in fact the primary actors might not be research universities like MIT, with European partners.

About the Speaker(s): Jos_ Mariano Gago is an experimental high energy physicist and a Professor of Physics of at the Instituto Superior T_cnico (IST) in Lisbon, Portugal. He graduated as an electrical engineer from the Technical University of Lisbon and obtained a Ph.D. in Physics from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. He worked for many years as a researcher at the European Organisation for Nuclear Physics (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland and in Portugal's Laboratory for Particle Physics (LIP), which he chaired. Gago is a member of the CERN Council. He chaired the High Level Group on Human Resources for Science and Technology in Europe.

As Portugal's Minister of Science and Technology (S&T) during 1995-2002, Gago was responsible for science and technology and for information society policies. He launched the Ciencia Viva movement to promote S&T culture and S&T in society. During the Portuguese EU presidency (2000), he prepared, along with the European Commission, the Lisbon Strategy for the European Research Area and for the Information Society in Europe. In 1998 he also launched the Eureka"Asia Initiative in Macao. During the 2007 Portuguese EU Presidency he promoted the adoption of a strategy for the future of S&T in Europe and for the modernization of universities in the EU.

Gago was President of the International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) in Geneva and is a member of IRGC Board. He is a member of the Academia Europaea.

Host(s): School of Engineering, Engineering Systems Division

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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