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GeoPolicy: Science for Policy at the 2019 General Assembly!

GeoPolicy: Science for Policy at the 2019 General Assembly!

The EGU General Assembly is the largest geoscience meeting in Europe. Not only does it have a diverse array of sessions that you can attend within your own area of expertise but there are also thousands of sessions that will be outside of your research field, as well as sessions on topics that can be applied to a wide range of scientific divisions, jobs and industries – such as science for policy

The line-up for the 2019 EGU General Assembly includes Short Courses, Disciplinary Sessions, Townhall Meetings, Interdisciplinary Sessions and Union-wide Sessions that focus on various aspects of science-policy. Even if you’re just a bit curious about science for policy, it’s definitely worth adding a couple of the policy related sessions outlined below into your #EGU19 schedule!

Science and Society (SCS)

Science and Society is the new union-wide session format that provides a space to host scientific forums dedicated to connecting with high-level institutions and engaging the public and policymakers.

  • Plan-S: Should scientific publishers be forced to go Open Access: With support from the European Commission and European Research Council, plan S demands that research supported by participating funders must be published in Open Access journals by January 1, 2020. This session will debate the questions surrounding the implementation of the plan and its consequences.
  • Past and future tipping points and large climate transitions in Earth history: This session will discuss the advances in modeling forces triggering and amplifying Earth’s climate and carbon cycle. Given that Earth’s climate is currently experiencing an unprecedented transition under anthropogenic pressure, understanding the mechanisms behind the scene is vital and can help steer policy.

Short Courses (SC)

Disciplinary Sessions

Please keep in mind, that this isn’t an exhaustive list! There are a lot of other sessions at the EGU that can either be directly linked with science for policy or that include research relevant for policymakers. You can find more policy-related sessions on the EGU General Assembly Programme (which you can access online and via the EGU2019 mobile app) and through the General Assembly special sessions page. This page tags sessions under the categories of policy, diversity, media, early career scientists and public engagement so that GA participants with an interest in these topics can find relevant sessions quickly. If you think a session or event within one of these categories is missing, please email the EGU Media and Communications Manager at media@egu.eu with a link to the session, and the category where it should be listed and why.

If you have any further questions or comments regarding the EGU General Assembly’s policy activities, feel free to get in touch via email or come and meet me and the rest of the EGU office in person at the EGU Booth on Friday April 12, 10:15–10:45.

 

EGU’s response to potential changes to the European Research Council

EGU’s response to potential changes to the European Research Council

A major re-organisation of the European Commission’s Research and Innovation Directorate General is scheduled to take place this year with a goal to revise staff reporting procedures and increased coordination between the agencies. While improved coordination may be of benefit in some areas, concerns have been raised about the potential impact these changes may have on the European Research Council (ERC), the European funding agency for excellence in research that sits within the Directorate but has the distinguishing feature of being independently managed by scientists. We believe this autonomy is a key and critical element of the undisputed success of the ERC, since its creation just over a decade ago. This success has been, in large part, due to the capacity of the agency to listen, act upon, and adjust to the needs of the scientific community. Without this close relationship with the research community, the ERC’s ability to support the very best frontier science will be compromised. Of particular concern, are potential changes in the remit of ERC’s Scientific Council as governing body, which is undoubtedly a cornerstone of the ERC’s credibility, success and international recognition.

The EGU strongly supports the unique ability that the ERC currently has to respond directly and independently to the needs of the scientific community. Being the sole European funding agency for scientists, designed and governed by scientists, has enabled it to become one of the world’s leading and most respected funders of frontier research, with over 70% of completed projects leading to discoveries or major advances. The EGU unequivocally supports the Scientific Council’s ambitions for Horizon Europe to “consolidate the ERC’s success by ensuring its continuity, agility and scale-up in the next framework programme”.

We encourage EGU members to react to this EGU response. If you have comments that you would like to see added to this piece, please email policy@egu.eu or add your comment on this blog post. 

GeoPolicy: getting ready for the European Parliament Election

GeoPolicy: getting ready for the European Parliament Election

The European Parliament currently has 751 members who belong to one of the eight political groups, at least one of the 20 different committees and represent approximately 500 million people from the 28 EU Member States. The EU Parliament plays an extremely important role in the EU. It oversees the EU budget, launches investigations into specific issues and shares legislative powers with the Council of the EU which means that it can pass, reject and adjust proposals submitted by the EU Commission.

The current parliamentary configuration is often more ambitious than the EU Commission in terms of sustainability, climate targets and funding for science. In November 2018, the Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy committee called to increase the budget for the EU’s 2021-2027 research and innovation framework programme (Horizon Europe), from the Commission’s proposed €83.5 billion to €120 billion. And ahead of COP24 in 2018, the Parliament voted to increase the EU’s emissions reduction target from 45% to 55% compared to 1990 levels.

However, the current configuration of the EU Parliament is set to change with the upcoming European Parliament Election which will be held from 23–26 May 2019. The European Parliament is the only body of the European Union that is elected directly by EU citizens. Despite this, since the first EU Parliamentary elections in 1979, voter turnout has significantly declined from 62.0% to 43.0% in 2009 and only a slightly higher turnout of 43.1 in 2014 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Percentage of EU citizens who voted from the first EU Parliament Election in 1979 until 2014. https://www.statista.com

What do the EU elections decide?

The next European Parliament election will determine who the Members of Parliament (MEPs) will be. There are currently 751 MEPs but this number will be reduced to 705 after the 2019 election as a result of the UK leaving the Union. Each of the soon to be 27 EU Member States (after Brexit) has  already been allocated a number of the 705 MEP seats based on the size of their population. The elections in May will decide who, from each Member State, will fill these positions.

The focus and direction of the EU Parliament is dictated by the MEPs elected. Your vote will therefore help dictate the future EU budget, which legislation is passed and what adjustments are made!

Who can vote?

Voting in the European Parliament election is restricted to nationals of EU Member States. Usually, EU nationals are only able to vote for candidates that are standing for elections in their own countries but if you live and are registered in a different EU Member State you can chose to participate in the election of your host country instead. But of course, you can’t vote twice! So, if you are live in a different EU Member State, you will have to decide whether you’d rather vote for a candidate in your host country or your home country.

What about UK citizens?

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 after which UK nationals will no longer have MEPs or the right to vote for them (regardless of where they live).

If you’re an EU citizen living in the UK and want to vote in the European Parliament elections, it is still possible depending on your home country. You can find more information about your country’s specific rules regarding citizens living in the UK here.

National discrepancies

Despite it being a European election, different EU Member States are able to dictate many of key elements regarding the voting process, such as

  • which day the polling is open (between 23–26 May)
  • the voting system (Figure 2),
  • whether voting is compulsory
  • the minimum age to be eligible to vote (16 in Austria & Malta, 18 everywhere else)
  • whether it’s possible to vote by mail or from abroad
  • if there’s a single electoral district or multiple

This section of the EU website can provide you with specific details depending on your nationality and country of residence.

Figure 2: The voting systems of EU Member State and number of MEPs. Source 2019 European Elections national rules

What are some of the concerns for the upcoming election?

As Figure 1 shows, voter turnout is a definite concern. The EU Parliament is attempting to address this through initiatives such as “this time I’m voting“. Hacking and cybersecurity are also potential threats to the election. As European Commissioner for Security Julian King stated, Given the dispersed nature and comparatively long duration of the European Parliament elections, they present a tempting target for malicious actors”.

Furthermore, there is increasing concern about the prevalence of disinformation. Fake news can easily go viral when individuals fail to fact-check before sharing a link on social media. Bots, that can be controlled by individuals or governments, also have the ability to share fake news, shape online conversations and subsequent discourses. There is evidence to show that such bots have already had an influence on certain EU issues such as immigration in Italy. The EU is already working to combat disinformation with the EU Action Plan against Disinformation which was released by the Commission in December 2018. Key online organisations such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Mozilla are also expected to release figures on disinformation and the measures that they are taking against it in early 2018.

Increasing nationalism and populism within the EU is another concern with populists gaining traction in many EU countries.

What can you do in the lead up to the election?

Know the voting rules and specifics of the country you will be voting in and make sure you register if your country requires it.

Have an understanding about what issues your country or constituency’s candidates support. Most countries should have an overview of the candidates running closer to the election. Websites such as VoteWatch Europe can tell you how active each current MEP is, how they have voted on particular issues and the initiatives that they’ve been involved with. If a candidate was, for example, involved in the 2017 MEP Scientist Pairing Scheme, they are likely to support science and science for policy.

And this goes without saying for most scientists … don’t spread misinformation! Make sure your sources are reliable and don’t just share an article based on the headline.

Happy voting!

Further reading