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Welcome: Which role for society in Europe’s research future? Open science in research evaluation and assessment

For a brief insight, we have picked out a few points from the discussion. If your interest is piqued, feel free to watch the recording of the event to dive deeper into the topic.

  • Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth
  • Ulrike Gote, Senator for Science, Health, Nursing and Equality, City-State of Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Günter M. Ziegler, President of Freie Universität Berlin

Prof. Dr. Günter M. Ziegler, President of Freie Universität Berlin

Ladies and gentlemen, Honorable Dr. Ehler if he's already here, I don't see him yet. We'll welcome him soon as he arrives. Maria Leptin - Is on her way. Wonderful. Dear University representatives dear other research and education representatives from Berlin and here in Brussels. Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, it's a great honor and pleasure to welcome you all on behalf of the Berlin University Alliance. You may have seen that Peter French is in the printed program to do this, the president of Humboldt University, who had a little problem with a little virus and thus can't join us here today. A very common problem. I hear Corona is still around. Even more so. It's a pleasure to have you all here and  that this is possible in the summer here in Brussels. And I'm welcoming you on behalf of all four partners of the Berlin University Alliance, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Freie Universiät Berlin, Technische Berlin and Charité the university medicine in Berlin.

Today we will discuss the question which role society should have in Europe's research future. Cooperation is at the core of the Berlin University Alliance. This has been born out of the insight that no single discipline and no single institution and not even just a couple of institutions together are capable of facing and getting hold of the challenges our societies face today, which are global challenges, which are major challenges and which are connected challenges. On the other hand, we do believe that science - and I'm taking here "science" as the translation of when we talk about "Wissenschaft" in German, so this means natural sciences, it means social sciences, it means humanities. All these things together, joint together and interacting. They should play an important role in solving these challenges, or at least addressing these challenges and getting us on the right track with respect to these challenges. The core aim of the Alliance in Berlin is to get Berlin into an integrated research environment, of course, driven by the four partners of the alliance in which we try to cross the borders between disciplines, between institutions, between various aspects that are still sort of impediments to really joining together. And I think we've made progress in the last three years. We are in a good way, but there's also a lot of things to do. And you can tell probably that we are ambitious in Berlin in getting things going. 

The other observation is that this Berlin story of joining together and trying to do things together and getting things moving is a local experience that might seamlessly fit into the larger framework given by what's developing at the European level, where, again, we will make progress only by joining things together. So our aim today here in Brussels is to launch an exchange that we hope will be of mutual benefit, where Brussels can learn from Berlin, and Berlin, of course, wants to learn from Brussels. 

Let me say a bit more about this Berlin University alliance. In our first objective - we had to formulate five objective in this excellence strategy competition - the first one was to address grand challenges together. Which would be major themes were a single topic or a single subject or a single university is just too small to really get going. And the first two topics that we chose were  social cohesion, and the second one was global health. By the way, the topics were chosen before the pandemic, so I think we are on the right track. And even then, or at least in the pandemic, we also realized that social cohesion and global health are also two topics that belong together and cannot be really addressed separately. The third grand challenge topic that we will choose and address, is something that we will first choose, and the idea is to really get society at large into the process of choosing the next grand challenge topic. This will be a bottom up process which involves all societal actors that we can grab in Berlin and beyond. So you see that we are actively engaged in the sometimes demanding work also of our roles and in the relations and the relations with society at large. 

There's two more topics, grand objectives of the alliance that are most relevant today. The first one is called "Fostering Knowledge Exchange", where we mean this thing about exchange - literally: it's not only science communication sort of top down or one way, but we really believe in knowledge exchange between sciences and society at large that needs to be developed. And the other topic and objective is called "Advancing Research Quality and Value", and that's where open science goes, but that's also where research assessment goes, where it goes about understanding the incentives that drive research and understanding how that connects with the demands from society. And to evaluate in this context both the approaches and the successes of open science and what that means and how it connects to science communication, knowledge exchange and these topics. This is big topics, you can learn more about what we are doing here at the stands and in the brochures, of course, and by talking to us. And I hope a lot of that will develop in the in the discussions today, both the formal ones and informal ones. We'll have a lot of interactive discussions ahead for us today, so let me close this brief welcome and hand the word to our most distinguished speaker today, Mariya Gabriel, the commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and Youth. And I understand she will join us electronically on the screen. Welcome.

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

Mariya Gabriel

Mariya Gabriel
Bildquelle: Science|Business Publishing

Dear Senator of the city state of Berlin, dear representatives of the Berlin University Alliance, dear members of the Parliament, dear representatives of UNESCO, dear President of the European Research Council - dear Maria, dear academic research and education community, Ladies and Gentlemen. 

Thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to address you in this event about the role for society in Europe's research future. I commend the example of the Berlin University Alliance bringing together four institutions to share and complement experiences and objectives and support such reflections. It is important to keep an open minded approach about the rapidly changing world that impacts on policymaking and the future of research organizations. Society has a non-negotiable key role in Europe's research future. The knowledge produced by scientists is a patrimony of us all. We accumulated so much knowledge throughout the centuries by passing on scientific understanding from generation to generation. Brilliant times of our history happened when science and knowledge defended freedom of speech, the respect of different opinions of democracy. Open science can play a role in responding to different societal expectations. Society expects that science brings the objective thinking that is necessary to build trust. It expects that policymakers are better prepared to take informed decisions, and science contributes to consensus and progress. The inclusion of stakeholders is important across the full range, from basic to applied research. The level of sophistication and modalities of such involvement should be calibrated to fit the purpose. Our citizens are empowered if we can link better education and research, supporting the necessary critical thinking to face the overabundance of information. We should recognize the need for additional efforts to reach out to different audiences and capture the essence of their thinking. I'm very interested in your debate about the mainstreaming of social sciences and humanities in the context of research evaluation and the role of Transdisciplinary as a trigger of future Horizons missions. We very much need such debate, which, as you know, is very timely. We discussed with European ministers at the Council meeting of the 10th of June several Council conclusions of the French presidency, addressing missions, research assessment and researcher's careers. I would like to listen to your views on how to frame these debates in the wider context of attracting more researchers, in particular young researchers to the European knowledge fabric that would include more and better cooperation between academia and industry. It will help us defining open science strategies to foster the transformation of research evaluation towards more inclusive excellence across Europe. We are making good progress by facilitating the creation of a coalition of research organizations to engage in and contribute to the reform process. To date, over 330 organizations from across Europe and beyond have declared interest to be part of the coalition. I welcome the active participation of the Berlin University Alliance and call on all research organizations to engage with this initiative. The coalition will be driven by a variety of members: universities, research centers, research infrastructures, research funders, academies and organizations representing researchers, national and regional evaluation agencies, and other relevant stakeholders. We hope to continue the work in the coming Czech and Swedish presidencies. When going forward, we may have to recognize that one size does not fit all. But it is important for me that everyone willing to engage feels that she or he can contribute to design the European research future. Thank you very much. And I wish you now a very fruitful event.

Ulrike Gote, Senator for Science, Health, Nursing and Equality, City-State of Berlin

Ulrike Gote

Ulrike Gote
Bildquelle: Science|Business Publishing

Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to start by thanking the Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth for her kind welcoming remarks. I would also like to send my regards to Christian Ehler, a member of the European Parliament. He will enrich the discussion in the Policy Forum this afternoon, as a long standing member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, the rapporteur of Horizon Europe and one of the leading figures in the design and implementation of the European Framework Program for Research and Innovation. Dear participants of the first conference of the Berlin University Alliance in Brussels. I am especially pleased to welcome Maria Leptin, President of the European Research Council. And Anna Panagopoulou, Director of European Research Area and Innovation in the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission. Two of the most influential experts in the field of European research. I also extend my warmest regards to the presidents of the three Berlin universities, Geraldine Rauch, Peter French and Günter Ziegler, as well as to the CEO of the Chartié, Heyo Kroemer. They all are present here representing the four partners of the Berlin University Alliance, namely Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin und Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.  In Berlin, we tend to refer to the Alliance as BUA - for obvious reasons of brevity. I would like to warmly welcome you all to today's conference of the Berlin University Alliance. You may have heard a thing or two about the Berlin University Alliance, even if you are not from one of the Berlin institutions. But the fact that representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Research Council, as well as the various other institutions gathered here, are now coming together with representatives of the BUA and the Berlin research community in person in Brussels is a notable next step for the international visibility and the engagement of the BUA in Europe. Not only will this event today shed light on a fundamentally important topic for the future of European research - open science. But you will also finally experience the Berlin University Alliance life and meet some of its protagonists in person.

Berlin has been a science city for centuries, associated with names such as Alexander von Humboldt, Rudolf Virchow, Max Planck and Albert Einstein. Today, Berlin is a buzzing science hotspot with over 40 universities and more than 70 research institutions. Over 250,000 people are currently teaching, researching and studying in Berlin. This community is not only large, but also, even by Berlin's standards, highly diverse and open to the world. On top of the regular excellence funding, the city state of Berlin funds the Alliance with substantial additional means through the Einstein Foundation Berlin. 

For Berlin, the development of the Alliance is a fantastic opportunity to further grow as a city of science and innovation. However, everyone familiar with the German scientific system and administrative regulations can guess immediately that this goal is not easy to achieve. Above all, it requires many, many dedicated people and a lot of stamina. On this occasion of the first high level appearance of the BUA in Brussels today, I want to congratulate the whole BUA community and thank them for their work in the past years and months. Especially the setting up of such an ambitious network under conditions dictated by the pandemic, has been enormously challenging. 

A famous quote of Albert Einstein says: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. Today's conference reflects on the topic of the role for society in research, which cannot be considered without the question of the role for research in society. This mutual relationship between society and research is of paramount importance for our future. To solve some major challenges the world is facing today and to which we in Europe must make a decisive contribution, research is the central driving force. And so are our societal institutions. But also each and every single one of us are stakeholders in the development of research in Europe. It is now generally agreed that the interaction between society and research must be closer and more productive than ever before. However, the debate about the role societal actors could have as stakeholders in shaping the framework conditions for research as well as in research assessment and evaluation, is relatively young and highly relevant. It also addresses questions about the sensitive balance between freedom of research and legitimate and important participation and potentially even influence. Under the overarching concept of open science, this debate is currently being developed passionately in all of Europe's science systems, as Commissioner Mariya Gabriel has just referred to. The city of Berlin is closely linked to the development of open science. From the name of the momentous "Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities" of 2003, which to date has been signed by over 500 research institutions worldwide, to the current Berlin Open Science Initiative of the Berlin University Alliance. 

I am very pleased that you have accepted the invitation of the Berlin University Alliance today to discuss these important topics together. I wish you a productive and successful day with stimulating exchange and inspiring ideas in the, for so many months unimaginable, happiness of being able to do so in person.