Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Our Woman in Brussels

When was the last time you heard some really good news coming form the EU?
It seems, despite the EU being very good at extolling its own virtues, some media outlets and indeed the man or woman on the street love to focus on the European Project's mistakes.
But I'm not here to convince you one way or another on Europe and thankfully all that Lisbon business is now behind us.

No, I'm going to focus on a piece of good news for Ireland. Dare I say it (I dare, I dare), it could be a development which will help us out of this little quagmire that we've walked ourselves into.
The fact is, if we are to emerge from this rut we're in we'll need to innovate. We need innovation in our politics, in our agriculture, industries, education, science and research.

That's why it is such good news for all of us that the new Irish Commissioner is Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and that she has taken on the Research, Innovation and Science portfolio.

"first term in which the keyword 'Innovation' will be included"The politician previously serving in this role was a Slovenian by the name of Janez Potocnik who has now taken the Environment portfolio in the new commission. This will be the first term in which the keyword 'Innovation' will be included in the job description of the Science and Research commissioner.

Potocnik is on record as stating his belief that trading knowledge and the development of an information society is just as important to Europe as the trading of coal and steel was 50 years ago.

This seems to be reflected in popular opinion. A Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2008 looked at the opinion of young Europeans aged between 15 and 25 on science. Between a third and a half of those surveyed showed a high level of interest in a variety of science and technology topics with young men showing more of an interest than women (75% vs. 59%).

When asked about their future profession however, few respondents were eager to take up the white coat. Respondents were most likely to be planning a carreer in social sciences, economics or business. Mathematics was selected by the smallest group!

With young women most likely to study natural science or maths in order to go into the health, education or public sector, young men were more inclined to opt for engineer, technician and the private sector as employment aims.

So, while young Europeans clearly recognise the importance of science and innovation to society, It seems that it will be more difficult to convince them that it is a viable carreer choice for them.

Speaking on her first day in office, Geoghegan-Quinn outlined that this part of her career may be the "most exciting of all" the roles she has previously held in domestic politics and in Europe. The commissioner said that Europe was at a crossroads and that science and innovation will be at the centre of a move towards the "green, social market economy of the future."

Highlighting an action plan being drawn up by the entire EU Commission and to be published in March under the title Europe 2020, Geoghegan-Quinn stressed that research, innovation and science would be a core strand in Europe's recovery plan.

"there will be no overnight miracles""Without science, without scientist there can be no sustainable prosperity. Without science we cannot improve our society", said the new Commissioner.

"All of us who believe deeply in the power of knowledge to improve lives must present a united front. We must invest more energy than ever before in communicating the benefits and outcomes of research and innovation. It will not be easy and there will be no overnight miracles".


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