#ESOF2012 – EU Science Commissioner forges MoU with US NSF chief

13 Jul 2012

Dr Subra Suresh, director of the US National Science Foundation

The EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn today signed a memorandum of understanding with Dr Subra Suresh, who heads up the US National Science Foundation (NSF). The aim is to facilitate a two way exchange. It means that scientists in the early stages of their career who are funded by the NSF in the US can spend up to a year in Europe at labs funded by the European Research Council.

It is believed that the MoU will also allow early stage researchers in the EU who are funded by the European Research Council to spend time at labs funded by the NSF in the US.

NSF director Suresh formally agreed the MoU this morning with Geoghegan-Quinn at the Euroscience Open Forum in Dublin.

Yesterday he spoke to Siliconrepublic.com about investing in science and technology and the setting up of a virtual global entity called the Global Research Council for the heads of science funding agencies from around the world.

Also today, Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn talked at ESOF about reaching the middle of her term as the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science.

“Since taking up the job, I have encountered, on an almost daily basis, fantastic science, and more often than not, the scientists who carried it out. In my long experience of public life, this has been one of the most fascinating positions I have held. It has been a privilege, as a non-scientist, to see, at close quarters, how science works.”

She spoke about the “growing determination” to put science at the heart of Europe, and Europe at the heart of science. I

Geoghegan-Quinn touched on the CERN announcement last week, when the scientists at the Large Hadron Collider announced that they had found a new particle consistent with the Higgs Boson.

“They are tantalisingly close to confirming the Higgs’ existence. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the announcement. Everyone was, because it writes the next chapter in the book. It opens up a whole array of new questions and new frontiers of knowledge. Indeed, what I found interesting was the level of excitement the announcement generated, across all ages, all countries, and all cultures. It showed that the desire to understand the universe really is universal,” she said.

Geoghegan-Quinn also spoke about how scientists need to get better at communicating their results to people.

“Last week’s announcement from CERN was a magnificent moment. Amid the economic difficulties, it gave us inspiration. It made me proud to be the Commissioner whose job it is to promote science. Our task now is to persuade everyone else of the centrality of science. Let’s put science back where it belongs  – at the heart of Europe. Let’s put Europe where it belongs – at the heart of world science,” she added.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic