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Towards the establishment of an European Research Council (ERC) panel on “Soil Science”

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6th European Soil Partnership (ESP) Plenary meeting
28-29 March 2019
FAO headquarters, Rome, Italy
Carmelo Dazzi

Published in: Education
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Towards the establishment of an European Research Council (ERC) panel on “Soil Science”

  1. 1. Towards the establishment of an ERC panel on “Soil Science” (a long and winding road) Carmelo Dazzi Co vice-chair
  2. 2. A proper classification of the knowledge represents one of the key-elements that promotes science, and has important cultural, societal and practical repercussions. The mission of the European Research Council (ERC) is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields, on the basis of scientific excellence. In short: the ERC goal is to support the best of the best in Europe across all fields of science.
  3. 3. The so-called “PANELS” of the European Research Council, namely the arrangement of the scientific knowledge based on criteria defined at European level, are gaining an increasing importance at any level, because they contributed in creating a new “geography of the knowledge” with evident effects on research and teaching.
  4. 4. Now, there are 25 ERC panels that cover all fields of science, engineering and scholarship. These are assigned to three research domains: • Social Sciences and Humanities (6 Panels, SH1–SH6); • Physical Sciences and Engineering (10 Panels, PE1–PE10); • Life Sciences (9 Panels, LS1–LS9).
  5. 5. The European Research Council Expert Group (ERCEG) was convened for the first time in 2002, under the Danish Presidency of the European Commission, in order to continue and update the activity previously defined by the European Research Area (ERA). The story
  6. 6. In 2005, with the support of political and scientific community, the establishment of the European Research Council was proposed through the funding of the Ideas Programme using the budget of the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013).
  7. 7. The official character of the ERC was sanctioned in Berlin (in 2007), as part of the inaugural conference under the German Presidency of the European Commission. In the same year (2007) was published the first call for research projects ERC Starting grants, and about 10,000 proposals were submitted.
  8. 8. The ERC Starting grants projects were, for the first time, divided into three major areas (called domains): 1. Social Sciences and Humanities; 2. Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Information and Communication, Engineering, Universe and Earth Sciences; 3. Life Sciences. These were subdivided respectively in 5, 8 and 7 sub areas (called panel).
  9. 9. Chronologically, this was the first application at European level of the ERC domains, aiming at identify/classify the research projects. After 2007, the ERC structure was completed: • the number of the ERC members increased; • the calls for ERC research projects become constant; • the availability of financial resources become constant.
  10. 10. To date, the Scientific Council (the ERC governing body), consists of 20 renowned scientists and scholars. Members are appointed by the European Commission on the recommendation of an independent Committee With respect to the first date of application (2007), the structure of the ERC sectors for identification/classification of research projects has significantly increased, as a logical consequence of the continuous evolution of scientific developments and knowledge.
  11. 11. In 2015 the 3 research domains: 1. Social Sciences and Humanities; 2. Physical Sciences and Engineering (in 2007 called Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Information and Communication, Engineering, Universe and Earth Sciences); 3. Life Sciences were respectively articulated in 6, 10 and 9 panel, and 79, 165 and 101 descriptors (keywords).
  12. 12. A comparative analysis of the developments of the ERC domains highlights how the level of articulation not only has changed, but also (and especially) as it has not developed evenly in the three domains of research. Comparing the ERC Frontier Research Grants, we can see how, for instance, in the Social Sciences and Humanities Domain, the SH1 panel evolved from • Markets, Individuals, and Institutions to • Individuals, Markets, and Organisations with a variation of their descriptors.
  13. 13. Developments of the ERC domains
  14. 14. Moreover, descriptors such as sustainability science, geography, regional studies and planning have been used to characterize different panels! As a further example, we could mention the development and evolution of the so-called meta-omics disciplines of the LS2 panel Genetics, Genomics, Bioinformatics and Systems Biology (Life Sciences Research domain).
  15. 15. Developments of the ERC domains
  16. 16. Developments of the ERC domains
  17. 17. Therefore, the structure of the panels shows very detailed levels for some research fields, and is rather rough for others. Even the use of descriptors (Keywords) is not homogenous.
  18. 18. For the ERC system, a rigorous peer review process is crucial. Such peer review process using the ERC domains, panel and descriptors, allows, 1. effective and unambiguous identification of research projects and, 2. the appropriate selection of expert evaluators.
  19. 19. What about the SOIL in the ERC system?! Where is the soil ?!
  20. 20. 2019 ERC EVALUATION PANELS AND KEYWORDS PE10_12 Sedimentology, soil science, palaeontology, earth evolution PE10 Earth System Science Physical geography, geology, geophysics, atmospheric sciences, oceanography, climatology, cryology, ecology, global environmental change, biogeochemical cycles, natural resources management PE10_17 Hydrology, water and soil pollution PE10 chair: volcanologist
  21. 21. 2019 ERC EVALUATION PANELS AND KEYWORDS LS9_4 Applied plant sciences (including(!) crop production, plant breeding, agroecology, forestry, soil biology) LS9 Applied Life Sciences, Biotechnology, and Molecular and Biosystems Engineering Applied plant and animal sciences, forestry, food sciences, applied biotechnology, environmental, and marine biotechnology, applied bioengineering, biomass and biofuels, biohazards LS9 chair: geneticist
  22. 22. ….. the awareness that soil is a key and very complex natural resource has increased at all levels of society. ……. soil degradation is a serious challenge ……. effective and positive actions to preserve the multi-functionality of soil and its role in environmental equilibria, and in human health and welfare. European Soil Partnership European Society for Soil Conservation European Confederation of Soil Science Societies a petition expressing the opinion of recognised European soil scientists.
  23. 23. ….. the establishment of an ERC panel specifically dedicated to the field of “Soil Science” in its broad meaning. European Soil Partnership European Society for Soil Conservation European Confederation of Soil Science Societies a petition expressing the opinion of recognised European soil scientists.
  24. 24. LS9 Applied life Sciences and Non-Medical Biotechnology: Agricultural, animal, fishery, forestry food and soil sciences; biotechnology, genetic engineering, synthetic and chemical biology, industrial biosciences; environmental biotechnology and remediation. LS9_x Soil Science
  25. 25. A panel specifically dedicated to “Soil Science” will give soil the importance that it deserves as a fundamental resource to maintain the total quality of the environment and humankind, and will allow early career soil scientists to have a direct route through which to apply for ERC grants.
  26. 26. I thank you for your e-mail concerning the field of « Soil Science ». The organisation of the evaluation at the ERC is a permanent concern of the Scientific Council, and we do receive requests like the one you forwarded to me. Actually the Scientific Council took the initiative to organise a Workshop to discuss the future of evaluation at ERC to be held on 21 and 22 February involving all panel chairs from 2017 and 2018. Whether or not the present concept of descriptors is kept will be one of the points to be discussed. This will keep the Scientific Council busy for its coming three plenary meetings (along with other issues of course). The purpose is to come up with a renewed evaluation process at the end of June 2019 to start being reinforced for the 2021 calls. Yours sincerely, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon 8/02/2019
  27. 27. Finger crossed !!

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