President's page#

Sierd Cloetingh

Letter to AE and YAE members and guests from the President Sierd Cloetingh#

December 2017#

Dear AE member, member of the Young Academy and guest readers,#

My December letter is always a welcome one, as it marks the imminent approach of a short rest and recuperation period. For you I hope, it also marks the end of a very productive and successful year and a time for a little reflection and some new - year planning.

My reflections, will be limited to a few significant milestone reports and some anticipation for the coming year.

I am pleased and proud to report on the successful handing over of the first substantive scientific evidence review report of the SAPEA [Science Advice for Policy by European Academies] consortium “Food from the Oceans” (FFO)– this took place in Brussels at the end of November in the presence of the current Chair of the SAPEA Board – (AE member) Günter Stock and myself and with members of the Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) of the European Commission and the Commissioner Moedas and Commissioner Velas. Our two FFO expert group chairs - Dag Lorents Aksnes and Poul Holm were also present. The FFO work has been excellently co-ordinated by the AE Cardiff Hub under the management of Louise Edwards, recently joined also by Esther Dorado Ladera. Ole Petersen [our Treasurer and VP], has been very actively involved throughout, and I specifically want to thank them all for their efforts in ensuring that the report was completed on time. An official report launch event will take place in early 2018. This will be announced on our website and in a newsletter. Please keep a watch on SAPEA activity at our site and https://www.sapea.info. Copies of the final report are available online now and also on request in hard copy from the London office in January. There have been a number of outreach events linked with the FFO work that were held in Bergen (with the support of our Bergen Hub members – Jan Vaagen and Laszlo Csernai) and also at Cardiff. FFO sessions were also included into other events for example, in Hamburg.

This is a measure of what the AE can deliver with the help of you, our members – so I will welcome any proposals for future policy relevant topics. Please send them at any time.

I would like to report that I recently also visited both Cardiff and Barcelona where the future of these two very important and active hubs have been assured. Bergen has undergone a change in structure, staff and organisation and Wroclaw is continuing their first class programme of events. You will receive separate newsletters from our hubs. We are also exploring several new and exciting hub possibilities.

I want to briefly mention our 2017 annual conference in Budapest. It was a wonderful very busy programme and days – jointly organised by AE, ALLEA, the Young Academy and with the critical support of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and its President Professor László Lovász. This event has marked a change to the pattern of our future annual meetings. It has been decided from 2018 onwards, to focus our annual gathering around the Barcelona Disputatio debate and to fix in the calendar, the last week of November every year, as the date for your diary. Our intention, is to have one full day of topic driven and high-quality presentations; the evening Disputatio itself and a festival element of the Erasmus medal and lecture and the welcoming of new members. The whole event will be a maximum of 2 days. The theme for the 2018 Disputatio and AE/YAE meeting will be “Building Bridges”. We will also move the legal annual general meeting of members [where we discuss business matters/hold elections] to another date, and location. More information will appear as things develop.

So, with 2018 firmly in mind, I am pleased to announce that the Council has unanimously agreed to award the 2018 Erasmus Medal to Professor Hans Clevers, for his lifelong achievements in the field of developmental biology [see also: https://www.hubrecht.eu/onderzoekers/clevers-group. Professor Clevers will be presented with the medal at the Barcelona event in November, where he will deliver the 2018 Erasmus lecture. I would like to thank Professor Balazs Gulyas who has managed the search process for the 2018 award and will step down from the Board of Trustees at the end of 2017. Prof Gulyas was instrumental also in the 2017 Budapest annual meeting. He has agreed to continue to manage the Erasmus search process for the next few years, so a rigorous and a quality process can be guaranteed. The field of the 2018 call for the 2019 medal will be announced early in the New Year.

In my re-election mission statement I undertook to launch a consultation for a new strategic plan – I need to apologies that this has not yet materialised. The sheer volume of our activity in the second half of 2017 has delayed this. But please be assured that such a consultation will take place as soon as practicable in early 2018.

I would now like to mention a very special anniversary date. On September 5th and 6th 1988, the very first meeting of the AE Council took place, in Cambridge. This was the founding meeting of the Academia Europaea. So, 2018 will be our 30th anniversary year. We will try to arrange to hold the 30th annual general meeting (the business meeting) and a short festival session of speakers around these dates, in the UK, to celebrate our birthday. I am pleased also to be able to remind you that all but one of our past presidents are still with us - our founding president Arnold Burgen and presidents Stig Stromholm, Jürgen Mittelstrass and Lars Walløe. Our current Treasurer and VP Ole Petersen was a founding member. I am looking forward to trying to get as many of the founding members as possible together for a celebration and a “forward look” into the future.

Finally, I will end with an announcement and some congratulations.

First the announcement. The call for nomination of candidates for election to membership in 2018 is now officially open. You can find the procedures and rules for nomination and nomination form on our website at Acad_Main/Nominations. The call closes on 30th April 2018. In connection with the call I am pleased also to announce that the Board of Trustees recently appointed Professor Björn Wittrock to the position of Chair of Class A2 (Social and Societal Sciences). Professor Wittrock will steer the development of that Class over the coming few years.

Now the congratulations. I am pleased to report that Erol Gelenbe (Informatics section) has been awarded the 2017 Mustafa prize and that Kim Nasmyth (Cell and Developmental Biology Section), has been awarded the 2018 Breakthrough prize in life sciences.

I wish all members a restful, happy and peaceful holiday and to all of us a dynamic, productive and successful 2018.

Sierd Cloetingh
Utrecht, December 2017


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