Archive for Europe

resignation of ERC president

Posted in University life with tags , , , , , , , on April 10, 2020 by xi'an

[Reposting the ERC Scientific Council statement about the resignation of Mauro Ferrari:]

The ERC’s Scientific Council notes with regret the statement made by Mauro Ferrari concerning his resignation on 7 April. We here present the facts of the situation.

On Friday 27 March, all 19 active members of the ERC’s Scientific Council individually and unanimously requested that Mauro Ferrari resign from his position as ERC’s President.

This request was made for four reasons:

  1. During his three-month term in office, Professor Ferrari displayed a complete lack of appreciation for the raison-d’être of the ERC to support excellent frontier science, designed and implemented by the best researchers in Europe. Although voicing his support for this in public pronouncements, the proposals he made to the Scientific Council did not reflect this position. He did not understand the context of the ERC within the EU’s Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020.
  2. Since his appointment, Professor Ferrari displayed a lack of engagement with the ERC, failing to participate in many important meetings, spending extensive time in the USA and failing to defend the ERC’s programme and mission when representing the ERC.
  3. In contrast, Professor Ferrari made several personal initiatives within the Commission, without consulting or tapping into the collective knowledge of the Scientific Council, and instead using his position to promote his own ideas.
  4. Lastly, Professor Ferrari was involved in multiple external enterprises, some academic and some commercial, which took a lot of his time and effort and appeared on several occasions to take precedence over his commitment to ERC. The workload associated with these activities proved to be incompatible with the mandate of President of the Scientific Council.

Professor Ferrari subsequently resigned on 7 April 2020. Therefore, his resignation in fact followed a written unanimous vote of no confidence. In contrast, Professor Ferrari has stated that the reason for his resignation is that the Scientific Council did not support his call for the ERC to fund a special initiative focused on the COVID-19 virus. To address this point specifically, we did not support a special initiative because that is not our remit and the Commission’s Research and Innovation Directorate General, with which we are connected, was already very active in developing new programmes to support this research through the appropriate channels.

Indeed, many ERC funded researchers have been active for some time in researching the coronavirus family and many other equally dangerous pathogens. Over 50 ongoing or completed ERC projects supported for a total value of about EUR 100 million are contributing to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing insights from several different scientific fields such as: virology, epidemiology, immunology, paths for new diagnostics and treatments, public health, medical devices, artificial intelligence, social behaviour, crisis management.

In addition, as stated on its website in reaction to the COVID-19 crisis, the ERC offers ‘grantees the flexibility to adjust their research project”. This is an efficient measure because several ERC grantees already enquired about the possibility of addressing COVID-19 related research in their ongoing ERC project. All this information is publicly available on the ERC website, which also includes testimonies from funded ERC grantees on how bottom-up frontier research is critical to deliver new – and sometimes unexpected – insights relevant for better understanding and fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as for providing social behaviour and crisis management related solutions.

However, the ERC does not make calls for specific topics, since a guiding principle of ERC is that our researchers are free to pursue the goals they define and to decide on what they wish to work. In our view, this is a crucial way to generate the best science.

The Scientific Council wishes to clarify, in case of any doubt, that they absolutely endorse the view that scientific research will provide the best solutions to tackling pandemics, such as COVID-19.

Therefore, we regret Professor Ferrari’s statement, which at best is economical with the truth. This Scientific Council remains dedicated to pursuing the mission for which the ERC was established: the support of bottom-up ground-breaking research. It is also worth noting that despite the pandemic, the ERC Executive Agency is struggling against the odds to actively process applications for our Consolidator Grants and Starting Grants, which will support researchers throughout Europe to make the discoveries of the future.

The ERC Scientific Council

turning forty…

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , on July 26, 2019 by xi'an

The previous days have been rather tough thanks to another heat wave all over Europe, with the temperatures at home reaching above 40⁰ (outside) yesterday afternoon and more importantly not getting under 30⁰ inside the house at night, as there was no wind at all to cool it down. (Except in the basement  where I ended up sleeping.) After a certain point, as I am pretty susceptible to hot weather, working became impossible and I spent the rest of the day alternating between drinking cold water, taking cold showers, eating radishes, and watching low intensity movies (like The Crimes of Grindelwald!). The day before, my daughter and I tried a late afternoon trip to the nearby outside pool in the parc but this proved quite a disaster as it was so crowded that it was almost impossible to do laps (in a water of questionable composition). Temperatures are now down a wee bit but I wondering at ways to better insulate our house against what is becoming the new “normal”…. Like installing a massive circus tent every summer.

the Montréal declarAIon

Posted in University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2019 by xi'an

In conjunction with Yoshua Bengio being one of the three recipients of the 2018 Alan Turing award, Nature ran an interview of him about the Montréal Déclaration for a responsible AI, which he launched at NeurIPS last December.

“Self-regulation is not going to work. Do you think that voluntary taxation works? It doesn’t.”

Reflecting on the dangers of abuse of and by AIs, from surveillance, to discrimination, but being somewhat unclear on the means to implement the ten generic principles listed there. (I had missed the Declaration when it came up.) I agree with the principles stressed by this list, well-being, autonomy, privacy, democracy, diversity, prudence, responsability, and sustainability, it remains to be seem how they can be imposed upon corporations whose own public image puts more restraint on them than ethics or on governments that are all too ready to automatise justice, police, and the restriction of citizen’s rights. Which makes the construction of a responsible AI institution difficult to imagine, if the current lack of outreach of the extra-national institutions is the gauge. (A striking coincidence is that, when  Yoshua Bengio pointed out that France was trying to make Europe an AI power, there was also a tribune in Le Monde about the lack of practical impact of this call to arms, apart from more academics moving to half-time positions in private companies.) [Warning: the picture does not work well with the dark background theme of this blog.]

per un Rinascimento europeo, pentru o Renaștere europeană, na rzecz europejskiego Odrodzenia, &tc.

Posted in Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2019 by xi'an

[In preparation for the incoming European elections and as a call to arms against populist trends on the rise, Emmanuel Macron has published a tribune in all of the so-far 28 EU countries, written in 24 languages that I aggregated in a single letter, hopefully missing no bit and no language.]

Obywatele Europy,

wenn ich mir heute erlaube, mich direkt an Sie zu wenden, dann tue ich das nicht nur im Namen der Geschichte und der Werte, die uns einen, sondern weil dringend gehandelt werden muss. In wenigen Wochen wird die Europawahl über die Zukunft unseres Kontinents entscheiden.

Jamais desde a Segunda Guerra mundial afigurouse tão necessária a Europa. Contudo, jamais a Europa esteve em situação tão perigosa.

La Brexit ne è l’emblema. Emblema della crisi dell’Europa, che non ha saputo rispondere alle esigenze di protezione dei popoli di fronte alle grandi crisi del mondo contemporaneo. Emblema, anche, dell’insidia europea. L’insidia non è l’appartenenza all’Unione Europea ma sono la menzogna e l’irresponsabilità che possono distruggerla. Chi ha detto ai Britannici la verità sul loro futuro dopo la Brexit? Chi ha parlato loro di perdere l’accesso al mercato europeo? Chi ha evocato i rischi per la pace in Irlanda tornando alla frontiera del passato? Il ripiego nazionalista non propone nulla; è un rifiuto senza progetto. E questa insidia minaccia tutta l’Europa: coloro che sfruttano la collera, sostenuti dalle false informazioni, promettono tutto e il contrario di tutto.

Tegenover deze manipulaties moeten wij standhouden. Trots en helder van geest. Laten we eerst eens zeggen wat Europa is. Het is een historisch succes: de verzoening van een verwoest continent, met ongeëvenaarde plannen voor vrede, voorspoed en vrijheid. Laten we dat nooit vergeten. En deze plannen beschermen ons ook vandaag de dag nog: welk land kan er nu in zijn eentje opboksen tegen de agressieve strategieën van de grootmachten? Wie kan pretenderen soeverein te zijn, alleen tegenover de techreuzen? Hou zouden we de crises van het financiële kapitalisme kunnen weerstaan zonder de euro, die de gehele Unie sterk maakt? Europa mai înseamnă și miile de proiecte care au schimbat, în viața cotidiană, chipul teritoriilor noastre, o școală renovată aici, o șosea construită acolo, ori accesul la Internet în bandă largă care se extinde și dincolo. Este o luptă și un angajament de zi cu zi, deoarece atât Europa, cât și pacea, nu sunt un dat imuabil. În numele Franței, eu duc neîncetat această luptă pentru progresul Europei și pentru apărarea modelului european. Noi am arătat că ceea ce ni se spunea că e inaccesibil, și anume crearea unei apărări europene sau protecția drepturilor sociale, este posibil.

Но трябва да се направи повече, и по-бързо. Защото има и друга клопка, клопката на статуквото и на примирението. И когато наблюдават тежкитге трусове, които люлеят света, грежданите много често ни казват : „Къде е Европа ? Какво прави Европа ?”. В техните очи тя се е превърнала в бездущен пазар. А Европа не е само пазар, тя е проект. Пазарът е нещо полезно, но не бива да ни кара да забравяме, че са необходими граници, които пазят, и ценности, които обединяват. Националистите се заблуждават, когато твърдят, че защитават нашата идентичност, оттегляйки се от Европа ; просто защото нас ни обединява, освобождава и защитава европейската цивилизация. Motijo pa se tudi tisti, ki ničesar ne bi spreminjali, saj zanikajo strahove, s katerimi se spopadajo naši narodi, in dvome, ki spodkopavajo naše demokracije. Smo v odločilnem trenutku za našo celino; čas je, da tako na politični kot kulturni ravni skupaj ponovno zasnujemo našo civilizacijo v spreminjajočem se svetu. Napočil je trenutek evropskega preporoda.

Evropský model spočívá na lidské svobodě, názorové různorodosti, tvůrčím přístupu. Naší první svobodou je svoboda demokratická, svoboda zvolit si ty, kdo nám budou vládnout, a učinit tak ve volbách v nichž zahraniční mocnosti pravidelně usilují o získání vlivu na naše hlasování. Navrhuji vytvořit Evropskou agenturu pro ochranu demokracie, jež by každému členskému státu dala k dispozici evropské odborníky, kteří by jejich volební proces chránili proti kybernetickým útokům a manipulacím. Ve stejném duchu nezávislosti musíme také zakázat financování evropských politických stran cizími mocnostmi. Na základě evropských pravidel nesmíme připustit jakékoli projevy nenávisti a násilí na internetu, neboť úcta k jednotlivci je základem naší civilizace založené na důstojnosti.

EU er bygget på intern forsoning men har glemt at kigge på den virkelige verden. Intet samfund er imidlertid i stand til at skabe en følelse af tilhørsforhold, hvis det ikke har grænser, det skal beskytte. En grænse det er frihed i sikkerhed. Vi skal også gennemføre en gennemgribende revision af Schengenområdet: Alle dem der vil deltage skal opfylde forpligtelser om ansvar (streng grænsekontrol) og solidaritet (samme asylpolitik med de samme modtagelses- og afvisningsregler). Et fælles grænsepoliti og et europæisk asylkontor, strenge kontrolforpligtelser, en europæisk solidaritet, som hvert land bidrager til, under myndighed af et Europæisk råd for indre sikkerhed. Jeg tror på et Europa, der, i lyset af migration, beskytter sine værdier og sine grænser.

Οι ίδιες απαιτήσεις πρέπει να εφαρμοστούν και για την άμυνα. Τα δύο τελευταία χρόνια σημειώθηκε σημαντική πρόοδος, αλλά η γραμμή που καλούμαστε να χαράξουμε πρέπει να είναι σαφής: μια συνθήκη άμυνας και ασφάλειας πρέπει να καθορίζει τις αναγκαίες υποχρεώσεις μας, σε σχέση με το ΝΑΤΟ και τους ευρωπαίους συμμάχους μας: αύξηση των στρατιωτικών δαπανών, ρήτρα αμοιβαίας άμυνας με διασφαλισμένη αποτελεσματικότητα, ένα Ευρωπαϊκό Συμβούλιο Ασφαλείας στο οποίο θα συμμετέχει και το Ηνωμένο-Βασίλειο για την προετοιμασία των συλλογικών μας αποφάσεων.

Nuestras fronteras también deben garantizar una competencia leal. ¿Qué potencia acepta mantener sus intercambios con aquellos que no respetan ninguna de sus reglas? No podemos someternos sin decir nada. Tenemos que reformar nuestra política de competencia, refundar nuestra política comercial: sancionar o prohibir en Europa aquellas empresas que vulneren nuestros intereses estratégicos y valores fundamentales –como las normas medioambientales, la protección de datos o el pago justo de impuestos– y adoptar una preferencia europea en las industrias estratégicas y en nuestros mercados de contratación pública, al igual que nuestros competidores estadounidenses o chinos.

Euroopa ei ole teisejärguline tegija. Euroopa on tervikuna avangardistlik – ta on alati osanud progressi mõõtu määratleda. Seetõttu peabki ta keskenduma enam üksteisele lähenemisele kui konkurentsile – Euroopa, kus loodi sotsiaalkindlustus, peab looma iga töötaja jaoks, olgu ta idast või läänest, põhjast või lõunast, sotsiaalse kaitsekilbi, mis tagab talle samal töökohal sama palga, ning üleeuroopalise, igale riigile kohandatud miinimumpalga, milles igal aastal ühiselt kokku lepitakse.

Kehityksen vauhtiin pääseminen vaatii johtopaikkaa myös ekologisessa taistelussa. Voimmeko katsoa lapsiamme silmiin, jollemme huolehdi myös ilmastovelastamme? Euroopan unionin on määriteltävä tavoitteensa – nollapäästöt vuoteen 2050 mennessä sekä torjunta-aineiden puolittaminen vuoteen 2025 mennessä – ja sopeutettava politiikkaansa niiden mukaisesti. Tarvitaan Euroopan ilmastopankki rahoittamaan ekologista käännettä, eurooppalainen terveysviranomainen vahvistamaan elintarvikkeidemme valvontaa, lobbauksen vastavoimaksi riippumaton tieteellinen arviointi ympäristön ja terveyden kannalta haitallisille aineille jne. Šim imperatīvam ir jānosaka jebkura mūsu darbība: no Centrālās bankas līdz Eiropas Komisijai, Eiropas budžets Eiropas investīciju plānā, visām mūsu institūcijām klimatam ir jābūt kā mandātam.

Napredak i sloboda – to znači moći živjeti od svoga rada: za stvaranje radnih mjesta, Europa treba povećati svoju sposobnost predviđanja. Stoga, uspostavom europskog nadzora velikih platformi (brže  sankcioniranje povreda tržišnog natjecanja, transparentnost njihovih algoritama …), Europa ne samo da mora digitalne divove podrediti zakonskim okvirima, nego i poticati financiranje inovacija dodjeljivanjem novom Europskom vijeću za inovacije proračun za preuzimanje vodstva u novim, takozvanim disruptivnim tehnologijama kao što je umjetna inteligencija, usporediv s proračunom Sjedinjenih Američkih Država.

Európának, a világban elfoglalt jövőbeli helyének a tervezésekor, Afrika felé kell fordulnia. Afrikával kell a jövő paktumát megkötnünk. A közös sors felvállalásával, fejlődésének ambiciózus és nem defenzív támogatásával: beruházások, partnerkapcsolatok, egyetemek, fiatal lányok oktatása…

Le modèle européen repose sur la liberté de l’homme, la diversité des opinions, de la création. Notre liberté première est la liberté démocratique, celle de choisir nos gouvernants là où, à chaque scrutin, des puissances étrangères cherchent à peser sur nos votes. Je propose que soit créée une Agence européenne de protection des démocraties qui fournira des experts européens à chaque Etat membre pour protéger son processus électoral contre les cyberattaques et les manipulations. Dans cet esprit d’indépendance, nous devons aussi interdire le financement des partis politiques européens par des puissances étrangères. Nous devrons bannir d’Internet, par des règles européennes, tous les discours de haine et de violence, car le respect de l’individu est le fondement de notre civilisation de dignité.

Šioje Europoje pačios tautos iš tiesų perims savo likimo kontroliavimą; šioje Europoje, esu tuo tikras, Jungtinė Karalystė ras sau deramą vietą.

In this Europe, the UK, I am sure, will find its true place. The Brexit impasse is a lesson for us all. We need to escape this trap and make the forthcoming elections and our project meaningful. It is for you to decide whether Europe and the values of progress that it embodies are to be more than just a passing episode in history. This is the choice I put to you: that together we chart the road to European renewal.

“Macron tend la main par dessus la Manche”

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , on March 6, 2019 by xi'an

“Never since the second world war has Europe been so essential. Yet never has Europe been in such danger. Brexit stands as the symbol of that. It symbolises the crisis of a Europe that has failed to respond to its peoples’ need for protection from the major shocks of the modern world. It also symbolises the European trap. The trap lies not in being part of the European Union; the trap is in the lie and the irresponsibility that can destroy it. Who told the British people the truth about their post-Brexit future? Who spoke to them about losing access to the EU market? Who mentioned the risks to peace in Ireland of restoring the border? Retreating into nationalism offers nothing; it is rejection without an alternative. And this is the trap that threatens the whole of Europe: the anger mongers, backed by fake news, promise anything and everything.” Emmanuel Macron, The Guardian 5 March 2019