Giacomo Destro

Postgrad in International Relations, I'm attending the Master in Science Communication at SISSA, Trieste. I am a freelance journalism dealing with energy, enviromental and science/society issues. You can contact me through Twitter or Linkedin.

The Glover case. Why Europe has lost its scientific advisor

Someone could have hoped for a different end, but the signs were all clear: few days ago, Juncker made a final decision on cutting the role of the Chief Scientific Advisor at the European Commission. Apparently, this decision came after a struggle between the scientific community and some environmental NGPs, one above all, Greenpeace.

Bugging and promoting the excellence in physics

It calls itself “a knowledge hub”, a place where people from developing countries can share and learn at the top level. It is located in Trieste, Italy. Founded by a Nobel Laureate, it is funded (almost) by a single country, but ruled by two outstanding international organizations. It has already a great fame, due its scientific excellence and its role in promoting and educating the best young scientists from all over the world.

Science versus politics in the European Union?

The debate on scientific advisory and future policies is becoming very harsh in the European Union. In the last weeks, an increasing numbers of contributions have created a huge debate about the necessity of a Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA) at the European top decision level, as the mandate of Anne Glover is close to its end.

Adeus basic research, welcome Commissioner Moedas

The Jean-Claude Juncker's new Commission is taking shape. The first moves showed that the Barroso structure will be changed completely. This new course has invested the scientific policymaking, starting from the appointment of the new Commissioner on Science and Innovation. Rumors said that Juncker initially preferred a Portuguese woman, Maria Luis Albuquerque, Minister of Finance in Lisbon.

Paving the way for the incoming challenges

How is managed the process to set up the calls of proposal in Horizon 2020? A good example of its functioning has been given by the stakeholders consultation, ended in June 2014. The consultation is the first step towards the definition of 2016-17 working program for the Societal Challenge 5, the one dealing with environmental issues.

Big data can help biodiversity conservation

Ecology is one of the most complex scientific field in terms of variety of related areas of study. In the last years, researchers in ecology have tried to build up a model that relates data from ecology, paleontology, genomics and phylogenies, together with localization data and climate models. This effort has been made in order to create a scientifically strong model to prioritize biodiversity conservation policies.

The woman who built evidence-based policy making in Europe

Anne Glover is a Scottish professor of Molecular and Cell Biology and is ceasing her position as the first EU Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA) during the Barroso Commission II. She made a huge job in spreading the evidence-based method into policy making, by advising President Barroso with the most up-to-date scientific discoveries.

Populist parties and the European scientific policies

The biggest surprise in the European Parliament elections has been the victory of the so called Eurosceptic and Europhobic parties, such as the Front National (FN, from France), the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip, from Uk) or the Dutch Party for Freedom. Despite their proclaims, these parties come from different backgrounds and have a different approach to science and research – as clearly shown by an analysis made by Science|Business.

Scientific issues in the 2014 EU Parliament elections

In May 22-25, European citizens will decide who will lead the Union for the next five years. Despite being the eighth general elections for the European Parliament since 1979, this time is particularly important. For the first time candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission had been nominated before the elections. And this means a lot.

Political Framework

The Bioeconomy strategy in Horizon 2020

What the economic crisis has clearly shown is that Europe cannot afford its economic growth with low R&D manufacturing products. Science and enterprises must merge into hi-tech outcomes to become markets leaders. The European Union is pushing a lot on the bioeconomy sector, namely businesses based on biotechnology. But what is exactly bioeconomy? Is it so important nowadays in Europe? And what is the situation in Italy?

What is a bioeconomy

Brainstorming the research: the future of brain studies

One of the most unknown places, still far from being explored and fully understood, is not (only) the deep universe: it is our brain. That is why USA and the European Union, in the very last years, started two separate, but parallel, initiatives to map the human brain. On March 2014, there has been a public announcement that the two projects will merge. Or will they smash?

The Human Brain Project

The “right to silence” in modern science

The world of research today is a highly competitive environment, similar to a liberist market. Researchers are under pressure for several aspects: the scarcity of economical funds, the rising number of scientists and the political pressure that national asset have put on them in a wild competition to emerge from anonymity. In this race, one of the best key of success for a researcher is networking.

European and Italian research in food and agriculture sector

“The food and drink industry is the largest manufacturing industry in the European Union, generating turnover of €956 billion in 2010”, as claimed by the European Union itself. More than four millions Europeans work inside one of the 310.000 food enterprises (both primary and transforming). Nonetheless, 95% of these firms are composed by small or medium enterprises, which have less than 20 workers.

Europe vs Switzerland. The struggle over the H2020 program

It happened again: after the Israeli case, Horizon 2020 is anew in the middle of a political clash. This time the situation is even worse than the Israel one, both because it is within the European geographical region and because Switzerland had been a key player in the previous Seventh Framework Program.

European and US research policies: which direction for 2014?

Some weeks ago, the European Union released the planned quotas of investment in research for 2014, the first year of the new-born Horizon 2020 program. At the same time, on January 13th the US Congress agreed on a budget, containing the American policy about investments in research. Thus, is it possible to predict in which directions EU and US research will go, by comparing these two draft budgets? Will these two policies merge or not?

Sources and methodology

A desert or a tsunami: fearing Big Data

What will be the data environment in Horizon 2020? Modern science is facing a huge challenge in managing data. On one hand, every year a big number of the scientific data are lost or become not readable any more. On the other hand, 80 billion Euro investments in research (that is the expected budget for Horizon 2020) could lead to an unbearable amount of data, that cannot be managed easily – with a loss of efficiency and a huge waste of public money. Eventually, one of the highest goal of Horizon 2020 will be to face Big Data.

Public-private investments in research in Horizon 2020

The European Union, through Horizon 2020, will invest more than € 28 billion in innovative research to contrast the economic stagnation. This investment will be divided into four general bunch of programs, namely the contractual Public Private Partnerships (cPPPs), the Joint Technology Initiatives (JTI), the Public-Public Initiatives and the SESAR - Joint Undertaking program.

Being ready for H2020: the Denmark's success story

An effective and practical expenditure of public funds can lead to excellence: Denmark can be seen as a case study for this. The small north European country is known for being the country with the highest public spending on education relative to GDP, namely 8.7% of the total. And probably will be known for being the most efficient country in gaining funds from Horizon 2020 (H2020).

The ethical boundaries of H2020

Being the largest research program funded by the European Union, Horizon 2020 (H2020) is becoming the arena even for non technical issues related to science. The knowledge economy has a core related to political and, mostly, ethical issues. These dimensions do not belong to mere technical question but to more wide questions, that can be summarized into: which are the ethical boundaries in H2020? Which will be the rules for European scientific research in future?

A new board of scientists for the United Nations

How to deal with the huge number of informations provided by scientific research today? And, how these informations can be transformed into political decisions? These could be the questions that brought the Organization of United Nations (UN) to create a new board of scientists, which will refer directly to the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki Moon, and to others heads of the main organizations of the Un system.

Horizon 2020 and Israel: not just a mere question of border

Commonly known as “start up nation”, Israel is still leading global scientific research, despite its little population and a serious international situation. This is due to two key-points: first, a competitive R&D investments, which brought high quality to Israeli universities; second, a public driven linkage between scientific research and commercial companies, which produces more investments in R&D.

La foresta in farmacia: il mercato delle botanical drugs

"Mio giovane puledro affamato, non ci sono piante buone per il cibo che non lo siano anche per la cura, purché prese in giusta misura”: così l'erborista Severino ammonisce il giovane Adso (desideroso in realtà di carpire il nome delle “erbe che provocano cattive visioni”) nel romanzo “Il nome della rosa” di Umberto Eco. Dallo studio delle “piante buone” è nata la farmacologia moderna, che però, nell'ultimo secolo, si è sviluppata nella sintesi chimica dei principi attivi e nell'industrializzazione degli stessi, relegando l'erboristeria a un ruolo sostanzialmente marginale.