Sunday, 10 June 2007

It's a FEAST! But not for everyone

On the 24 May the Queensland-European Research Collaborations Initiative (QERCI) was launched. It is the first time such a link has been established between a single Australian state and the European research community (read the announcement on the Forum for European-Australian Science and Technology cooperation - "Queensland researchers to enjoy close ties with Europe").
The benefits could be considerable, as the summary of the projects under the 7th Framework Programme demonstrates.
On the other hand... As Neil Hamilton, then Executive Director of FEAST writes in one of the Forum's newsletters, there are problems. Poignantly titled, "If Australian Science is World Class, why aren't we the Partner of Choice for European Projects?", he lists short-sighted funding on Australia's side, lack of strategies, high overheads associated with European systems, and being too busy just trying to make our own system work, as the main reasons.
Admittedly the article dates from January 2006, but I'll wager not much has changed. There is also a more insidious factor, often hidden but instrumental none the less.
As it happens, back in November 2006 Jean-Michel Baer, Director, Directorate L - Science, economy and society, issued an invitation to myself and Australian scientists in general to participate in the EU's 7th Framework Programme (see here and here). I had submitted the essay "The social Europe: a formal view". It deals with the EU as a large-scale system, subjected to various dynamics identified through the Otoom mind model which have the potential to advance but could also spell deterioration. Such a perspective is not derived from politics or ideology, but is available under a formal and objective analysis. This presentation - and possibly other material gleaned from the Otoom website - resulted in the invitation.
Wonderful, except for my limited means to follow through. As so much in this sad affair it comes back to the difficulty experienced with Griffith University. Being confined to your little room is hardly a productive basis from which to engage with the EU's scientific community. The posts "When in Rome..." and "The reasons behind Otoom" should give some idea what all this means.
How ironic - there is Queensland's Premier Peter Beattie proudly announcing the state's collaboration with Europe and here is one of its own citizens shunted sideways by the ignorance and deviousness of certain compatriots (and they are even members of a university!).
Clearly, something needs to be done.

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