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Europe's research ministers adopted conclusions on Alzheimer's, the European partnership for researchers and responsible nanotechnology research at their Competitiveness Council meeting in Brussels on 25 and 26 September.
Neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer's disease, have been given a high priority under the French Presidency of the EU. During the council meeting, the ministers signed up to a commitment to combat these conditions, which are likely to become even more common as the population ages.
In the conclusions, the ministers recommend the launching of a European initiative which would bring together all stakeholders, including Member States and the Commission, with the aim of increasing the numbers of researchers working on Alzheimer's and training more specialists in order to reduce the impact of neurodegenerative diseases.
The ministers suggest that this initiative could be 'a good example for testing innovative ways of pooling national expertise and resources on a voluntary basis as a part of joint Europe-wide goals'. With this in mind, the Council invites Member States to set up a forum uniting the leading actors in European Alzheimer's research and to examine ways for enhancing collaboration between Member States, for example by drawing on schemes under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
Another item on the ministers' agenda was the European partnership for researchers, which aims to make research careers more attractive and boost the mobility of European researchers. The conclusions highlight the importance of ensuring mobile researchers' social security and pension needs are met; improving researchers' work and employment conditions; and enhancing the training and skills of researchers.
Member States are also encouraged to implement the 'scientific visa' Directive and promote the implementation of the European charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.
According to the Council conclusions, Member States should provide an update on their activities taken in this area by the end of 2009 at the latest, and the Commission should carry out an assessment of overall progress and results in 2010.
Meanwhile, French Research Minister Valérie Pécresse has tasked her counterparts from Portugal and Luxembourg, José Mariano Gago and François Biltgen, to look into the definition of a European status for researchers. The pair will report back at the next Competitiveness Council.
The ministers also adopted conclusions on responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies research. Among other things, this encourages research into the potential risks nanoparticles could pose to human health and the environment, and promotes the transformation of the results of such research into methods for detecting potentially harmful nanoparticles.
Among other things, the Commission has been set the task of monitoring global developments and promoting European competitiveness in this area and encouraging public debate on nanotechnologies.
Elsewhere at the meeting, ministers discussed the Commission's plan for encouraging the joint programming of research activities. The Commission also presented its plans for a legal framework for international research infrastructures; the marine and maritime research strategy; the strategy for international research cooperation; and the Commission's plans for the evaluation by independent experts of the European Research Council (ERC).
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