Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Copernicus: the EU's Earth Observation Success Story

RSC Belgium members and friends were treated to an excellent overview of the European Union's Copernicus programme on Valentine’s Day at the British School of Brussels. On the evening of Tuesday 14 February Dr Peter Breger talked to an enthusiastic crowd about Europe's Earth Observation system and its Sentinel satellites. The talk was fascinating and illustrated with many impressive images of the Earth.

Few people are aware of the wealth of data and insights provided by Earth observation satellites. Fewer still know how successful Europe has been in realising the most ambitious Earth observation programme yet: Copernicus.

In a personal view, Dr. Peter Breger (above) presented the progress made over the last decade, gave a brief overview of the satellites flying, what they measure and what information they already make available to all of us on a daily basis, for free.

Public services
Peter gave examples of the various public services Copernicus provide covering will be shown. Supporting emergency response during natural catastrophes has been one of the early success stories. The programme also tracks land use and its changes, which aids better management of our environment. Together with its forecasts of air quality and ocean dynamics it can inform us of impending pollution events, and support marine and maritime applications. He also briefly alluded to the non-public defence and security role of Copernicus.

Copernicus' latest addition - a climate change service - compiles projections of climate change and their impacts on environment and thus on economic activities. For an example consider the map below that shows the potential for wine making in the UK in 20250!

Peter certainly showed how the service provides  a mass of authoritative data, of particular significance and importance in this current era that seems to be beset by 'post truth' and 'alternative facts'.

Wealth of links
If you want to know more about the Copernicus programme and how to access its wealth of data see the links below that Peter has provided. And you can download Peter's presentation here (7.2 MB file).

The main website is at www.copernicus.eu and you can follow the programme on Twitter:    @CopernicusEU and Facebook Copernicus EU too

All the Copernicus services links can be found here: http://copernicus.eu/main/services
or individually at:
The European Union's Space Strategy for Europe (2016)  http://ec.europa.eu/news/2016/10/20161026_en.htm

The Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) database of satellites:

Ocean modelling and satellite observations by EUMETSAT

Other links of interest
Baltic Algal bloom and nutrient circulation

Air quality forecasts

Climate change service – proof of concept tools for exploring ideas 

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Collaborative research: what next for the EU and the UK?

RSC Belgium's first event of 2017 was a Café Chimique entitled “The Future for Collaborative Research and Innovation in Europe”. Our three speakers addressed this issue in general terms and also in the specific context of the UK's likely exit from the EU, before taking questions from the audience. The event took place on the evening of Tuesday 24 January in the relaxed atmosphere of the Auderghem Cultural Centre.

Following the Brexit referendum in June 2016, attitudes have been divided over the impact this may have on scientific research both in the UK and Europe. While the British government has promised to guarantee funding for existing EU projects, potential future collaborations with EU scientists still hang in the balance.

The introductory presentations focused on the role and opportunities for chemical sciences in the Commission’s Horizon 2020 successor that has the working title FP9 and addressed the range of research fields and schemes that the European Commission and European nations currently organise. The speakers also gave their views on where the UK fits into this in a (presumably) post-Brexit future.

Our first speaker was Prof David Cole-Hamilton (second left above) who is President of the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS) and Irvine Professor of Chemistry at the University of St. Andrews. His presentation can be accessed here.

The RSC line was then put by Dr Mindy Dulai (second right above), Senior Programme Manager (with responsibility for Brexit issues) at the Royal Society of Chemistry HQ in Cambridge, UK. Mindy has worked in many areas of the RSC and was been a Programme Manager in Environmental Sciences and also Physical Sciences, before her current role. The RSC response and priorities for Brexit are outlined here.

Finally Dr Peter Chisnall, Business Process and Risk Management Coordinator at the EUREKA Secretariat in Brussels (standing right above) gave his view of the situation from the point of view of a independent pan-European research network. Peter's presentation can be accessed here.

The event was moderated by Tim Reynolds, Chair of RSC Belgium.

The floor was then open to the audience and an extensive question and answer ensued that lasted for over an hour. Questions which were explored included: 'How can we improve EU collaborative research in this field in the next FP?', 'How can UK chemical scientists remain involved and contributing post-Brexit?' and 'What new forms of collaborative structures are required? '

As with our previous debates the audience was seated in a café-style format (small tables with 6 seats) and a bar and light refreshments/nibbles were available throughout the event and afterwards.