Brainstorming Workshop in Brussels
As part of its ongoing cooperation with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the IAP regional network for Europe, EASAC, recently participated in a JRC-Global Young Academy (GYA) ‘Brainstorming Workshop’ on 11 July 2014 in Brussels.
EASAC collaborates closely with the JRC and it was former EASAC President and current IAP Co-chair, Volker ter Meulen, who suggested that the young scientists who are members of the GYA could bring their viewpoint on future science issues into JRC discussions. The GYA was officially founded in 2010 with support by IAP, and IAP and the GYA continue to collaborate closely on a wide range of programmes and activities.
Thus, this first meeting was organized by the JRC with the aim of kick-starting a process with the GYA that aims at establishing a standing consultation body with excellent young minds, but also to explore the possibility of involving GYA in the JRC’s dialogue with other academic stakeholders.
The event facilitated an interactive debate on creative and innovative approaches to address some of the complex societal challenges faced by Europe, many already acknowledged in the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. Some 40 young scientists – members of the GYA, members of European national young academies, or employees of one of the JRC’s seven research institutes – attended the horizon-scanning and brainstorming workshop to share perspectives and explore new directions.
Workshop participants were tasked with “thinking of the unthinkable” – what are the new and emerging global challenges, not yet identified or fully recognised? – and how can the sciences and other academic disciplines be integrated to help improve the preparedness to face future challenges?
Brainstorming sessions generated a very wide range of ideas on challenges, prioritised according to guiding criteria for societal impact and equity, novelty and timeliness, and clustered into broader, cross-cutting themes likely to serve strategic European needs. Clarification and exemplification of these clustered priorities stimulated further debate on the potential solutions to those challenges identified.
Participants’ assessment and synthesis initially addressed five priorities: Readiness for the future in terms of technology; Readiness for the future in terms social dimensions; Future models of democracy; Bridging gaps and tackling inequalities in a broken world; and Innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit.
Further break-out group analysis of challenges and their solutions then characterized elements of the unthinkable, including in terms of uncertainty, cognitive biases and the ‘invisible world’, this latter referring to the disconnect between the individual and their wider environment, for example relating to those parts of the supply chain or other commercial operations that are not apparent to consumers in Europe.
At the close of the meeting, workshop participants agreed that the meeting had been inspiring and that they would take a number of ideas for action back with them into their respective networks, and that a joint working group will look into the issue of the ‘invisible world’. It is expected that future workshops will be planned to investigate more deeply some of the other issues raised, as well as to develop more formal cooperation relations between the GYA and the JRC.