- 2007: The NewPOL Network Impression
in the 1980s, I appealed to the European Commission because no help whatsoever
came from the traditional national (in and outside Belgium) institutions; quite
the contrary. I came across two people at the Commission who immediately
encouraged my efforts: I could use the EC platform/reference to go ahead with my
endeavours. This was made easier due to the fact that I was not requesting any
funds. Still, were it not for these two people working at the European
Commission, the IMNRC and NewPOL Network may not have existed.
as now Founding Director/CEO of the IMNRC and Principal Coordinator of the NewPOL
Network, I am indebted to the European Commission.
soon came to realise however that EC Officials/Officers whose innovative ideas,
character and personalities stood out were the exception and not the rule. Even
though the European Commission is an institution that is definitely changing
(more accessible to the public), avant-garde Officers inside the Commission are
more than often held back and disserved in their enterprise because they depend
on and enrol conventionally minded collaborators who are quite unable to practically
understand the very notion of integrated interdisciplinarity, both on the
surface and deep inside.
the surface: the 7nth FP is still a caricature of knowledge fragmentation that
is incompatible with the notion of integrated interdisciplinarity. This was even
recognised privately by a EC Official. Furthermore, the FP7 project submission
procedure is still far too complex and discouraging.
inside: a lack of elegance. Euroscience and Foresight are two initiatives
that have used the NewPOL Network ideas without the slightest academic or
economic recognition. This may also be true of some departments in the European
dysfunctions have plagued the EC for years and the European Union paid the
price: loss of credibility and institutional crisis.
NewPOL Network's best way to help and thank the European Commission has been –
and still is - through hard but nevertheless constructive criticism. We
offer to simplify the internal complexity of the EC Institution from inside.
NewPOL Network has exceptionally been given the possibility to give a
presentation before the Acting Director of ERA and only quite recently, has
received official encouragement to set up two important project resolutions regarding
the environment and linguistic/community issues in Belgium. Also through
interfaces. [Click on Other ---> British
School of Brussels (Tervuren)]
Gender Equality in Europe
Conference on Stem Cells - Social
sciences and humanities in Europe: New challenges, new opportunities - The Quantum Structure of Space and Time
- Communicating European Research CER 2005 - Knowledge-Based
European Movement International (EMI) - Invitation - Lecture theme &
Workshop: "Gender Equality in Europe" - European
Economic and Social Committee (Jacques Delors building) - 09.00-17.30hrs, Brussels, 25th January
Conference on Stem Cells" [Web
Site]. Brussels 15-16 December 2005.
For the first time, a European
conference was held to focus on what patients thought about stem cell
research and therapy.
Stem cells aren’t
new. Neither are stem cell therapies. For the past 30 years or so, adult
stem cells and more recently stem cells from umbilical cord blood have been
saving lives and easing the pain for thousands of citizens.
They’ve been used to
treat leukaemia and other cancer types sufferers. New research developments
offer hopes for treatment of a wide range of other disorders or diseases,
such as diabetes, cardio-vascular and neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s,
Huntington’s and Parkinson’s). Many sources of human stem cells,
including from embryos are currently explored by the scientists.
Now we wanted to know
what patients knew and thought about stem cells!
This Conference was
conducted as an open and interactive forum. Seventy-five per cent of the
audience were patients from Europe, whose conditions could be improved, or
are being already improved, by stem cell therapies and treatments.
This event was
recorded and made available to the media.
Not one MEP was
There was however an
assistant MEP among the participants.
focussed on the embryonic/adult stem cell dilemma.
The majority agreed
that it would be unethical NOT to do Stem Cell Research (Adult or
An apparent minority was quite adamant about Embryonic Stem Cell
Therapy. According to one representative, some patients suffering from
severe neurological disease would NOT accept Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy
because it would "take away a life". I never saw any such patient
in the assembly.
Has the embryo got an
identity? Is it a unique form of life? Does the embryo represent life?
Is Identity not an
illusion created by our Ego? Is there such a thing as an Italian, a Chinese,
a Russian gene/DNA? A Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, ...gene/DNA? I don't
The whole body - the
"identity" - is in permanent dynamic equilibrium with the
environment. Even though you may outwardly appear the same, every single
atom in your body is subject to a periodic turn-over. So you are NOT the
same. Some of "you" is already "living" somewhere
else... we shed cells, molecules and atoms that are processed elsewhere:
microorganisms, plants, insects, animals and even directly by other human
beings through simple breathing and many other ways. Some of our elementary
constituents come from stars in our Galaxy... So life goes on...and
on...in different forms. There is a fundamental interconnectedness between
everything and everyone, in space and time. Indeed, it is not inconceivable that all the DNA in
this world may be an unbroken chain of low frequency contacts.
Now this raises an
essential question: since basic interrelatedness/interconnectedness between
everyone and everything is an established physical fact, what is the point
of creating a concept to "unite" what is already united?
So what is the use -
or purpose - of religion? We ARE united...but uniting what is already united leads to
artificial unification and endless difficulties! Indeed, how are you ever going to
"Buddhist" with a "Muslim" with a "Jew" with a
"Roman Catholic" with an "Orthodox" with...? Good luck
Could The Mind be
"The Devil In Disguise" laughing its head off for having fooled so
many billions of human beings for millennia?
What is Life is a very
difficult question to answer.
What is death...?
Parts of us die everyday...only to live elsewhere.
So these notions -
Life & Death - are very
Another issue that
raised concern was the notion of "instrumentalising the embryo".
Does sound rather ghastly when worded this way; I guess this was why the
phrase was so chosen. But on reflection, Nature instrumentalises with itself
all the time... So...??
I feel we must be more
careful with the words we use: some words have such suggestive power that
they can mobilise and influence the opinion of masses, some have lost their
meanings, some have meanings that vary widely from person to person, some
are completely inadequate to describe "the observed"...and you get
mixed up in semantics. indeed, what is the real fate of countless embryos?
Once again, this
notion of identity is largely a global learning issue. Education has to be
What is going to be
the follow-up of this Conference? Please go to CWINs.
sciences and humanities in Europe: New challenges, new opportunities”.
Site]. Brussels 12-13 December 2005.
Social sciences and humanities are
key components of Europe's RTD policy. The Commission's proposals for the
7th Framework Programme include important measures to support social
sciences and humanities. This major European conference addressed the
broader strategic context of the development of social sciences and
humanities in Europe, and explore policy options at European and
The conference discussed
strategic issues and options for social sciences and humanities in relation
to the research funding instruments and mechanisms included in the
Commission's proposal for the 7th Framework Programme, with emphasis on the
broader international dimensions. Specifically, the conference involved
senior researchers and policy-makers from Europe as well as the US, Canada,
South Africa, China, Japan and elsewhere.
conference also included a strong scientific agenda, aiming at contributing
to the elaboration of European research agendas in three interrelated areas
which represent major challenges for the EU and span the range of social
science and humanities issues outlined in the Commission's proposals for the
7th Framework Programme, namely:
competitiveness, employment and sustainability in a knowledge-based society.
- Societal trends and
- Europe in the world:
understanding changing interactions and interdependencies between world
I - REPORT II
[20 December 2005]
focussed on and recognised the need for "Interdisciplinarity" and
a new thinking paradigm. Everyone spoke of interdisciplinarity but no one
really knew how to go about implementing this strange "alien"
notion. Integrated interdisciplinarity is still a very long way ahead.
This reminds me of the
CER Conference that focussed on "Communication". Everyone was
desperate to communicate but didn't really know how, facilitating one
field/channel and shutting off another.
and Communication are linked...
I remarked to the
Commissioner Potocnik that Interdisciplinarity was basically an educational
problem. Education in 2005 is still far too fragmented, compartmentalised
and conventional, much like the FPs...that encourage disciplinary (thematic)
instead of interdisciplinary thinking thereby enforcing vicious circles.
Present day education does NOT prepare you to an integrated
interdisciplinary frame of mind: it hampers this process more than anything
agrees with the NewPOL Network and is open to suggestions ... In other
words, this seems to be a direct appeal to the NewPOL Network. This is not
too surprising considering that, as all of you know, we shall be making an
important presentation to the acting director of ERA.
I told the panel at
the end of the conference that Interdisciplinarity is essentially an
Interface Assimilation Issue, that the NewPOL Network has been working in
this area for quite some time now ever since it presented its Expression of
Interest "The Physics of Life and the neuroimmunoendocrine system: an
integrated understanding of diseases and healing potential in the human
being explored using novel approaches to therapy". The EoI is so vast
and complex that we can only begin investigation during PART II of the
I also remarked that
we must think to the distant future when full integrated
interdisciplinarity shall lead to a situation where the very notion of
"job", "profession", "training" shall acquire
a different meaning, a different flavour...
Many were enthusiastic
regarding the creation of a Ph.D. in the Social Sciences/Humanities.
This may highlight the
Social Sciences, but I am sceptical regarding the impact of such degrees on
the Well Being and Quality of Life... Indeed, please refer to Academia
and The People [The European Parliament].
The Social Sciences
and humanities concern each and every human being on this planet: not just
the Academic Elite. The so-called "lay" people are not to be just
"observed" and "used" like animals in a laboratory - the
"Social System Lab" - for peer reviewed publications.
If Human and Social
Sciences Projects are going to have any impact and be of any use to society
- and not just remain in the high spheres - then we must get through to the
public. And in order to do so, it is essential that the link between
what Human and Social Sciences have to offer and the World Society Well
Being and Quality of Life be clearly established and made intelligible to
This link must
stand out clearly for each project/workshop/conference presented, and not
only in the Human and Social Sciences.
I discussed the
difficulty of finding adequate National Coordinating (NC) Teams during the
conference in private conversations.
I was told that I would certainly have
considerable difficulty finding an NC Team for the UK.
The reason? The
British Educational System (still very hierarchical and traditional) and the
NewPOL Network's vision of Education are not compatible.
Perhaps (..?..) the
NewPOL Network is looked upon as a kind of "threat" to the
Established Educational Empire or System, and not just in the UK.
As an illustration, a
few months ago, a colleague applied for Dutch NC Team Membership. He was
accepted. He then wrote to me saying that he had to turn down my offer
because of pressure from his own institution. There are quite a few other
Finally, it would save
a great deal of time to the World at large and millions of human beings if
people at last began to understand the notion of interface. Then they shall
be able by themselves not only to reach conclusions very similar to that of
the speakers, but they shall be able to go further still and contribute to
making the (knowledge) society network a much more exciting and dynamic
adventure open to all.
The more the NewPOL
Network gains in popularity, the more pressure from The System (i.e. The
Educational System + The Social System + The Political System + ...) shall
be expected. This is inevitable.
Pressure from the
Educational System (representing hundreds of thousands of Institutions
throughout the World) shall be particularly strong. These institutions fear
to lose their "hold" on society. Many may be worried about their
job (as professor/teacher/researcher). Some fear that their years of
training may cease to be recognised because not all that useful anymore in a
multidisciplinary era. Indeed, a complete and thorough mastery of integrated
interdisciplinarity means just ONE "Degree" that
"covers" all the others. Now, please just take a look at a typical
present day School/University Curriculum...and what do you see? Hundreds of
courses [with the equivalent number of specialised staff per level(!)] and
hundreds of Degrees: hyperspecialisation and hyperfragmentation!
An enormous budget.
If the present
Educational System collapses - which seems quite likely if it is not
fundamentally rethought - is there an alternative? Yes. Are we ready? No.
Before changing any
(educational, social, ...) system, we must first change the thinking
paradigm. The NewPOL Network Paradigm (NNP) shall be discussed in depth
during the IMIRC.
Not only is the NewPOL
Network lobby certainly underestimated but it IS indeed becoming a
recognised credible alternative. Europe may be in a period of transition, as
for other continents.
What is the origin of the Universe?
Is the Universe finite? Could we fall into a black hole?
Will time travel ever be possible
Marc HENNEAUX (Solvay Institutes and
David GROSS, 2004 Nobel Laureate (Kavli Institute, USA)
Michael ATIYAH, 1966 Fields Medal (University of Edinburgh, UK)
Robert BROUT, 2004 Wolf Prize (ULB, BE)
François ENGLERT, 2004 Wolf Prize (ULB, BE)
Murray GELL-MANN, 1969 Nobel Laureate (Santa Fe Institute, USA)
Stephen HAWKING, 1988 Wolf Prize (University of Cambridge, UK)
Gerard ’t HOOFT, 1999 Nobel Laureate (Spinoza Institute, NL)
Steven WEINBERG, 1979 Nobel Laureate (University of Texas at Austin, USA)
Frank WILCZEK, 2004 Nobel Laureate (MIT, USA)
Shing-Tung YAU, 1982 Fields Medal (Harvard University, USA)
A disappointment, even though
there was a good panel/EU Commission effort to communicate a simplified
overview of theoretical physics and cosmology to the public.
Many of the announced panel physicists
said in his opening speech that there was an urgent need for both innovation
and researchers in the European Union.
I would say
that we first need to innovate researchers. This implies rethinking Education and The
questions and key issues developed during the Conference:
Can the world be
captured in an equation? - Can Nature be reduced to a Standard Model? - Is
there a Fundamental Principle? - Extra Dimensions - Expansion of the
Universe - Cosmic Background Radiation - Quantum Mechanics versus General Relativity - Quantum Gravity - Space-time Foam - 10 exp-35 m (Planck
scale: space and time stop making sense) <---> 10 exp-5 m (Life)
<---> 10 exp+25 m (Hubble Scale): the Hierarchy Problem in Physics - Vacuum
Fluctuations, Vacuum Energy, Dark Energy and the Cosmological Constant -
Black Holes & Hawking Radiation - Law of Electro-Magnetism + Law of Gravity
---> One Theoretical Structure? - Need to change our understanding of The
Basic Structure - String theory: no strings have ever been observed, but at
least the mathematics make sense here (if the Universe has more than 3
dimensions) as opposed to particle theory - Manifolds - 20 Fundamental Numbers
(mass of electron, gravitational force, ...): no one understands why these
particular numbers have the particular values that they do. Change their
value, change the Universe. String Theory
could offer an explanation - Branes - Missing Energy Signals - What we see
is maybe not what there is: people may have been fooled for thousands of
years - Science is a lot smarter than we are - The understanding of the
sub-atomic world is based on a logic, that of quantum mechanics. Why not
another? - A more profound explanation of Quantum Mechanics is needed -
Maybe there is something underneath Quantum Mechanics - How did the Universe
as we know it begin? - In 94 years' time: a formula that explains
Questions: Fate of black holes - What is the nature of mass? -
Proof of the existence of strings? - How do we know that the Universe is
infinite? - The reach of gravity beyond dimensions - Can we now build a time
machine? - Physics becoming a kind of religion? - Where does the energy come
from the Big Bang? - Universe: chance or intelligent design?
I asked one question: The human being belongs to the Cosmos. So therefore does
World Society Well Being and Quality of Life. What is the link?
The reaction of the panel
to this deliberately provocative question was instructive. First ignored, a Nobel Prize Winner
finally remarked privately:
"Far too complex. I wish you luck." Perhaps such questions are still considered by
some as mystical musings. Perhaps some are out of their depth. Whatever the
reason, the lack of interest regarding
this interface issue in 2005 is somewhat surprising: physicists are also
part of the Life Sciences...
Couldn't the very notion of
Identity be an illusion?
Life seems to lie
between the Planck and Hubble Scales. World Society Well Being and Quality
of Life are part of the Life Sciences. Apparently,
integrating theoretical physics and cosmology to other complex systems like
Life and Society on Earth is beyond the reach of present day physics or
physicists. Something is missing - or wrong - somewhere... Physics may have
to be rethought.
This question shall
precisely be one of the workshop themes for our International
Multidisciplinary Interface Research Congress (IMIRC) in China (2008) under
the "Network Programme 1: The Physics and Mathematics of the Life
Sciences in the Universe" and further developed in PART II. Two
panellists have been invited.
European Research” CER 2005. Brussels 13 -14 -15 November 2005.
An overall summary of
the CER 2005 can be found by checking out the link: What's
My general impression
was that even though the need to communicate was openly and publicly
recognised by Academia and other institutions - this in itself is progress -
the "Knowledge Community" is still struggling to find out HOW to
"A scientist must
also be a good communicator": this was the leitmotiv during the whole
However, should we
seek just good actors/speakers with exceptional communication skills for the
Gallery, the Media, the Stage (Act I - Scene 1) ...? Or someone who has also
fully integrated his/her gifts in everyday life?
I don't care for good
talkers/authors who are not what they seem: they only add more confusion and
communication problems to society.
"I know his/her
work, but I do not know the man/woman..." Please refer to Admissions
on the NewPOL Network main web page
and you shall understand what I mean.
We are presently
witnessing a period of transition.
There has been a great
deal of progress to make a given field of knowledge more
accessible/intelligible to children and the general public, but by
facilitating fragmentation you are only enforcing the compartmentalised
educational structure and limiting the Human Being's potential. Take a look
at present day School/University Programs and the number of branches/degrees
offered: a caricature of fragmentation. How CAN you expect the Human Being
to link the different bits and pieces together??
was mentioned during the Opening Ceremony and in Official Reports: the
notion is still very new, but is beginning to be used in everyday language.
I took part in many
discussions and had to sprint all over the place to see as many people as
possible. This was quite a strain and often frustrating. I was not able to
listen to many lectures because these were held at the same time. I was not
able to discuss interesting issues at length with potential colleagues
because there were so many to see. You can't possibly see everyone in two
That's the trouble
when you are interested in "interfaces": you can deal with just
And precisely, this is
a key issue. You could have reached the conclusions of many of the lecturers
from different fields just by changing your thinking paradigm: the NewPOL
The NewPOL Network has
been invited (COST) to give a presentation in 2006 (possibly February) and
there were many other useful engagements for the future.
However, we must still
find four more National Coordinating Teams.
Conference. Brussels (Belgium) - 15/16 September 2005.
The life sciences and biotechnology
are advancing at a breathtaking pace. Our growing genetic knowledge is
paving the way for new gene therapies and regenerative personalised
medicines, agricultural products, foods and even renewable materials, such
as biodegradable plastics.
In recognition of the growing
importance of this emerging sector of the bio-economy, the European
Commission organised a high-profile conference in Brussels (Belgium) on 15
and 16 September 2005 to chart a course towards a modern knowledge-based
The NewPOL Consortium Network was
represented in person by its Principal Coordinator, Professor Vivian R. F.
Linssen, Founding Director of the International Multidisciplinary
Neuroscience Research Center asbl/vzw.
Please visit The Knowledge-Based
The KBBE Conference was very
instructive by the way the participants tried to articulate the material and
A similar Conference seemed to have
been held in China at the same time.
There was a strong emphasis on
education, but just what is meant by "education" still seems
terribly conventional and fragmented. Facilitating fragmentation shall get
I fear that the European Commission's
conception of Education and that of the NewPOL Network are still completely
different, even though there are indications of more concrete cross-cutting
integrated interdisciplinary approaches to the Life Sciences.
The Commission seems to be quite aware
of its difficulties to reach the general public. "Bold changes must be
made", said the Commissioner Janez Potocnik. "This takes
1. I addressed both the Panel
and the European Commission.
I said that I was a little skeptical
regarding the impact of the Conference.
The speakers succeeded in conveying
this feeling of urgency, spoke of democracy, the need for Europeans (I would
add also non-Europeans...) to know what is going on...
Yet, I remarked, there was no
International Television, no International Press... At least, this was my
first impression. So not many really knew what was going on in the
impressive Conference Hall.
I told the Panel and the Commission
that the high profile/level conference shall continue to remain in the High
Spheres if we did not get the message through to the people, to the general
And in order to do so, the link (=
interface!) between the Well-Being and Quality of Life of World Society and
the Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy (KBBE) must be clearly established and made
intelligible to all.
This feeling of urgency must be both
understood and felt(!) "down to" the elderly lady/child living in
a back slum somewhere in Europe, Asia, South/North America, Africa, ...
I am sure you all understand what I
The NewPOL Network does seem to become
the Missing Link that is so needed in order to make all initiatives more
articulate, coordinated and synchronised.
I have therefore proposed to the
Commission that the NewPOL Network serves to create this essential link
between a Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy and World Society Well-Being and
Quality of Life, thereby also bridging the cultural (and many other) gaps.
You may be interested to know that
Christian Patermann, EC, Research DG, Director "Biotechnology,
Agriculture and Food", in his final conclusions of the Conference
recognised the importance of the linking issue and of World (and not just
The notion of interface is slowly but
surely making its way...
2. The UK Presentation:
Bioscience and the general lay public.
This is only a personal impression,
but shared by many in the assembly. As you know, we are having considerable
difficulties with the UK regarding the National Coordinating Teams. I
wondered why. There were many possible explanations, but after listening to
one of the UK lectures, I thought there may be another reason.
The UK representative claimed that UK
Bioscience was the best in the world and had made remarkable achievements.
Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know. According to his view, Science seems to be
the All Important and Reference Almighty.
As I understand, according to the
speaker the British Public have certainly the right to be informed, but the
hierarchical access to information must be respected: short-circuiting the
National Educational Institutions to acquire knowledge would be unthinkable
and unacceptable. Science - and more generally Academia - and The People are
considered as two different worlds, must remain so and with the former
reigning absolutely over the latter. The Public is so educated and
conditioned to accept this cleavage.
But to my mind, Academia and The
People form One.
It occurred to me that the British lay
public was in fact treated with condescension. So, I asked myself, what of
the non British public?
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs
spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell's remark last 23rd June 2005 [BBC News] that
""Britain must avoid adopting an attitude of condescension and
omniscience to its partners..." seems to have gone completely unheeded.
The National Coordinating Team
precisely serves as an interface between the NewPOL Network and the people
in order to make knowledge directly accessible to all, irrespective of their
social condition or background. This vision seems very different from the
existing Educational Systems imposed throughout the world and not only in
I can summarise my impression in one
phrase: chaos, aggressive competition and growing intellectual frustration.
4. National Coordinating Teams.
I met many people and hope to find
volunteers for the last six NC Teams (NB. Four NC Teams as of 12 February
was even an invitation from the U.S.... If this can lead to the creation of
a U.S. NC Team very soon, so much the better.