In 1980 Claus Madsen joined the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Since then he has shaped ESO’s Public Affairs activities. His favourite topics are the various aspects of the interactions between science and society. Like ESO, EFDA JET is a member of the European Intergovernmental Research Organisation’s Forum (EIROforum) (see article on JET Insight October 2010). The collaboration has a rotating Chairmanship, which currently is held by EFDA JET led by Francesco Romanelli. Claus Madsen joined EFDA JET to support the EIROforum Chairmanship during this term of office.

picture of Claus Madsen

The interview with Claus Madsen will be available soon!

JETInsight: Why do you think it serves the individual organisation to engage in EIROforum?

Claus Madsen: Ten years ago the European Research Area, ERA for short, was launched as a tool to foster scientific cooperation in Europe. The initiative offered a frame for cooperation between Intergovernmental, national and community-based research institutes to strengthen Europe as a continent of knowledge and of science. Given the complexity of science policy issues, engaging in the broader discussions can be difficult for individual organisations, but it becomes feasible when organisations from different areas of science come together, as is the case in EIROforum.

JETInsight: In November the Directors General of the EIROforum members met in Culham for their biannual assembly. Was it a successful meeting?

Claus Madsen: The EIROforum Council, comprises the Directors General of the partner organisations, met in autumn to approve the budget and work programmes for the coming years. Perhaps the most significant decision that was taken, however, was the acceptance of a new member, the European Free Electron X-ray Laser in Hamburg.

JETInsight: EIROforum wants to participate in the discussions of the next European Framework Programme. What are the means to do so?

Claus Madsen: The next Framework Programme will begin in 2014. It will coincide with the Europe 2020 strategy and with the requirement to decide on the EU Financial Perspectives. Last but not least, the preparations of the Framework Programme happen shortly after the Lisbon Treaty has entered into force, which changes the political landscape in Europe. The eighth Framework Programme is very important as for the first time in the history of the European Union so many elements of pan-European policy come together at the same time. EIROforum, as a major actor and stakeholder in the ERA, will of course engage in the political debate and express its views and its expectations on the programme.
Therefore, EIROforum has published several position papers on science policy issues. We have also met with members of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy of the European Parliament and the Research Counsellors of the member state governments. Furthermore, EIROforum and the European Commission signed a new Statement of Intent in June this year, which also foresees mutual consultation.

JETInsight: Generally speaking, why do you think Research Institutes seem reluctant to provide sufficient resources to enter into and maintain a dialogue with policy makers, journalists and the public at large?

Claus Madsen: This is a correct observation and I am very concerned about this. To some extent the European tradition still seems that science lives in splendid isolation from the rest of society and the politicians, in turn, don’t interfere. This is, and has probably always been, an illusion. In any event, the introduction of the European Research Area which has come about in a top down fashion requires a bottom-up involvement by the scientists. For the ERA to become truly successful, scientists need to take ownership of it, and in order to do that they must engage with it, they must bring to the table their concerns, their worries, but also the expectations and aspirations of science in a way that politicians can understand.

JETInsight: You have been working at ESO’s Public Affairs Department for a long time. As a fairly new member to the fusion community having a fresh look: what is your advice for fusion research?

Claus Madsen: The most spectacular example of the power of public support behind a scientific project was that of the Hubble Space Telescope, when the continuation of the operation was secured by a massive public reaction to the plan to abandon the last service mission with the Space Shuttle.
Turning to fusion, I am, of course, impressed by the high level of scientific competence but also by the tenacity of the decision makers. Europe plays a leading role in fusion research. As regards public communication, however, I think that a lot remains to be done to build up strong public support for fusion. I am convinced that it can be done and I see the current debates about energy security and about the global climate as an opportunity to reach wide parts of the population and to inform them about the current state of fusion research and the prospects for fusion in the future.