Why go to space? Not just for the photos...

The European Space Agency (ESA) ministerial council took place last December and the new ESA budget was agreed for 2017-2021. As always, a lot of comments are circulating on who gained what, who lost what, and what the future looks like for each ‘community’ in the European space arena. I will not try to explain what the new ESA budget signifies; other, much more knowledgeable people, have made their opinions heard on the topic (http://www.esf.org/newsroom/news-and-press-releases/article/european-space-sciences-committee-essc-welcomes-outcomes-from-esa-ministerial-council-meeting/). For the purpose of this article, it is sufficient to say that there have been budget undersubscriptions to the European space program (For ESA, member states subscribe to budget items proposed. If member states do not put enough money, an item is undersubscribed, meaning the requested budget level is not reached with whatever implications that means for the item).

When one is thinking about budgets, the question must arise: why spend money on this at all? Much has been written about the interest of a space program over the last half century or so, but most of the literature I have come across is from an American perspective. It is worth asking whether the rationale that led the US to embark on space exploration holds true for Europe as well. Read more
  • Enter the post-factual world 

    February 06, 2017

    The term, “Post-factual,” was all the rage in Brussels a few months ago, referring to the trend observed by many in our societies to ignore factual evidence in political decision-making, and in particular hard scientific evidence, as in the case of global warming. I attended a conference on science policy-making and pathways to government science advice... Read more

  • ESF wants you for its Community of Experts! 

    January 27, 2017

    We are delighted to announce that ESF is launching the “ESF Community of Experts,” a quality driven network of scientific experts that covers the full spectrum of the scientific landscape. By mobilising this network through peer review and evaluation exercises, we will build sustainable collaboration across multiple scientific fields and enable researchers... Read more

  • SCOPE kicks off in Madrid 

    January 19, 2017

    SCOPE held its kick-off meeting on January 13th at the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (MINECO) in Madrid. Read more

  • The Post-Doc Problem 

    January 12, 2017

    What's in a name?

    Have you noticed that, after you have defended your thesis, after you have become a “PhD holder”, the epitome of an almost ten-year long, arduous, albeit exhilarating path, the rejoicing is short-lived? Very quickly, and with the exception of a handful of a happy few whose brilliance sets them on track to get immediate tenure, or of... Read more

  • Mars Analogues for Space Exploration (MASE) - Looking for answers about life on other planets 

    January 06, 2017

    It seems to be a question as old as civilization: are we alone in the universe? Greek philosophers postulated that if there was life on our home planet, then surely there had to be other habitable worlds. For centuries we lacked the technology to test this hypothesis, but in the 20th century, the famous experiment of Miller and Urey (Fig. 1) along with other... Read more

  • What is "Science Connect?" 

    December 19, 2016

    One of the most frequently asked questions I heard over the past three years when meeting colleagues or other science stakeholders was, “So what’s become of ESF?”
    Well… I’m delighted to say we’re alive and kicking! Read more