Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon has been appointed President ad interim and will be in office from 27 July 2020 until the next ERC President is selected and takes up duties. He was the President of the European Research Council from January 2014 until December 2019. Prior to that, he was the Director of the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHÉS) from 1994 till 2013. This international research institute located near Paris, France, was built as the European counterpart of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He was also the first ERC Panel Chair in Mathematics, for Starting Grants.
Falling Walls Circle Table: Understanding the Scientific Method in the 21st Century
LIVE: Setting the Post-Corona-Agenda
Against the background of the Covid-19 pandemic, which proves to provide fertile ground to intensify the ‘information disorder’ characterised by conspiracy theories and ‘alternative facts’, it is vital to underline the relevance of science and the value of the scientific method that lies at its core and has been developed over centuries.
This is a moment for scientists to come forward and defend a culture in which evidence is based on proven facts and new knowledge pursued through constant questioning and a critical mind-set – as very adequately described by the late French astronomer André BRAHIC: “To understand the scientific method, one has to realize that progress comes from a continuous process of calling into question. A proposition is only scientific if it is falsifiable, in other words if anyone can verify it or invalidate it.” This is why “the history of scientific ideas is an excellent school of doubt, humility, rigour, honesty and the critical spirit, which are prime virtues in the service of a passion for knowledge.”
At the same time, the scientific method is also confronted to new challenges, such as the demand for more public participation in scientific research, or new approaches related to the collection, maintenance, sharing and exploitation of an exponentially growing amount of data.
It is in this spirit and based on those values that the European Research Council operates, offering scientists the trust, freedom, and long-term support needed to pursue their scientific creativity and curiosity, their most ambitious scientific ideas, for the benefit of all – for science is a public good that ultimately benefits every one of us.
The session will feature three distinguished scientists holding an ERC grant, who will approach the topic of this session from the perspective of their respective scientific field and ERC research project:
Prof. Edith HEARD, a pioneer in epigenetics and developmental biology, explores the role of chromosome architecture in gene regulation and its impact for development and disease.
Prof. Fosca GIANNOTTI, who specialises in social mining from big data, studies how to design transparency in machine learning models and develops ethical and legal standards for AI.
Prof. Sabina LEONELLI, a philosopher of science, established a new framework to think about the role of big data in modern science, offering concrete solutions for the pressing issues created by their more and more extensive use.
The session will be moderated by Prof. Jean-Pierre BOURGUIGNON, ERC President ad interim.
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European Research Council
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European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Edith Heard, PhD, FRS is a British scientist and Director General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. She graduated from Cambridge University in 1986, specializing in genetics, and then carried out her PhD at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, working on gene amplification mechanisms in cancer. She moved to the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1990, as a postdoc, which is where she began her studies on the epigenetic process of X-chromosome inactivation. In 2000 she spent a year at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the USA as a visiting scientist, before moving to the Institut Curie in 2001, where she was director of the Genetics and Developmental Biology Department.
Edith’s laboratory focuses on epigenetic processes in mammals, with a particular interest in chromosome biology and the role of non-coding RNAs, chromatin structure and nuclear organization, in the establishment and maintenance of differential expression patterns during development and in disease. She became an EMBO member in 2005, was awarded the CNRS Silver medal in 2008 and elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2013.
Information Science and Technology Institute
Fosca Giannotti is a director of research of computer science at the Information Science and Technology Institute “A. Faedo” of the National Research Council, Pisa, Italy. Fosca Giannotti is a pioneering scientist in mobility data mining, social network analysis and privacy-preserving data mining. Fosca leads the Pisa KDD Lab – Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining Laboratory, a joint research initiative of the University of Pisa and ISTI-CNR, founded in 1994 as one of the earliest research lab on data mining. She is author of more than 300 papers. She has coordinated tens of European projects and industrial collaborations. Fosca is currently the coordinator of SoBigData,the European research infrastructure on Big Data Analytics and Social Mining, an ecosystem of ten cutting edge European research centres providing an open platform for interdisciplinary data science and data-driven innovation.
University of Exeter
Sabina Leonelli is a professor in philosophy and history of science at the University of Exeter, where she co-directs the Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences (Egenis). She gained her PhD at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, following an MSc in history and philosophy of science at the London School of Economics and a BSc (hons) in history, philosophy and social studies of science at University College London. She published widely in a variety of disciplines including philosophy, history, social studies of science, data science and biology; and is active in science policy, particularly as adviser on Open Science implementation for the European Commission and the steering boards of various research data infrastructures.