The Executive Committee of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS) decided to found three 3-year posts. The holders of the new Committee posts should be responsible for specific tasks, science and society issues, women bioscientists' issues and young scientists' issues. Dr. Federico Mayor, former President of Unesco, was invited to serve the first function. The constituent societies of FEBS voted Dr. Sissel Rogne from the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board to take care of womens' issues, and Marja Markarow from University of Helsinki was voted to look after young scientists? issues. The two last nominations were ratified by the 40th FEBS Council in the 27th FEBS/PABMB meeting, which took place in Lisbon on June 30 - July 5. The three year period of service of Dr. Rogne and myself was decided to start on January 1st, 2002. Dr. Mayor organized the first Science and Society session already in the Lisbon meeting.
More and more European countries strive to become knowledge-based societies, characterized by businesses which are based on a high education level of employees, innovation, sufficient public and private investment into research and development, and high quality basic research. We cannot afford to loose our most talented young scientists to the United States of America, where more attractive carreer prospects are offered than in many European countries.
The specific problems that scientists encounter early on in their careers have to be identified and surveys on their career developments should be carried out. Visions for future solutions should be created and the decision makers informed about the problems and the suggestions of removing them.
The Lisbon meeting started by the Forum of Young Scientists, entitled "Protein structure-Function, Trafficking and Signalling", on June 28-30. 155 young scientists, mostly Ph.D. students from all over Europe attended, 41 gave oral presentations and 95 presented posters. The event was closed by a 3 hours panel discussion on problems specific for young investigators. The list was long, starting with lack of information on funding opportinities at different stages of the career. Returning home after a post-doctoral training period abroad was feared to be an especially vulnerable situation, with concerns not only on the availability of suitable funding instruments, but also the degree of independency as young group leaders under strong department heads. Though mobility is strongly recommended by individual countries, as well as the EU, the feelings on this issue were mixed. Many thought that this requirement interferes with for instance family planning. The different criteria for Ph. D. theses had been recognized, and harmonization of these criteria in all European countries was felt to be urgently needed.
The Forum of Young Scientists was decided to be organized as a satellite meeting of every FEBS meeting. The Council agreed to allocate annually euros 100.000 for travel support of the participants of Forum, and to pay for three invited plenary speakers. The Ph.D. students of the organizing country should be strongly involved in planning of the Forum?s program. The Forum will continue to have a general panel discussion, and recruitment services are under consideration. It will provide a unique channel to hear directly the voice of young European scientists. FEBS has a clear nich to promote Ph. D. students issues, as organizations like EMBO for instance fund post-doctoral students.
A small expert committee will be assembled to help us cristallize the goals and seek solutions to problems. Close contacts to EMBO, the Marie Curie program, the Wellcome Trust, NorFA and other funding agencies will be fostered to avoid overlapping of activities, and to work constructively together for the best of the next generation of European group leaders in the field of biochemistry and molecular biology.