Mystery Academy Holds Private Powwow

BRUSSELS--The headquarters of science academies often are ornate structures and their annual meetings grand affairs involving hundreds of luminaries. Not so the European Academy of Sciences (EAS). Its first annual meeting, held here on 29 November, drew 14 people who met behind closed doors.

The newest academy on the block is not off to an auspicious start. On 31 October, the Royal Society issued a statement warning scientists "to exercise due caution before making financial commitments" to EAS, which began earlier this year as a dues-paying organization but now bestows memberships free of charge.

But according to Philip Carrion, a materials scientist at the University of Udine, Italy, and scientific adviser to EAS, the academy has a serious goal. It will attempt to transform a pilot project on technology transfer into a broader forum on research commercialization. The pilot project, sponsored by the European Commission, helped obtain loans for small businesses in Krakow, Poland, by providing them with advanced technology from Western Europe. "We now want to expand" that model through EAS, Carrion says. According to members and administrators interviewed after they emerged from the 3-hour event, discussions centered on fundamental issues such as the academy's structure and funding.

A total of four of the academy's claimed 250 members attended the gathering. One of them, computer scientist Boris Verkhovsky of the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, told Science that he's convinced that "this academy will succeed," and geophysicist Enders Robinson of Columbia University in New York City adds that "there is no such organization in Europe with a similar approach." Few would debate that point.

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