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SUMMARY: Biomechanics in the Sixth Framework Program

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  • SUMMARY: Biomechanics in the Sixth Framework Program

    Thanks to all colleagues who expressed their interest and support to an
    eventual common action to promote the Medical and Biological Engineering
    (MBE) in general and biomechanics in particular to the attention of the
    European Commission.

    Most of those who replied confirmed that MBE is disappearing from the EU
    scenario and that some lobbying could be useful.

    A special mention is due to Niilo Saranummi who informed me that the
    International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering (IFMBE) has
    established an Ad-Hoc Committee on "Medical and Biological Engineering in
    Europe" to promote the creation of a "one voice" mechanism for the whole
    European MBE community. In the forthcoming MEDICON conference in Pula next
    June there will be an event to discuss this action. So it looks like
    something is moving!

    Another special mention goes to a colleague who states that we should blame
    ourselves. Using his own words: "Another issue is the fault of
    biomechanics community. Generally speaking, we or I should say they have
    not been delivering. There has been lots of money, (little compared to
    other areas, but still huge amounts) pumped into biomechanics R&D both at
    the national level as well as the EU. However, as the big fish get all the
    money, and just because of their background, and not what lies ahead, they
    are really to blame for the shortfall in production of results. What's
    more, they have brought this on themselves and all the rest of us too.
    Personally, I am very dissatisfied at the lack of funding by FP5, FP6, but
    I think this was inevitable. The big fish, not all them, but many in their
    ranks, think too highly of themselves and are not prepared to let new (I
    mean really new and unconventional) thinking to be tried and emerge".

    I am not sure I fully agree with this position. We tend to pull these
    feelings from our personal professional history, and the situations we
    faced may not be so generalised as we think. Additionally, if we measure
    research fields on their ability to deliver clinical results, I guess
    genetics should get two Euro, not two billions Euro as planned in FPVI.

    However, the feeling that the few colleagues in the position to represent
    biomechanics in Europe are not very active in promoting the field is shared
    by many of us. I agree we should wake-up these 'sleeping beauties', somehow.

    Last, most of those who replied to my message asked me to set-up a separate
    discussion group for this matter. I shall post a separate call for
    expression of interest to poll the interest for such initiative.

    >To whom it may concern:
    >This morning I received a draft of the document the European Commission
    >wrote to set-up the Sixth Framework Program (FPVI) of research and
    >development. In my understanding this document is quite final and only
    >minimal modifications will be allowed.
    >In the Fourth Framework program there was a section of the BIOMED II area
    >dedicated to Biomedical Engineering (BE). This section fully disappeared
    >in the area Quality of Life of the Fifth Framework Program. We were told
    >that BE and medical technology in general should have been present in each
    >proposal, since it was considered a pre-requirement for each effective
    >research project. Reality was that no projects targeting a pure
    >technological development were supported. Also the supposed ubiquity of BE
    >in all proposals did not materialise. The projects in which at least one
    >of the partners was a BE research group are an exception rather than a
    >rule. Overall, the feeling of the few BE experts called to serve as
    >project reviewers was that the geneticists lobby was running the show.
    >Looks like we were deadly right. In the FPVI (Framework Program Sixth) the
    >whole Quality of Life became __ Genomics and Biotechnology for the Health
    >__. Approximately two Billion Euro will be devoted " Š.to valorise the
    >discoveries in the field genomics Š.". Nowhere there is mention for BE,
    >except for bioinformatics applied to Genomics.
    >Another point is that the focus on degenerative diseases (which in any case
    >seems limited to the application of Genomics and Biotechnology to medicine)
    >is now limited to the nervous system. In other words, the muscle-skeletal
    >degenerative diseases are gone.
    >I guess all this is relevant for the European biomechanics and BE research
    >community. EC is already the main founding source for many of us.
    >Furthermore, the same document calls for a greater integration between
    >National programs, which should be opened to the other member states and
    >interconnected to the FPVI activities. To be honest this part is quite
    >complex and I did not have the time to fully grasp it, yet. However, it is
    >important to stress that National programs will not stay untouched for a
    >long while. Sooner or later the whole public support to research
    >activities in Europe will be homogenised and integrated under this common
    >philosophy. Thus, even those who are mostly supported by National grants
    >should not presume to be safe forever.
    >I am not sure how easy it is to get this draft I received from a colleague.
    >I thought this information could be interesting for some of you. Useless
    >to say, I am not very happy with this draft. If you share my concern,
    >and/or you have more detailed information, please contact me by e-mail. I
    >guess we should further discuss this matter, in order to identify positive
    >actions. However, BIOMCH-L may not be the right place for such discussion
    >as this problem involves all BE and not only Biomechanics. I could set-up a
    >temporary mailing list if there is enough interest on the issue.
    >Marco Viceconti

    Laboratorio di Tecnologia Medica tel. 39-051-6366865
    Istituti Ortopedici Rizzoli fax. 39-051-6366863
    via di barbiano 1/10, 40136 - Bologna, Italy

    Tiger! Tiger! Burning bright in the forest of the night,
    what immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?
    Opinions expressed here do not necessarly reflect those of my employer

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