Working Towards Sustainable Science Practices: The Sustainable Research Symposium

Last year I wrote about the Green Labs project in the Netherlands, and as a follow up I am going to attend their upcoming Sustainable Research symposium.

The Sustainable Research Symposium 2022 will be held on May 19th between 9am – 3pm CET at the Princess Maxima Center, Utrecht Science Park in the Netherlands and can be followed online.

The symposium is a unique free symposium about sustainable research which can be followed in person or virtually. It was organized for the first time in 2021 and this year the honour falls to Green Labs. More details in my post from last year:

The program covers topics such as innovative ideas to increase sustainability in research, sustainability criteria in research funding, environmentally responsible conferencing and more!

Time table:

08:50 – Welcome and introduction
09:00 – Session 1: Current state of sustainability in science & future outlook

  • 09:00 – Nikoline Borgermann – Ava Sustain
  • 09:20 – Sustainable European Laboratories network (SELs)
  • 09:35 – Hannah Johnson – Green Labs Netherlands
  • 09:50 – Klimaatgesprekken 
  • 10:10 – Marlène Bartes – European Commission, MSCA Green Charter

10:30 – Coffee break
11:00 – Session 2: Innovative ideas to increase sustainability in research or industry

  • 11:00 – PAN Biotech
  • 11:15 – Loic Lannelongue – University of Cambridge, UK
  • 11:30 – Jan Heidelberger – Max Planck School Matter to Life, Heidelberg, Germany
  • 11:45 – UNI-ECO
  • 12:00 – Daniela Farina – LEAF implementation

12:15 – Pitch your idea

Short pitches of ideas how to increase sustainability in science selected from submitted abstracts

12:30 – Lunch and poster session

Poster presentations selected from submitted abstracts

13:45 – Session 3: Panel discussion: How to make scientific conferences more sustainable?

Jeroen Dobbelaere – Max Perutz Labs, Vienna, Austria
Viktoria Lamprinaki – Company of Biologists

14:45 – Closing
15:00 – Networking event

Registration is free for both the in-person and online participation. Further details are available through the symposium website.

See you there!

Holograms (Pepper’s Ghost) in Politics

Pepper’s Ghost

I know it wasn’t really a hologram but the use of some old technology called Pepper’s Ghost, but that is a mere technicality I feel. This week, and not for the first time in his political career, French Presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon conducted 12 simultaneous political rallies using what the press describe as hologram technology.

Mélenchon employed an optical illusion known as “Pepper’s Ghost,” where a 2D image is projected onto a thin film or pane of glass to give the impression that the speaker is actually present, the same technology used when Tupac Shakur (who was already dead) joined Snoop Dogg on stage more than 10 years ago.

There have been lots of concerts since then, Roy Orbison, for the rock and rollers, Whitney Houston for pop lovers and Maria Calla touring with a full orchestra for the opera lover in you. But the use of this technology has also raised some questions. Although the owners of the estates of these dead stars might agree to allow such a concert, it remains impossible to ask the artist themselves if they agree with this form of exploitation.


Which brings me back into the political arena. A politician can conduct a rally in as many cities as they would like, projecting an image and sound and have an interactive event, but they could also host guest conversations if they liked. A conversation with Winston Churchill? A short scripted introduction from Gandhi? What other uses might come to mind? And what might the implications be for the democratic process?

The availability of new techniques easily makes (the illusion of) 3D possible, and readers might like to look up Cheoptics or Musion Eyeliner to get some ideas of what is commercially available today. Easily transportable systems designed for touring are available, so I am not suggesting something that would be logistically difficult to do.

It seems a small step to move from using your own candidate to introducing iconic historical political figures on stage, but not an unproblematic one.

Fair Energy Transition for All: FETA Project

Image from the FETA website

In this post I would like to take a quick look at the project FETA, Fair Energy Transition for All.

Energy Transition

Energy transition refers to the move towards carbon neutral energy production, and the concept under discussion is how this transition process can be made as fair as possible for the largest number of people.

How could it not be fair? We might ask this question, but we might come up with some simple suggestions: the transition is going to cost money, tax money and consumer money, and this added expense is not going to be felt equally across the population (we are talking about Europe here). If a government adds a cost (to use a current example) to the price of electricity in order to fund wind generation, this extra cost represents a different percentage of disposable income for different groups. If you spend 2% of your income on electricity it might not be noticeable, but if you spend 20% then it certainly will.

The current crisis with energy costs has already demonstrated the fragility of a population that relies on power for heat and electricity in any form, and any transition tax applied a year ago will today both raise more money and put more strain on poorer households. And subsidies for insulating houses, buying new white goods or towards the cost of an electric car require outlay on the part of the consumer, which means that it excludes those without access to such funds. And that says nothing about the skills needed to navigate the bureaucracy

Adding charges to bills and subsidising energy efficient purchases is a top down approach though, decisions taken by governments and energy company bosses (my rather cynical interpretation coming out here), but this is a a problem that FETA aims to address.

Some thoughts from the website:

For the energy transition to take place, policy measures need to be put in place that will have an impact on housing, energy, transport and other aspects of our everyday lives. However, the impacts of climate policies, such as rising fuel taxes or the closure of coal mines, affect socially and economically disadvantaged groups the most. This leads to economic and social conflicts: many people feel alienated by climate change policies, which they perceive as elitist issues, and they feel that the elites are out of touch with their lives and are not aware of their interests.

For climate action to be successful, widespread public acceptance is needed. European and national policy-makers need to develop climate change policies that everyone can relate to and benefit from! Policy-makers should listen to those whose voices are being left out of the current debate and include them in the policy and communication process. That is the only way in which a fair energy transition can be achieved – for all!

All of which boils down into three main questions:

  • How can the EU and its member states prevent climate policies from hitting the pockets of poorer households the hardest?
  • How can policies be designed so that everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the energy transition?
  • How can the energy transition be combined with social justice?

To find answers, the project is conducting public participation events that involve 1000 participants in 90 focus groups spread across Europe, while the Bassetti Foundation (our funding partner) is working on policy proposals by running some expert workshops in Italy. The aim is to better understand the emotions, fears, views and needs of vulnerable people with regards to the energy transition and its current and potential impact on their living conditions, in order to provide input to national and European policy-makers, researchers and stakeholders to help them develop fair energy transition policies and enhance the communication with the target group.

The website offers more information and is well designed and really easy to follow.

Just down our street at Technology Bloggers we might say.