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European Space Sciences Committee issues recommendations for Horizon 2020 Work Programme

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Monday 11th July 2016 – The European Science Foundation's (ESF) European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC) has issued recommendations and inputs to the consultation process set up by the European Commission on the 2018-2020 Work Programme for Horizon 2020 – SPACE.

The Committee was also asked by the European Commission to make targeted inputs to the ongoing public consultation on a Space Strategy for Europe.

Areas covered by the ESSC recommendations include the exploitation of space data, the use of "CubeSat" miniaturised satellites and the integration of ground-based and space-based research. The Committee also made recommendations on health research in space, gravitational waves research, solar system exploration, heliophysics and space weather. Space surveillance and tracking and the Copernicus and Sentinel programmes are also covered by the submissions which can be seen at http://www.esf.org/space.

On the European Space Strategy, the ESSC highlighted the relevance of space sciences for European citizens in the areas of security, environment, health and engineering. The Committee also underlined the strategic role that space sciences can play in European technology development, innovation and industrial leadership.

European Space Sciences Committee (recommendation highlights):

European Space Strategy

  • The European Space Strategy should promote the development and implementation of proper spin-off mechanisms to ensure that technologies emerging from space related research will also contribute to European innovation and industrial capacity.
  • Acknowledging strong public interest in space activities, the Strategy should work to translate this interest into improved take-up of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) studies, while also improving STEM literacy among European citizens.
  • The Strategy should involve an independent advisory body to advise the EU and other European and national institutions on space matters.

H2020 SPACE Work Programme

  • For years, the scientific community has consistently sought a system for space data analysis and archiving, where European scientists and agencies have acquired a large volume of space mission and ground-based observations. The H2020 programme should encourage and promote research infrastructure to improve networking, pooling and sharing of data and facilities. This would contribute to wider research productivity and value if it was organised in a coherent way, shared via public databases and properly archived.
  • The H2020 programme should encourage research activities aimed at integrating ground research centres and space-based investigations. It is becoming increasingly necessary to follow a 'System Approach' to answer scientific questions. This is particularly true in areas where there are multiple, complimentary assets available, including space (free flying) and ground based observatories.
  • The EU should provide a framework to support a broad network of physicists/astrophysicists whose work will be very important to the future gravitational wave observatory. The recent joint US-European announcement on the measurement of gravitational waves has focussed worldwide attention on this matter. It also showed that, although the US has leadership in terms of ground detectors, Europe has a unique, space-based potential in this domain with the LISA Pathfinder and eLISA observatories. The scientific community is key to further progress in this area and future EU investment could make a very significant difference.
  • For the Copernicus Earth observation programme, H2020 should make dedicated resources available to the existing research networks that are essential for the validation of data products from the Sentinel satellite missions.

Professor Athena Coustenis, ESSC Chair, said: "The ESSC is unique in Europe as it represents the interests of the broader space sciences community in a single entity. It provides expert inputs through positions discussed and agreed in its four disciplinary panels and by the entire committee. We're pleased to make our recommendations to the European Commission as it shapes the next phase of Horizon 2020 SPACE. Additionally we have provided the inputs of European space scientists around the priorities and opportunities that we believe are important for the European Space Strategy to address."

Mr Nicolas Walter, ESSC Executive Scientific Secretary, said: "Members of the European Space Sciences Committee are active and recognised experts in their respective scientific communities and the advice they provide is based on consultations they have with their colleagues. Working closely with the Committee Chair, the ESF Space Unit supports ESSC discussions and the dissemination of their mutually agreed positions".

Dr. Jean-Claude Worms, ESF Chief Executive, said: "The ESSC is one of the crown jewels of the ESF Expert Boards and Committees. Its role is recognised and respected by the main space stakeholders worldwide and serves to support the Europe's leadership position in many areas of space science. These recommendations will help the EU to define a strong and visible space strategy for the continent".

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The detailed ESSC recommendations on the 2018-2020 Work Programme for Horizon2020 and the contribution to the European Space Strategy are available at: http://www.esf.org/space

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Rachel Graham
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