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In this Morning Brief, we open up with the 8th Energy Infrastructure Forum, organised by the European Commission and taking place in Denmark this year, a piece by INESC-ID on computational biology and artificial intelligence breaking new ground, a briefing on the second meeting of the high-level construction forum, the European Commission is seeking views on the upcoming Single Market Emergency Instrument, a piece in EURACTIVE on the dangers of the DSA, and more!  

Any comments or suggestions, hit me up with an email on teresa.carvalho@inesc.pt.

In today's Morning Brief:

In today’s Morning Brief:

8th Energy Infrastructure Forum

The annual Energy Infrastructure Forum is organized by the European Commission in cooperation with the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities. It gathers representatives of the EU institutions, transmission system operators, project promoters, regulators, energy companies, NGOs and civil society and the financing community to discuss the challenges of modernizing Europe’s energy infrastructure to ensure a truly functioning internal energy market.

Registration is upon invitation from the organizers. The agenda will be available shortly.

Please contact the event team should you have any questions at ener-c4-projects@ec.europa.eu and click here for related information.


Looking at life in context: Computational biology and artificial intelligence break new ground

Earlier this year, EMBL – the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, a collaborator in some of INESC-ID’s research programs, including OLISSIPO – launched its new strategic programme for 2022-2026, Molecules to Ecosystems, calling it “a new era for European molecular biology”, under which EMBL proposes to expand its scope by “looking at life in context”. (The announcement of the new strategic programme was coupled with a new year piece by Edith Heard, the director-general of EMBL, published in Nature, suggesting a more integrative approach to the study of life).

Many of these future and innovative “ways of seeing” are only available via – and due to – computational biology and artificial intelligence, areas in which INESC-ID has active research programmes and expertise. As EMBL elaborates, “Advances in computational power and artificial intelligence […] enable rigorous analysis and creative integration of these [i.e., biological] data. This tremendous technological progress in life sciences can now be coupled with the capacity to gather and analyse data of greater scope, resolution, and quality than ever before.”

A recent paper authored by several OLISSIPO members mirrors EMBL’s strategy of dynamically “looking at life in context”. Totoro: Identifying Active Reactions During the Transient State for Metabolic Perturbations, published in Frontiers in Genetics, offers a novel, open source method to analyse metabolomic data, successfully predicting the dynamics of known active metabolic pathways. The authors reaffirm the need for a wide and integrative view of big biological data: “With the current technologies, it gets more common to have different kinds of data available which creates a need for methods that combine, for instance, metabolomic, transcriptomic and proteomic data.” Research as that developed by OLISSIPO researchers brings us closer to that reality.

Find out more here.


Second meeting of the High-Level Construction Forum

Over 150 representatives from industry, EU countries, social partners, the European Commission, and other stakeholders came together virtually for this event. The European Commission presented the results from the recent consultation on the scenarios for a transition pathway for a resilient, greener and more digital construction ecosystem, which was followed by a discussion on the resilience of the sector. Finally, representatives from EU countries and industry presented their pledges and good practices on specific green, digital and resilient topics.

In light of recent events, high-level representatives featured in a dedicated discussion panel on the topic of the resilience of the construction ecosystem, highlighting that the meeting exchanges were both important and timely. Multiple crises have hit the construction sector, including those related to the climate crisis, the pandemic and now the war in Ukraine, which have led to new challenges including supply chain disruptions, price increases and labour shortages. These point to a new sense of urgency and meaning to the topics of green, digital and resilient recovery of the construction sector. The challenges however also provide an opportunity to accelerate the transition and use it to address them.

To find more details about the topics that were discussed and what is next for the transition pathway for the EU construction ecosystem click here.


Commission seeks views on the upcoming Single Market Emergency Instrument

The Commission published a call for evidence and a public consultation on the upcoming proposal for a Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI). With the call for evidence, the Commission takes the opportunity to explain to the public why this Instrument is being prepared, what it aims to achieve and to gather their views on crisis-related disruptions to the Single Market.

The objective of the public consultation questionnaire is to collect detailed input from experts and the general public on any crisis-related Single Market problems encountered and on the potential solutions. This evidence will be used when carrying out an impact assessment and designing the future SMEI proposal.

The call for evidence and the public consultation will be open until 11 May 2022 at midnight. Click here for more information.


Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes

According to this column by Eva Simon (Civil Liberties Union for Europe) and Caroline de Cock (Coalition for Creativity) for EURACTIV, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has once again brought war to Europe. As the fighting intensifies and drags on, so does the humanitarian crisis, deepened by the shocking and still unfolding evidence of war crimes. We learn about these war crimes from videos recorded by journalists and individuals, many of them uploaded to social media. Citizens, journalists, human rights investigators, and advocates document what they see in the war zone. The digital equipment most of us own, and the possibility for anyone to use big platforms, such as YouTube, Twitter, or Meta, means almost anyone can share information and collect evidence of war crimes. These videos are important for those who seek truth, who are on a mission for peace, and for those who seek to ensure justice. António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, was “deeply shocked” by the images of civilian casualties in Ukraine circulating on social media over the last weeks. This showcases the role of online platforms in supporting the collection and preservation of such evidence to help create a basis for calls for independent investigations and effective accountability. Parallels can be drawn with the Syrian Archive. The unrest in Syria began in 2011 as part of the wider Arab Spring protests escalating into an armed conflict. From the start, people uploaded videos of the conflict to YouTube. As the situation escalated into a war, YouTube was used more extensively, and an organic war archive was created. However, in 2018 Google started deleting videos from the Syrian Archive. Videos of war crimes were removed because automated filters based on machine learning flagged them as inappropriate content. As a result, evidence was lost forever. Having a war right at the border of the EU and witnessing the terrible videos from Bucha, Mariupol, and other areas of Ukraine where Russian troops tortured and killed civilians, reminds us of what is at stake. We must learn from the Syrian Archive’s failure and ensure that such videos are preserved, now and in the future. What infrastructure we use and create for such purposes, what we require from platforms big and small, how they fulfil a public service role in archiving and sustaining such videos, and how they are required to deal with inappropriate content are all crucial considerations. This is where the Digital Services Act (DSA) comes in. It is supposed to regulate Big Tech companies to create a safe digital space where the fundamental rights of users are protected and to establish a level playing field. It also aims to create an environment where lawful content, including user videos documenting evidence of war crimes, can be safely stored without being compromised or deleted. In the case of the Syrian Archive, inaccurate automated tools removed the videos because these lacked understanding of linguistic or cultural nuances, and could not differentiate between journalistic resources and war propaganda. That contextual blindness still exists in today’s automated content moderation tools, and they still lead to situations where completely legitimate content is wrongfully made inaccessible. We must learn from these mistakes, and ensure that journalists, activists, or anyone else can share their opinions or (video) evidence without the threat of it disappearing, simply because online platforms are coerced into implementing poorly working automation tools.”.


China denies claims its researchers paused cooperation with Russian Academy of Sciences

China’s foreign ministry has denied claims the country’s research organisations have paused cooperation with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS).

On Thursday, Alexander Sergeev, president of RAS, said cooperation with Chinese partners had come to a standstill about a month ago, the Russian news agency, Tass, reported.

“If we talk about the southern or eastern directions, unfortunately, I can say directly that our Chinese scientific colleagues have also pressed the pause [button], and over the past month we have not been able to enter into serious discussions, despite the fact that we had excellent cooperation along with regular communication,” Sergeev said during a conference in Moscow.

China’s foreign ministry has since denied the claim. “As far as we know, China and Russia continue to develop regular cooperation in the scientific field, this is an important component of Sino-Russian cooperation,” a spokesman said in a press briefing on Friday, per Tass.


Symposium: Vaccination and the pandemic – Lessons from behavioral sciences

This symposium is a forum for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to present and discuss studies that generated and applied behavioural insights to inform policy and improve vaccination acceptance and demand. It features a tour of recent studies and reflections on pressing questions of vaccination policy. How to use behavioural insights during vaccination campaigns? What interventions (e.g., reminders, information, incentives) work best, and for whom? What are the drivers of vaccines hesitancy? What is the role of misinformation or disinformation in vaccination choices?

The event is organized by the Competence Centre on Behavioural Insights (CCBI) at the Joint Research Centre and supported by the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety.

Click here to register and for more details about the agenda!


Workshop: European Innovation Council (EIC) funding opportunities for space start-ups and SMEs

EIC Programme Manager for space, Stela Tkatchova in cooperation with European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) are co-organising a workshop, which will focus on the added-value of the EIC instruments with a deep dive on the EIC Accelerator: the funding opportunities, the benefits and lessons learnt by previous EIC winners in the area of space upstream and downstream. This event will also provide the opportunity to discuss the participation rules, the application and evaluation process and other details, allowing participants to raise their questions to the EIC experts.

Click here to register.

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