Prof. V. Rogiers (Chairperson), Dr. B. Garthoff (Treasurer), Mr. T. Dantes (minute taker), Mrs. K. Gabrielson, Prof. C. Hendriksen, Prof. P. Maier, Prof. H. Spielmann, Dr. A. van Iersel, Dr. F. Zucco,
Dr. B. Lucaroni, Prof. E. Vilanova, Mrs. R. Habermann
Prof. J. Castell (excused), Prof. W. Pfaller (excused), Dr. L. Bansil (excused)
1st Constitutional Board Meeting
The Chairperson, Prof. Rogiers welcomed the attending Board Members and guests informing them that the ecopa statutes were finally published in the Belgisch Staatsblad/Moniteur Belge on April 21, 2004 (No. 04061510) marking the last step of establishing ecopa as an international not-for-profit organisation according to Belgian laws. ecopa is now fully operational and legally recognised.
She then asked the attending Board Members if they agreed with the proposed agenda. The agenda was agreed unanimously. It was also agreed that Mr. Dantes would be charged with taking the minutes.
The meeting then proceeded with the signing of the attendance list marking the official constitution of the first elected ecopa Board.
Prof. Rogiers then gave a brief report on the mission, current status and recent achievements of ecopa. Regarding the participation in EU-projects, Prof. Rogiers illustrated that ecopa had already been quite successful in this regard since it was in charge of coordinating the CONAM project (a specific support action – SSA). Furthermore, ecopa was selected to serve on the Management Boards of the ‘ReProTect’ (IP) and ‘Predictomics’ (STREP) projects as well as the Advisory Board of the ‘A-Cute-Tox’ (IP) project. In addition, scientists of ecopa member institutions would serve as research partners in the ‘Predictomics’, ‘ReProTect’ and ‘A-Cute-Tox’ projects.
Financial Status of ecopa
The Treasurer, Dr. Garthoff, then gave a report on the association’s financial status. He explained that ecopa had been quite successful in raising funds to pay for the annual workshops in recent years. At the end of 2003, the ecopa account that is being operated by the VUB financial services, showed a positive balance of 26.922,83 Euros. After having paid most of the bills in the wake of the 4th workshop that was held in November 2003, the account’s balance was 16.979,45 Euros as of April 21, 2004. In addition a pre-financing of 5.000 Euros had just been paid by ECVAM which was not credited to the ecopa account, yet. He added that additional workshop funding of some 5.0000 Euros was still being expected from ECVAM once the final budget report is submitted.
Since not all ecopa members, especially NCPs, seemed to have already paid their membership fee it was agreed that a respective reminder would be e-mailed to the national platform representatives in the first week of May 2004.
Closing his report Dr. Garthoff suggested that the account should be checked by an external auditor to ensure that ecopa’s funds would always be handled properly and be beyond any doubts. This was also advisable with respect to the CONAM project and the subsequent compliance with local laws for employment related aspects.
Calendar Agenda 2004
Prof. Rogiers and Dr. Garthoff illustrated that there were a number of meetings and events on alternative methods this year, for example an ECVAM workshop in Prague, the ICT in Tampere, a Congress on Alternatives in Linz and INVITOX in Warsaw. They stressed that any Board Member was welcome to give a presentation on ecopa when attending any of these or other events. To this regard, there was already a presentation on the website that provided useful background information for preparing an own presentation and that would be updated soon to include the latest developments.
However, it was also agreed that anyone giving a presentation should keep the Board informed about the contents of the planned talk and also provide feedback afterwards. To this end, a list with the upcoming meetings and congresses will be circulated among the Board Members asking them to indicate the meetings that they intend to attend.
Activities and Projects:
eSI: Concept and Workshop (October 28-30,2004)
Dr. Garthoff gave a brief summary of the „ecopaScienceInitiative“ explaining that the aim would be to reach the top scientists of all research areas that might be relevant to alternative method development, and to organise a workshop with them. Further activities would be to invite young scientists and to initiate exchange by Science Fairs. The goals of this „ecopaScienceInitiative” would thus be to draw the best science to initiate „thinking about and for alternatives“, to improve recognition of science in that area and to get the „alternative method research“ out of the corner of mediocre science. Furthermore, to organize the funding and PR around it, and to hold science fora to foster exchange with other basic research scientists and scientists of NCPs and ECVAM.
To this end a workshop was being planned in Spain near Alicante from 28th to 30th of October 2004. It was intended to have about 40 people attending of whom 4 would be major, well known senior scientists and 4 “applying” experts in their fields of expertise while the other 32 participants would be young scientists and researchers. Prof. Rogiers added that the National Consensus Platforms had already been asked to provide names of young scientists and responded well Yet, there was still a need to find additional “top scientists” since the ones proposed up to know where not meeting the criteria.
The Board agreed to look for potential scientists and to send the names and additional information (preferably CVs) to Dr. Garthoff and Prof. Hendriksen who volunteered to be in charge of the pre-screening. They would then prepare a list of names to be circulated among
the Board Members for final consent. In addition, the Board Members were asked by Dr. Garthoff to take a close look at the draft programme and to give their opinion and input regarding the choice of topics and the “Novel Technologies & Techniques”-part of the draft programme. Feedback should be given by June 14, 2004 at the latest.
Mrs. Gabrielson proposed that the search for names could be enhanced by sending a letter to the NCPs providing more information on eSI and explaining why the names were so important. Dr. Garthoff agreed to prepare such a letter in the next few days and to send to the NCPs.
Dr. Garthoff informed the Board Members that the annual ecopa workshop was intended to be held in Brussels from 26th to 28th of November 2004. Providing a first draft programme Dr. Garthoff explained that he thought that SCALE would be an excellent topic for the next workshop since it was a little known issue up to now giving ecopa the opportunity to pick it up right from the beginning and to become a major player.
He then gave a brief overview explaining that SCALE was the EU’s plan to provide adequate protection of children from exposure to harmful chemicals. A first unpublished draft for an action plan was produced in spring 2004 putting major emphasis on the extended use of the precautionary principle. This among other factors could result in another major testing approach on top of REACH with significant testing in lab animals for safety, risk and hazard concerns. Therefore, Dr. Garthoff thought that the next ecopa annual workshop should focus on this issue and that a statement and sign-in campaign on the website should be organized as had been the case with respect to REACH.
With reference to the draft programme, Dr. Garthoff stressed that this was a first compilation of thoughts only. It was agreed that all Board Members would take time to think about this draft and give their comments and suggestions within the next two weeks. They would also suggest names of potential speakers, especially with regard to the planned Science Fair. It was also agreed that a first draft programme would only be circulated and put on the ecopa website once the potential speakers had been contacted.
Regarding the timing of the workshop it was discussed that the second day of the workshop was usually too short since there was a need for more discussions and so on. However, an extension of the workshop to Sunday evening was not deemed feasible due to the participants’ need to return home on Sunday evening.
It was therefore agreed that the NCPs activity reports shall be submitted in writing prior to the workshop, so that the actual session during the general assembly on Sunday morning may be used primarily for asking questions related to these reports.
Kick off of CONAM project:
Dr. Lucaroni gave a short overview outlining the areas in which alternative methods related projects had been successful in the 1st and 2nd call of FP6. She added that a 3rd call was under preparation for later this year but that it was too early to give any further details.
Regarding the role of CONAM as an SSA, Dr. Lucaroni explained that enlargement was the key point. The main objectives were to build a solid network on 3R-alternatives within Europe and to exchange information (scientific, societal, and technological) on the development and validation of 3R-alternatives. She then illustrated the main topics to be covered as part of the CONAM-project as being the formation of new NCPs, particularly in the new-EU Member States, the creation of a newsletter on 3R-alternatives and the expansion of the ecopa website as well as the organisation of workshops and meetings. Further important topics would be to establish links with other FP6 projects on 3Rs, to report on the “-omics” field, and to stimulate international cooperation.
Budget / Recruiting:
Prof. Rogiers then gave a brief outline regarding the budget and manpower required to accomplish the tasks vested in the CONAM project. She explained that the overall sum granted by the EU was 150.000 Euros over a three year period. This would roughly cover the costs for a half-time staff position as well as expenses for website expansion, the newsletter, travel and an external audit. As in the past, the money required for workshops would be raised by means of sponsoring and was thus not included in the overall sum.
Yet, she stressed that a full-time position was absolutely needed to cover all the work foreseen in the CONAM project, especially since there were strict deadlines to be met throughout the entire project. It was agreed that all Board Members would look for opportunities to raise additional funds in order to finance an upgrade from a half time to a full time position.
Regarding recruiting for this position, Prof. Rogiers announced that a respective vacancy notice was under preparation that would soon be published on the ecopa website and forwarded to the NCPs via e-mail. In addition, the VUB would also publish this vacancy notice.
In addition, it was discussed and agreed unanimously that the Board would prepare a proposal for raising the Annual Membership fee to be submitted to the members for approval at the next general assembly.
Work Packages/Adaptation of the Gantt-Chart
The existing project plan was presented by Mrs. Habermann. Prof. Rogiers explained that the CONAM project included various work packages to be covered by the ecopa working groups. To this end, she added that a meeting would soon be held with the leaders of the four working groups to discuss the upcoming tasks in greater detail. The respective Gantt-Chart was distributed by Mrs. Habermann to be updated by the Board Members. Once done it will be mailed and e-mailed again to the Board Members as well as the working group leaders.
ECVAM/ecopa Workshop (June 3-5, 2004)
Prof. Rogiers informed the Board that ECVAM had invited ecopa to take part in a workshop in Prague in early June that would focus on the development of platforms in the new EU-Members States. She stressed that this workshop fitted nicely into Work Package 1 of the CONAM project and that it would be beneficial for ECVAM and ecopa alike. She added that
the budget was covered by ECVAM and that 3-4 persons from each new member state could be invited. Yet, it had been difficult to a certain extent to find enough relevant contacts in these countries. Prof. Rogiers and Mr. Dantes had provided respective lists to ECVAM. Eurogroup had also promised to assist in contacting animal welfare organisations. The Board was asked to provide further names and e-mails that they may know of. Prof. Rogiers concluded that the ideal outcome of this workshop would be to have people stepping forward that expressed their interest to found NCPs in their home countries. The Board expressed its unanimous support for an official participation of ecopa at this workshop.
Concerning the creation of a newsletter as part of the CONAM activities it was discussed and agreed that it should be circulated in electronic form (PDF-format). The content should focus on news, calls, events, a follow-up on EU programmes and projects including CONAM.
Mr. Dantes will be in charge of the technical work and editing while Prof. Castell and Prof. Vilanona will review the scientific content, collect the information and avoid duplication or repetition with respect to other printed or online publications (NCA and so on).
It was agreed to provide Mr. Dantes with names and e-mail addresses of individuals, associations etc. to create a large address pool of newsletter recipients The first edition will be a trial number for evaluation to find the best format, lay-out and so on.
Information Support out of EU Projects
Since ecopa takes part in various projects it will be easy to get the necessary information on those for inclusion in the newsletter. Yet, there are other related EU-projects where ecopa is not involved and might thus have a difficult time to obtain the respective information for reporting in the newsletter. In this regard, Dr. Lucaroni said that she would ensure that the non-confidential parts of these reports will be forwarded for reporting in the newsletter.
Follow-up funding under additional 6thFramework Programme – future calls
Concerning further calls Dr. Lucaroni said that the chemicals budget appeared to be exhausted by now but that there would be a third call in the area of genomics. In addition, it was likely that there would be a fourth call. In this respect, she added that ecopa’s input would be welcome to define sectors. This was also the case in respect of a future FP7 that was already being prepared.
Regarding the 4th call Dr. Lucaroni stressed that ecopa should check with other potential applicants to see if there was a chance for a common proposal since there might well be funding for one project only. The Board agreed that Prof. Castell would contact IVTIP to check the options for a common proposal. He will also serve as the contact person for other NCPs that wish to participate.
Prof. Rogiers thanked the participants and closed the Board Meeting.