Science Beyond Fiction: Thoughts from Prague on FET09

This event celebrated 20 years of funding through the EU Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programmes. 500 people attended the meeting: they enjoyed plenary lectures, specialised lectures, posters and a large exhibition with many working demonstrations.

The main emphasis was directed towards FET funded projects in computer science and robotics, but there were also plenty of talks and discussions on the wider issues of modelling and in particular how to approach inter/multi/trans-disciplinary research.

Relating to the GSD project, I had the pleasure to meet a number of delegates to discuss GSD objectives and I was glad to spread the word about future GSD activities.

Of particular scientific interest, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi gave a talk on network models and levy flights, which is of direct relevance to the work of Alan Wilson and others on Networks. It also touched on issues of social networking, which could also be a strong contender for follow on work from the GSD project, since any policy models must take into account how social interactions can help to promote the success of alternative policies.
GSD is keen to see how simulations can be utilised to assist policy makers. In this respect the conference was extremely useful in showing some of the results that can be achieved with modern technology.

In particular Henry Markham showed how visualisations were being used in health and safety training, allowing the user to vary parameters. There were several informal discussions about the use of modelling concepts similar to those proposed in GSD for use in problems of social interaction, especially conflict modelling.

One of the most enjoyable talks was given by Philip Ball on music, particularly addressing the problem of which combination of sounds do we find appealing and why. While not specifically relevant to GSD, I have never experienced a more carefully thought out and well delivered argument.

Prof. Steven Bishop
GSD Project Coordinator
24th April 2009

FET09 took place in Prague from 21-23 April 2009 full details of the speakers and the conference programme.