EU Commissioner calls for emphasis on knowledge

April 10th, 2007 by Kaitlin Thaney

A commissioner of Science and Research for the European Union has called for “knowledge” to be added as the fifth community freedom. The four other freedoms recognized from the EU Treaty are goods, services, capital and labor.

Janez Potocnik proposed this idea at the launch of his green paper, “The European Research Area: New Perspectives”, last week. The paper outlines the components necessary to maximize the potential in the European Research Area (ERA) with a new emphasis – the movement of knowledge.

From the paper, he writes:

“Generation, diffusion and exploitation of knowledge are at the core of the research system. In particular, access to knowledge generated by the public research base and its use by business and policymakers lie at the heart of the European Research Area, where knowledge must circulate without barriers throughout the whole society.

State-of-the-art knowledge is crucial for successful research in any scientific discipline. Reliable, affordable and permanent access to, and widespread dissemination of, scientific research results should therefore become defining principles for Europe’s research landscape. The digital era has opened up numerous possibilities in this respect.”

Sharing knowledge, as Potocnik discusses, is critical in science. But there is little open, public infrastructure for knowledge management in the sciences. Knowledge is more than just data or papers. Knowledge is also implicit in the tools and knowhow of science – the “tacit” knowledge that is hard to codify and share using the traditional systems. It’s important to focus on how new technologies like Semantic Web can codify knowledge and how transaction systems can move physical knowledge (think biological materials) between scientists, just as it’s important to work on moving papers and data around.

The initiatives proposed in Potocnik’s green paper call for similar solutions, stressing that the ERA needs an “internal market” for research, where researchers, technology and knowledge can move “freely”.

To read more about the Green Paper launch and Potocnik’s thoughts, see their press release. You can also read this paper in its entirety on the ERA’s Web site.

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