Since I arrived at ECETOC, the development and implementation of ECETOC’s “Science Strategy” has been the central theme of all we have undertaken. At the 2009 Annual General Meeting it was proposed that next year the AGM and ATM will be run as one meeting and that this meeting will be a major review of ECETOC’s Science Strategy. Why so soon, you may ask? This review will be only 4 years after the 2006 ATM “futures workshop”, from which the current strategy sprang.
The answer is threefold:
- Firstly, the environment in which ECETOC operates has evolved rapidly. REACH is no longer a prospect, it is operational. At a time when the industry was hit by recession in global markets, it had simultaneously to adapt to a quantum shift in regulatory requirements in Europe. This situation clearly affects the availability of industry scientists to participate in ECETOC activities.
- Secondly, the areas of science which we deal with are in a state of rapid transformation. Initiatives in the USA such as the National Academy of Sciences report “Toxicology in the 21st century” are resonating in Europe. Many of the approaches invoked in the NAS report, broadly grouped under “systems biology’, are seen in some quarters as the solution to many of the problems of accuracy and capacity for toxicology testing. New technologies are promoted as being the way forward for toxicology and ecotoxicology and, notably, in the replacement of in vivo testing. The area of cosmetics is immediately impacted as the use of animal data is phased out between 2009 and 2013, but the implications are potentially much broader.
- Thirdly, and more happily, ECETOC has made enormous progress in the 13 “Strategic Science Areas” it originally identified. Since the start of 2007 we have planned, run and reported eight workshops and another is in the final stages of editing. A tenth workshop on “Mode of Action in risk assessment” is taking place in November this year. It is now time to evaluate the progress made and to confirm the areas of greatest priority. It may be that some of these SSA’s have been addressed and are no longer critical. Some may require redefinition and others may be re-confirmed.
The 2010 ATM/AGM will be held on the 8th of June; I hope you will put this date in your diaries already. The event will allow all interested parties the opportunity to contribute to the future direction of ECETOC’s work. One of the starting materials to be used at this meeting will be the output from the 2009 ATM, our “Young Scientists Event”. We will invite key individuals from our operating environment including academic, regulatory and industrial scientists. Your suggestions, in this regard, will be welcomed. In addition, we will solicit your input by a questionnaire early next year. In the end, ECETOC depends for its success on the way in which it meets the needs of its member companies by promoting good science. This makes participation at next year’s event so important for ECETOC members; it will give all participants the opportunity to give feedback on how we have operated the Science Strategy up to now and to identify the issues we should be working on in the immediate future.
Dr. Neil Carmichael