The European Association for Food Safety, also known by many as “the SAFE consortium” or shortly “SAFE” is the international organisation for the advancement of food safety sciences…
The European Association for Food Safety, also known by many as “the SAFE consortium” or shortly “SAFE” is the international organisation for the advancement of food safety sciences. The organisation was established in 2002 by its six founding fathers VTT (Finland), ISPA-CNR (Italy). INRA (France), Wageningen University and TNO (Netherlands) and IFR (United Kingdom). The organisation grew steadily since from 6 member institutes in 2002 to 14 in 2008.
What are the main objectives of the Consortium?
The SAFE consortium wants to act as an independent spokesman for food safety research in Europe and Worldwide to the benefit of the public. It deals with ‘food safety’ in its broadest terms and wants to strengthen:
- food safety related research in Europe and Worldwide,
- science-based food safety policy setting and regulations, and
- up-to-date food safety research policies and programming.
SAFE addresses its strategic goals by defining objectives for an annual work program, utilizing the following:
- organize scientific congresses, conferences, seminars and workshops, participate notably in events organized by others, and exchange food safety research systems’ knowledge among interested parties,
- develop science-based position papers for European, national and other food safety authorities referring to food safety issues of general importance,
- strengthen scientists’ ability to form, maintain and work in suitable networks and to profit from opportunities offered by these networks, e.g. developing common initiatives in food safety sciences.
- develop and promote interdisciplinary research projects and partnerships in the Framework Programs of the European Commission, national governments and food authorities or in other international research programs.
- maintain an effective interaction with representatives of the European and national research administration, and the European Food Safety authorities.
- provide information of general interest about the SAFE consortium and from the food safety sector to its members on a regular basis.
What are the benefits of being a member of the Consortium?
In addition to the participation in the activities mentioned above, we think we are able to formulate the concrete benefits of a SAFE consortium membership in the following ten points.
- Give advice to policy and decision makers at national and European levels on Food Safety Science Policy. Support the process of research programming. Be involved in key advice in furthering the food safety sector in Europe through participation in the Technology Platform Food for Life and ERA-Net (SAFEFOODERA). In addition to advice at the European level, SAFE offers information to decision makers at national and regional levels. Collaborate with related stakeholders in Europe and science organizations ranging from regional to global.
- Attend SAFE Seminars on selected topics. SAFE organizes (1) an annual program of top level seminars in close cooperation with its members bringing together scientists from the membership and fostering new and promising interactions. In addition, (2) highly specialized workshops (usually initiated by one member institute) and (3) seminars in co-operation with industry >> All are open to non-members. Strongly reduced fees for all SAFE members.
- Attend the Biennial SAFE consortium International Congress on Food Safety: facilitating an international platform of scientific excellence. The SAFE consortium International Congress 2009 will be held in Girona (Spain) 27th to 29th April 2009. For all information please visit www.safefoodcongress.org. >> The Congress is open to non-members. Strongly reduced fees for all SAFE members (to keep the same wording as above).
- Free Individual Membership for Institutional Member Staff. People (scientists, technical personnel and students) working at your institution can register as SAFE Individual Members without paying the Individual Membership fee. This will provide them access to the SAFE Member Info Mail and the SAFE “members only” web pages. They will enjoy strongly reduced registration fees for the SAFE seminars and the SAFE International Congress and they will have access to all information on job opportunities etc.
- The SAFE Online Portal to food safety sciences – providing links to research funding and information sources. This page will give information on funding opportunities and/or links to funding agencies at national and European levels, to scientific databases, online tools, meetings and research locations. It will also give information on seminars and meetings/lectures at SAFE consortium member institutes. >> Access will be restricted to SAFE members (open 2009)
- The SAFE project initiative development service. Institutional and Individual Members may seek advice and assistance in developing research proposals within the annual Work Programs of the Seventh Framework Program or within any other research funding programs available in the EU and worldwide. >> Open only for SAFE members.
- The Electronic Database on scientific expertise and experts – an address book of institutional and individual members. The database includes areas of expertise of institutional and individual SAFE members.. Information on general expertise within the membership will be available for members and non-members. >> Information on individual scientists and their expertise will be available for members only. (open later in 2009).
- The SAFE Member Info mail. – your update on SAFE consortium developments and events. Our bi-monthly newsletter will focus on developments interesting for our members. Funding opportunities at national and European levels, News on Research Programs across Europe, SAFE activities, >> SAFE Members only
- The SAFE Job listings – job opportunities for young and more senior scientists. Job offers from within the SAFE membership will be displayed for 3 months, linked to the SAFE online portal and included in the newsletter. This will offer a top job brokerage for food safety sciences worldwide >> Access for all members (open later in 2009).
- The SAFE Human Resources Network. SAFE will stimulate the exchange of young scientists. Institutional and individual members will volunteer as tutors or hosts for young scientists from the institutional membership, giving them the opportunity to spend a shorter or longer period in another laboratory, gaining valuable experience and learning to find their way in the Worldwide network of food safety sciences >> Access for SAFE members only (to be developed in 2009).
What does the new SAFE 2009-2015 strategic plan involve?
The SAFE consortium decided in 2008 that it should subject itself to a thorough internal and external evaluation and reorientation process and that it should set new objectives in order to be prepared for the next years. This process of strategic reorientation and reformulation of the consortium’s identity, objectives and activities took place in the second half of 2008 and it resulted in a proposal on a new structure and new objectives for ‘SAFE 2009 – 2015’ that was approved by the current membership in December 2008.
Most important changes, in addition to reformulated objectives and annual goals (see the above answer), are a big increase in activities for the members, improved communication through a new and fully revised web site and strongly reduced (halved) membership fees. We assume that these low membership fees will not be an obstacle anymore for any group or institute to join and we expect to grow from the current 14 to over 40 members this year.
In fact, the SAFE consortium decided to take on a completely different organization structure, not small and exclusive, but broad and inclusive. We also broadened the membership categories in order not to exclude anyone active in food safety sciences to: national societies, scientific institutes and universities or departments and research groups within institutes and universities, food safety research groups in industry and individual scientists. Members from outside Europe are also invited to join.
The demands for an institutional membership remain the same as they were: a) the member institute or research group should have a scientific integrity guaranteed by the unlimited right to publish in the public interest about food safety issues and b) the member should show academic quality, proven by publications in international scientific journals.
What will be the role of the food industry in the Consortium?
In the decision to broaden the membership of the SAFE consortium, in order not to exclude any scientist active in food safety related sciences, we opened the membership also to industrial groups and companies active in food safety related scientific R&D. They shall in principle meet the same demands as the academic groups.
The industrial groups or companies shall in principle meet the same demands as all other institutional members: a) they should have a scientific integrity guaranteed by the unlimited right to publish in the public interest about food safety issues and b) they should show academic quality, proven by publications in international scientific journals.
The role of the food industry in the Consortium can be in two ways is in principle not different that of the other institutional members. They can participate in the annual program to realize the objectives in the second answer in this interview, as any other member . In addition they may act as ‘commercial partners’ in organising seminars or workshops on their own cost, in order to discuss important food safety issues from their own area of interests with the scientific world. These seminars, however should fit within the limits set by the SAFE consortium demands for a membership: they should serve the ‘public interest’ in food safety issues, including e.g. discussions with policy makers, regulators and consumer organisations.
How can members from outside the European Union take part in this “new” Consortium?
In the decision to broaden the membership, we opened the membership also all members from outside Europe. The same categories of members, i.e. scientific institutes and universities, departments and research groups within these institutes and universities, food safety research groups in industry and individual scientists can apply for a membership. Members outside Europe will pay a reduced membership fee (2/3) because they are assumed to profit less from the membership e.g. not being able to attend activities without long flights.