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Research into Happiness, Ancient Climate, Win European Science Awards

BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 12, 2008 (ENS) – Italian researcher Luisa Corrado was among the those honored today at the European Science Awards Ceremony, for her work on whether wealth can bring happiness. Corrado received one of five Marie Curie Excellence Awards, which recognize excellent researchers who have participated in the EU’s researcher exchange program.

Working at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Economics, Corrado led research that maps European feelings of well-being. Her report confirms the old adage that money can’t buy happiness. In countries where the population said that they trusted the government and other institutions, a high income made people happier still, but in those countries where such trust was lacking, even the richest tended to be less happy.


Dr. Luisa Corrado (Photo
courtesy University of.
Cambridge)

The Danish emerged as the happiest people in Europe, while the British rank ninth. Dr. Corrado said, “One thing that is clear from the report is that it is not enough for governments to focus on improving wealth. Our well-being would be more likely to flourish in a mutually supportive and trusting society.”

Alongside Corrado, other recipients of the Marie Curie Excellence award covered issues as diverse as the roles of genes in cancers, ultra-thin carbon films for use in consumer electronics, dark energy and the role of small molecules in the body’s immune response.

Awards were also given recognizing excellence in multinational research teams and in science communication.

The winners were selected by three separate Grand Juries, one for each category, composed of leading figures from European and international science. They share an award fund of almost €2 million (US$6.2 million).

European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potocnik presented the awards. “These awards represent the best that Europe has to offer. They honor qualities that are important for all scientists, researchers, inventors and science communicators – excellence, openness and creativity.”

Other projects honored at the event included the EPICA project, which has extended understanding of the Earth’s climate over the last 800,000 years.

The European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica, EPICA, one of the European Science Foundation’s longest running research networking programs, is one of three winners of the Descartes Prize for Research for outstanding transnational projects in natural sciences and humanities.


EPICA ice coring record at Concordia
Station, Dome C, Antarctica 3233
meters above sea level (Photo by
Laurent Augustin courtesy EPICA)

The EPICA project – carried out by 12 partners from 10 European nations – was successful in retrieving past climate records of great impact for the assessment of our current climate change.

The results have shown that the recent rise in greenhouse gas concentration is beyond any historical comparison, leading to climate change at an unprecedented rate.

In addition, the ice cores obtained by the EPICA team have allowed scientists to study in detail the coupling of the northern and southern hemisphere.

“The prize has come at a very important time as we are currently in the International Polar Year, IPY,” said Paul Egerton, head of the European Polar Board at the European Science Foundation. “The main aspect of the IPY is to bring science to the public and this prize will help to give more visibility to climate change.”

The EPICA project brought together scientists from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK with expertise in different branches of ice core research and glaciology.

VIRLIS, which has advanced the knowledge needed to fight the listeria infection; and SynNanoMotors, which is developing molecular-sized motors, were also awarded the Descartes Prize.

A documentary on the 96 percent of the universe that could be missing was one of three recipients of the Science Communication Prize, the others being science communicator Jean-Pierre Luminet and writer Delphine Grinberg.

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