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Remote sensing for resources development and environmental management
Damen, M. C. J.

Symposium on Remote Sensing for Resources Development and Environmental Management/Enschede/August 1986
© 1987Balkema, Rotterdam. ISBN 90 6191 674 7
E.van Spiegel
Director General for Science Policy of the Ministry of Education and Science
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It was with great pleasure that I accepted your in
vitation to open this International Symposium on
Remote Sensing.
This is the seventh occasion on which Commission
VII of the ISPRS has convened a symposium. The Com
mission is concerned with the interpretation of re
mote sensing data, work which is crucially important
to the exploitation of this technology in the serv
ice of science and society. It is in the interpreta
tion of these data, drawing on knowledge from a
range of disciplines, that they acquire their true
signi fi cance.
It is particularly gratifying that this symposium
should be held in The Netherlands in the same year
as the introduction of the National Remote Sensing
Programme which was presented to Parliament on 7th
March. This date marked the start of a programme
designed to promote the development of operational
and commercial applications of remote sensing. The
Ministry of Transport and Public Works and the Di
rectorate Science Policy of the Ministry of Edu
cation and Science lobbied hard for the creation of
the programme. Another speaker will be telling you
more about that shortly.
I should like to say a few words about the sig
nificance of the international character of a sym
posium such as this. The Government of The Nethei—
lands is endeavouring to promote and strengthen in
ternational cooperation in the field of research and
development, so it very much appreciates the fact
that this symposium is being held in The Nether
lands, thanks to the joint efforts of the ITC, the
International Institute for Aerospace Survey and
Earth Sciences and The Netherlands’ Societies for
Photogramme try and for Remote Sensing.
This aspect of The Netherlands’ policy was empha
sised recently by the newly re-elected Prime Minis
ter, Mr. Lubbers, who said in his Statement of
Government Policy that in many cases, The Nethei—
lands has insufficient scope for conducting high-
level research on its own. He then went on to men
tion some of the options for the further intei—
nationalisation of research in The Netherlands. The
Prime-Minister did not actually refer to interna
tional conferences as such. That is because The
Netherlands is already well in the forefront when it
comes to the more traditional forms of scientific
cooperation, being a valued contributor to the in
ternationally learned journals and a prominent par
ticipant in conferences and international scientific
Traditionally, cooperation has tended to mean
scientists assessing eachother’s works and then pro
ceeding to build on what they have learned. However,
other forms of international cooperation have now
been developed alongside them. These new forms fall
into two main categories.
The first is the joint use of major facilities
which would be too expensive for any one country to
afford on its own. I am thinking here of the CERN and
European Synchrotron Radiation Facility but also of
the facilities with a more operational character,
like the worldwide network of meteorological satel
lites. The second category revolves around the grow
ing trend towards cooperation between research estab
lishments in different countries and the joint devel
opment of and participation in international research
I should like to concentrate on the latter of these
two categories, and more particularly, on the Euro
pean angle. Although many of you come from outside
Europe, as European cooperation flourishes in more
and more areas of science, you will find increasingly
that you are dealing with Europe as a single entity.
In the recent past, the importance of that coopera
tion lay chiefly in the sheer scale of some research
facilities. CERN in Geneva, for example. Consider
ations of scale are certainly appropriate to remote
sensing: witness the worldwide network of satellites.
In addition, strategic reasons for European coopera
tion are becoming increasingly important. Europe must
retain a research capability of sufficient scope and
quality if it is to remain a major force in the world
of science and technology. Only by cooperating with
eachother can the countries of Europe hope to create
research centres which will inspire and attract them
to do pioneering work at the forefront of science, at
the same time creating a demand among the world’s
leading research establishments, especially those in
America and Japan, for exchanges of personnel. This,
in turn, would create the ideal climate for the
training of a highly skilled workforce. I mentioned
this because a high standard of training is clearly
essential in a world where science and technology are
growing in importance all the time.
Europe can then offer an attractive alternative to
the great powers for developing countries interested
in the exchange or transfer of knowledge in fields
like remote sensing. After all, the Third World is
not interested in "second class" science, but wants
access to leading-edge technology, be it that it has
to be in a specially tailored form to suit local
An international perspective is essential for a
small country like The Netherlands. Regrettably, how
ever, all is not what it should be in this respect.
To illustrate that point, I should like to quote a
recent report by the OECD on The Netherlands’ science
and technology policy:
’... one is struck by the contradiction between the
world-oriented Dutch economy and the home-centered
national R&D system. The large corporations are an
exception. A country which exports and imports the
equivalent of half of its gross national product is
by necessity a part of the international economy and
exchange system.
This implies that international developments have
to be taken into account more than in other coun
tries which are less dependent on international
trade. However, this does not seem to apply to the
science and technology segment of The Netherlands’
society. R&D may suffer from the fact that it is
inadequately international in its perspective’.
A recent study conducted by the European Science