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Focus on the European Vision Institute EEIG

Thomas Wheeler-Schilling is the CEO of European Vision Institute (EVI), a non-profit organization aimed at increasing the competitiveness and visibility of vision research and ophthalmology on a European level. It acts as an umbrella organization to represent all major stakeholders, private and public, in the field.

Interview with the CEO Dr. Thomas Wheeler-Schilling

ARVONews: What has been the biggest challenge in advocating for vision research in Europe?

Wheeler-Schilling: Eye research is not yet a fully recognized discipline within EU research funding, and it is often embedded in the neurosciences. To combat this situation, we decided to restructure the European Vision Institute (EVI) into the European Alliance for Vision Research and Ophthalmology. The main goal is to better distribute information and advocate vision research in order to improve eye care in Europe. We have invited all European societies in the field to join.

ARVONews: Tell us about some of EVI’s successful efforts in educating various stakeholders, such as policymakers and patient organizations.

Wheeler-Schilling: Some of our success stories include our European web portal “Gateway to Vision Research” (www.vision-research.eu), where we gather and disseminate information on our activities, and have averaged more than 60,000 visitor clicks per year. Other priorities include regular briefings in the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council. We organize general outreach campaigns such as our annual “picture competition,” the European vision award, visionary of the quarter, publication of the year and our annual calendar of vision research and ophthalmology events.

ARVONews: What have been some of the most effective strategies for sharing your success stories?

Wheeler-Schilling: Our goal is to clarify the importance of and illustrate the success stories of our research and clinical activities in all their rich facets, through an active communication process. We are working toward a reduction of the scientific, clinical and institutional fragmentation within the 28 European member states and beyond. A recent result was the publication of a white book, A Vision for Horizon 2020, where numerous colleagues described a “European Strategic Roadmap for Vision Research and Ophthalmology.”

One of our big concerns is the support of young scientists and clinicians, who are the key to the future of our field. We are trying to open innovative paths, beyond established conference formats, for their specific needs, like the Young Researcher Vision Camp, where over a weekend doctoral students transform a medieval castle into an interdisciplinary hub of European Vision Research and Ophthalmology.

Over the last years, we have trained more than 200 early stage and experienced researchers from all over the world in European Marie Curie projects like Vision, Fighting Blindness, RetNet, EduGlia, MyEuropia and OpAL. We help convey the enthusiasm of our young colleagues to the political decision makers in Brussels and Strasbourg by organizing regular visits and exchange programs.

ARVONews: What is your vision for the near future in regard to increasing communication and support among major stakeholders?

Wheeler-Schilling: We are grateful for the strategic partnership with NAEVR/AEVR and the marvelous work they do for our colleagues and friends in the U.S. Of course, having no counterpart to the National Eye Institute is a challenge for us, but there is tremendous potential for innovative ideas. Presently, 16 European societies, at least 54 national societies and 80 societies in the field of vision research and ophthalmology add up to equal a strong commitment to our field.

My dream is that bringing together some of these organizations in a joint effort to form a common platform for the European Alliance for the Promotion of Vision Research and Ophthalmology will be a great leap forward.

Visit arvo.org/EVI to read Wheeler-Schilling’s full interview.

The European Vision Institute

The European Vision Institute serves as a European Alliance for the Promotion of Vision Research and Ophthalmology for the benefit of the whole community.

Presently in Europe the notable accomplishments of Vision Research and Ophthalmology in respect to publications, clinical and basic research and patient care are sold under worth to our colleagues in other areas of the life sciences, the political decision makers and the general public. An active communication process to clarify the importance and illustrate the success stories of our research-and clinical activities in all their rich facets must foster and increase the support from the public and private sector.

The main aspect is to significantly increase the competiveness and visibility of Vision Research and Ophthalmology on a European level by the following objectives:

  • Identification of Vision Science and Ophthalmology as a specific area with special needs and particular diseases with significant impact on workforce, aging and quality of life.
  • Increased and sustained political awareness for Vision Science and Ophthalmology
  • Promotion of funding possibilities and consulting/coordination services for members of the alliance
  • Information and dissemination activities; better communication between the major stakeholders in the field
  • Sustained promotion of young people
  • Fostering technology transfer and innovation in Vision Science and Ophthalmology
  • Develop innovative ways of private-public partnerships

European Vision Institute EVI (EEIG)

Main Office
Rue du Trône 98
B-1050 Bruxelles
BELGIUM

Tel: +32-2-5480225
Fax: +32-2-5027533

E-mail: info[at]europeanvisioninstitute.org
Website: www.europeanvisioninstitute.org

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