It's very nice to hear the system worked for you.
There is no external "system" system entity that works or does not work for us. We are all part of what I what would rather call "democratic society". It's true that there are entities with lots of money and influence, but "regular people" tend to severely underestimate their ability to achieve anything. We won for a large part because we were not cynical enough to "know" that we could not win anyway.
But you have to accept that the whole environment lined up for a favorable conclusion. At quick glance I identify: you were not alone, as you ganged up a scientific group with relevant background on the matter at hand (even if students);
You are never alone. Of course you have to find like-minded people. But as my simple email demonstrates, even an action by one person can achieve a lot (it doesn't mean that it always does), of course).
you admittedly wasted a lot of effort for a single measure in your professional area;
I did not waste anything, it was a very enlightening and educational experience, that went way beyond my professional area (both in terms of experience and in terms of effect).
you are also Belgium-based, which does have an influence, be it by language barriers, or the simple fact that if a member of EU counsel needed an in-person technical assertion, it would be much easier to just holler a local.
We were maybe 4 Belgians in a core group of about 50 people. We were from all over the EU, including from Portugal.
And in my defense, I didn't say there was nothing we could do to influence such decisions - I said it was difficult.
You said that your condition "simply does not allow me to have that influence in communitary law-making". That is what triggered my reaction, because I know from experience it's not true.
Again, your own argument assumes that difficulty. I'll give you my example: I'm a 26yo CS Researcher based in Portugal, and I vape. I have no background on vape research except articles I read for personal development, which tell me vaping is so much better than smoking. I did what I could, and what I knew was relevant for EU anti-vaping directives to not go ahead - I signed petitions that nobody cared about.
Petitions can help, but only if accompanied by "real action": starting actual discussions with MEPs by mailing them, setting up websites collecting information and presenting it in a clear form, analysing amendments etc. Those petitions can then be used to attract attention to the "meat" that you have to offer. Note that personally, I have no real opinion on vaping, since I'm a smoker nor a vaper (I do wonder what the long term effects are of inhaling liters of formaldehyde though).
I'm not saying we are not to act. I am stating there are people for that. Elected officials are supposed to be those people, or the ones who connect the relevant parties so they can provide appropriate input (your specific case).
And the people *those people* get their input from. Getting elected does not make you all-knowing. Being an advisor, or group of advisers, to a politician doesn't either. It is part of our democratic duty to help inform those that have been elected ("duty" in the sense that if you don't do it, democracy doesn't work). While in part this is done by unions, NGOs, lobbyists etc, individuals also have an import part to play here.
But I know, for a fact, there are things worth investing your time, and others you might as well live with them. The privacy rights I lose to a US based company called Facebook are not one of them.
Maybe you don't mind, but the erosion of privacy rights is definitely harmful to society as a whole. Even if only because if companies are allowed to get away with it, then the extremists in the "intelligence community"/police a fortiori will get their way (if only by requiring those companies to give up all the data they collected, or hacking into it).
Additionally, putting everything down to personal responsibility, especially in an environment where it's impossible to have full control (since Facebook also tracks people who don't have Facebook accounts) and where they make it difficult on purpose for users to control their privacy settings, is just not healthy for society.