Health effects of exposures at low doses and/or low dose rates are recognized as requiring intensive research activity to answer several questions. To address these issues at a strategic level in Europe, with the perspective of integrating national and EC efforts (in particular those within the Euratom research programmes), a "European High Level and Expert Group (HLEG) on low dose risk research" was formed and carried out its work during 2008. The Group produced a report published by the European Commission in 2009 and available on the website http://www.hleg.de . The more important research issues identified by the HLEG were as follows: (a) the shape of dose-response for cancer; (b) the tissue sensitivities for cancer induction; (c) the individual variability in cancer risk; (d) the effects of radiation quality (type); (e) the risks from internal radiation exposure; and (f) the risks of, and dose response relationships for, non-cancer diseases. In this paper, the radiation quality issues are especially considered, since they are closely linked to health problems and related radioprotection in space and in emerging radiotherapeutic techniques (i.e., hadrontherapy). The peculiar features of low-fluence, high-LET radiation exposures can question in particular the validity of the radiation-weighting factor (w ( R )) approach. Specific strategies are therefore needed to assess such risks. A multi-scale/systems biology approach, based on mechanistic studies coordinated with molecular-epidemiological studies, is considered essential to elucidate differences and similarities between specific effects of low- and high-LET radiation.