Co-ordinating Research in Europe: the Great Debate

The EC?s 6th Framework Programme, which will be launched this November, is geared toward creating research commissioner Philippe Busquin?s vision of a European Research Area. For Europe to challenge more effectively the research might of the United States, Busquin argues, its individual countries have to pull together. But how is this to be achieved? The EU?s total research budget is a tiny fraction of the combined total spent by the individual member states. Can national funding agencies be persuaded to pour more of their resources into a European pool? Should they?

Recently, in the pages of Science magazine, four prominent European scientists shared their views on these questions. You can link to what they have to say below. Then, why not tell us what YOU think?

By 5 July 2002, e-mail your thoughts on the current structure of European research funding, the proposals outlined here, and what YOU?D do about research in Europe if you were Busquin, to We?ll compile the most interesting responses into a follow-up article.

In addition, the EU Danish Presidency and the European Science Foundation (ESF) will hold a debate on the topic this October. The ESF is particularly keen that the views of younger researchers should be heard in this debate, so we?ll also forward your views on to them for inclusion in the discussion. Alternatively, you can e-mail your comments directly to ESF. Or simply vote in our poll (free registration required):

Is increased continent-wide sharing of funds good or bad for individual European scientists?

Enric Banda, secretary general of the European Science Foundation, argues that Europe needs a European Research Council (ERC). Unlike the Framework Programme, this would support basic research at the European level and set a continent-wide benchmark that, he says, would improve quality across the board.

Hans Wigzell, president of Stockholm?s Karolinska Institutet, believes that pan-European research needs more continuity and transparency than have been provided by the previous 5-year Framework Programmes; he is also in favour of an ERC.

George Radda, chief executive of the UK?s Medical Research Council, says that an ERC is not necessary. Instead, he suggests that the MRC?s approach--fostering bilateral agreements and encouraging international collaboration--is sufficient.

Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, president of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, is also pro-ERC. He thinks that bilateral agreements and the like, although encouraging, do not go far enough.

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