Europe Opens Door to Young NSF Grantees

DUBLIN—Early-career scientists funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) will get a new opportunity to broaden their horizons. Under a new agreement, they will be able to spend up to a year at labs funded by the European Research Council (ERC), Europe's basic science agency. NSF Director Subra Suresh and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European commissioner for research and innovation, signed the deal here this morning at the Euroscience Open Forum.

The idea for the scheme was born less than a year ago in a taxi in Berlin, says Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission's director-general for research and innovation. During a shared ride from the airport to the city, Smits says he asked Suresh: "Wouldn't it be nice if we could get more U.S. researchers to come to Europe?" Suresh, a former NSF grantee who spent some "very enriching" time in European labs himself, immediately agreed. "I wish NSF had this agreement at the time," he says. "It would have been easier to collaborate with overseas researchers."

The deal will be offered to about 100 recipients of NSF's CAREER awards per year, says Suresh, although that number could go up. NSF will continue to fund them and will reimburse their travel expenses; the ERC will help find a suitable group to host them. (The minimum stay is 3 months, says Suresh; anything shorter "might be more like tourism.")

Geoghegan-Quinn hopes the program will lead to long-lasting ties between European and U.S. researchers. ERC President Helga Nowotny says her agency is interested in striking similar deals with other countries; she hopes the recently founded Global Research Council will help her find potential partners.

Read other articles from the 2012 Euroscience Open Forum.