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Ireland Keeps Light Shining on Science With New Spending

DUBLIN—In a surprise move, the Irish government (which is tottering on the brink of bankruptcy) announced today that it would inject €359 million into research. It's the largest single investment in the country's history and a vote of confidence by the government, which in December will need to impose a third straight year of drastic spending cuts, in the idea that more research will boost the economy.

There has been grumbling that not enough jobs have been created in the wake of Ireland's huge investment in science over the past decade. Therefore, it is no surprise that the new funds to be made available under the government's Programme for Reseach in Third-Level Institutions (PRTLI) will be administered under the watchful eye of politicians. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation has recently taken over the PRTLI fund from the Higher Education Authority, and the focus is on applied research projects. The awards extend over a 5-year period from 2011 to 2016 and will fund research groups and new buildings.

Today's announcement closely follows news that the other major funding body here, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), will be funding 950 fewer Ph.D. and postdoc positions by the end of 2011 as a result of cuts in its budget. The fear among the Irish scientific community was that the huge gains made since PRTLI began in 1998, and SFI in 2000, would be lost. Now that the PRTLI funds are in place, the picture looks clearer and a lot brighter.