Calls to establish an ERC may be premature, warns the Royal Society

January 16, 2004

Brussels, 15 Jan 2004

The UK's Royal Society has published a working paper which claims that a rigorous analysis of how science is funded in Member States should be made before a decision is taken to establish a European Research Council (ERC).

Although the scientific academy accepts that basic research could benefit from financial support at EU level, it expresses concern that for some countries it would be counter productive to raise such funds by diverting resources from national research programmes.

The working paper, published on 15 January, follows up on a report by the ERC expert group urging European research ministers to establish such a body. The Royal Society would like to see this proposal scrutinised by the wider scientific community 'if it becomes clear that a European Research Council of some kind is needed.'

More pressing than the issue of centralised public funding for fundamental research, the Royal Society believes, is the gap in levels of private sector research funding between the EU and the US.

'While in no way downplaying the importance of fundamental research, focus on the establishment of [an ERC] should not be allowed to displace effort needed to encourage more directly improved innovative capacity within European business,' reads the report.

Finally, the paper argues that devising research policy at EU level is made more challenging, considering the lack of consistent information about how research funding is distributed in Member States. Given the lack of data, the society concludes by warning that 'central policy at best will be difficult to develop and at worst the decisions taken may be counter productive.'

For further information about the working paper, please contact:
Bob Ward or Rebecca Wynn
Press Office
The Royal Society
Tel: +44 20 7451 2516/2514

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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