Brussels, 28 Oct 2004
The EU must drop the idea that the European Research Area (ERA) should be created from the top down, concentrate on users and establish a clearing-house for the collection of data if it wants to achieve a truly pan-European research area, according to a UK research evaluation expert.
Speaking at a conference session on 'national research evaluation systems and the ERA' taking place in Maastricht, the Netherlands, on October, Margaret Dennis, from the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) put forward the idea that the ERA was actually 30 years old and, therefore, was more 'a continuous evolution' rather than a 'new space'.
'We have had a European Research Area for many years,' said Mrs Dennis emphasising that she was speaking from her own point of view and not on behalf of the DTI. 'We have exchanges of researchers and advanced data networks, both bilaterally and at European level. We must not forget that COST is 33 years old and both the framework programmes and EUREKA are 20. We have much experience we can build on, this is not a completely new challenge,' she insisted.
Bottom-up initiatives should be encouraged to bring about the completion of the ERA, but the main focus must be users, she added.
'We must reflect on how users of research will be affected by the ERA. Will the public sector, the policy makers, businesses and also the general public have a role to play? Will they be interactive participants?' Ms Dennis asked.
Unless more knowledge transfer and exploitation of research is encouraged, Europe runs the risk of creating a widening gap between research and users, according to Ms Dennis. It is therefore important to bear in mind how users would fit into the whole picture. However, she went on, it is not only users that should be taken into account but all stakeholders and all research disciplines.
Turning to the question of data, Ms Dennis suggested setting up a clearing- house system based on the US model to avoid management problems.
Concluding her presentation, Ms Dennis called for an increased focus on priorities to enable the EU to make progress and enjoy the full advantages of a completed ERA.
'We need focus to gain benefits,' she stated. 'It has taken us 30 yeas to have the system we have now. How long will it take to have a truly European framework?' she ended.