EU researcher mobility scheme had 'conflicts of interest'

December 7, 2001

The European Union's financial watchdog has criticised the EU's Training and Mobility of Researchers Programme. It claims that procedures for the awarding of grants have been too lax, risking "conflicts of interests".

In a special report, the EU Court of Auditors claims that the scheme's administration "sometimes lacked transparency and there was an absence of detailed records of the deliberations leading to the decisions made".

It continues: "In the allocation of proposals to evaluators, potential conflicts of interest may arise. It is recommended that the procedures in place should be improved and rigorously followed."

The programme commanded a four-year budget of e792 million (£498 million) in the 1990s, managed by a unit in the directorate-general for research. Discussions on spending future EU money to promote researcher mobility are being held as part of the debates on the oncoming Sixth Framework Programme on research.

The report says that experts recruited to award grants under the scheme should be screened in advance. Factors such as "home institutes, membership of associations and, to some extent, nationality" will be considered, to reduce the risk of grants being awarded to experts' own institutions.

Between 1996 and 2000, there were 11 instances of evaluators being linked to an institution receiving money from the scheme.

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