Europe faces longer wait for single market in research

Academics still hidebound by national rules, Commission finds

October 3, 2013

A “single market” in which scientific knowledge, technology and researchers circulate freely across Europe remains a distant prospect, a report has suggested.

European Union leaders have set 2014 as the deadline for creating the European Research Area, often touted as a way to help the EU compete with the likes of the US.

But although progress has been made towards the creation of the ERA, the European Commission says, much remains to be done by even the best-performing research institutions.

The ERA Progress Report, published on 23 September, says that national research programmes continue to be bound by different rules, making transnational co-operation difficult.

On average, only 3.8 per cent of research and development budgets are directed towards research co-ordinated across national borders.

“To achieve lasting economic recovery and to tackle grand challenges, Europe needs the very best research with the highest impact. This requires more transnational cooperation and more competition within the EU research systems,” the report says.

Despite most researchers who have worked abroad reporting that the experience improved their work, transparent and merit-based cross-border recruitment practices are still not broadly implemented, it adds.

Open access publishing is highlighted by the report as an area where progress has been made.

Around 50 per cent of researchers polled say their publications are available in open access format, backed by concrete provisions in 30 per cent of EU member states.

But gender inequality remains a cause for concern. In 2010, women represented only 19.8 per cent of senior academic staff, 15.5 per cent of heads of institution and 10 per cent of university leaders across Europe, the study says.

“This report shows that there is still a lot of work to do,” says a statement by Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the research, innovation and science commissioner. “We now need all EU member states and all those involved in research and research funding to make a major push for ERA.”

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