'No red tape, no strings' for ERC

August 22, 2003

The proposed European Research Council should support curiosity-driven research and spend funds handed over by the European Union with no strings attached, a scholarly association says.

In its second policy paper on the establishment of a council, Academia Europaea says that its operation should contrast with existing EU and government programmes, which generally focus on previously agreed subject areas.

The 2,000-strong group says EU members should give the council a free hand over its awarding of grants. "Any ERC should concentrate efforts and resources on developing research and scholarship excellence, wherever this originates. The focus should be on enabling a bottom-up, response-driven mode of operation, allowing scholarship and science to drive the funding process," it says.

"There should be no pressure on a council to justify its decisions in terms of applicability or exploitation potential. Nor should any ERC be tainted or burdened by the need to respond to political expediency," it adds.

On financing, the Academia, which includes 36 Nobel laureates, calls for the council to be 100 per cent funded by the EU. It argues that such financing should be new money, not funds earmarked for thematic research schemes, such as the European Framework programmes.

The Academia claims that a general consensus is emerging that the council should support curiosity-driven research.

The paper says that a new body should be created. This contrasts with suggestions that a council should be a revamped version of the European Science Foundation or should integrate existing international research agencies in Europe.

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