Brussels, 16 Mar 2005
Research must be a top priority, but must be carried out in a truly European way and not be based on the US model, said Commission President José Manuel Barroso after a two-hour long round table with ten European Nobel Prize winners.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr Barroso expressed his satisfaction with the fruitfulness of this first meeting, where the European Research Council (ERC), education, peer review and bureaucracy were discussed.
'We have discussed the state of research in Europe and what can be done to improve it,' said Mr Barroso. 'There are no operational conclusions as yet, as this was just a case of getting input from distinguished scientists. But we discussed a series of important points.'
The ten Nobel Prize winners, who all give their full support to the creation of a European Research Council, insisted on the need for peer review, competition between the best researchers and freedom for scientists to chose their area of research if science is to foster growth and jobs and make Europe competitive on the world scene. According to Mr Barroso, the scientists also called for fewer rules and less bureaucracy in the Commission's dealings with science, and for increased cooperation with Asia.
'The message is that science and research should not be seen separately from education and culture,' explained Mr Barroso. Research and development should not single-handedly be considered as the pragmatic way to obtain growth. Science, education and culture should also be considered as our goals.'
As French physics Nobel Prize Professor George Charpak explained, there have been talks in France about a major reform of the education system in order to promote science. Although this reform has the support of a substantial proportion of teachers, it was concluded that in order to make a truly significant step forward, it is necessary to work at the European level with the Commission.
Discussions on this topic therefore took place during a round table with Jan Figel', Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism.
According to Mr Barroso, there were also fruitful discussions on the path ahead and the best way to establish the ERC with minimum rules and maximum freedom for researchers.
'The mistake until now has been the mixing of competences,' stated Italian Nobel Prize winner in physics, Professor Carlo Rubbia. 'Science should be left to scientists just like politics should be left to politicians. We hope that the Commission has taken on board our recommendations,' he concluded.
A paper on the round table is expected to be published soon, followed by a second round table and a conference in the second half of this year.