Research funders must club together to address grand challenges

Paper from Science Europe says not enough done at EU level for fundamental interdisciplinary research

December 21, 2014

Science funders across Europe need to come together to invest in fundamental interdisciplinary research that can address global challenges like climate change because of the lack of European Union support for such programmes.

This is the view of a committee of Science Europe, a research funding association, who say that existing EU funding schemes are focused on applied research or investigator-driven projects and not basic science.

Collaborative basic research in the life, environmental and geosciences that will help better understand the issues of food security, emerging diseases and environmental challenges, the committee argues in an opinion paper.

The paper, The Importance of International Collaboration for Fostering Frontier Research by the Life, Environmental and Geo Sciences Committee, explains how current EU funding mechanisms fall short.

“With the European Research Council grant scheme being dedicated to investigator-driven research, the current absence of ERC Synergy Grants from the funding schemes, and the Horizon 2020 Societal Challenges primarily focused on near-market applied research, the Committee highlights the limited funding opportunities for collaborative frontier research at EU level,” it says.

Furthermore, an analysis of schemes offered by research funders worldwide revealed that existing programmes lack interdisciplinarity, and do not include a sufficient number of international partners, according to the committee.

“National research funding organisations should consider increasing their efforts to widen the participation of various European countries and global partners in multilateral schemes,” says the paper, published this week.

It says that new programmes should fund proof of concept research designed to bridge the gap between frontier science and early stage innovations. Research ideas should come from the research community themselves, it adds.

“Progress in understanding global challenges and complex living systems depends on fostering collaborative frontier research,” the paper says.

holly.else@tesglobal.com

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