Brussels, 25 Jul 2003
A newly published report by the UK parliament's science and technology select committee has called for more openness in the setting of priorities and assessment of new instruments under the EU's research Framework Programmes.
The report, entitled 'UK science and Europe: value for money?', concludes that: 'There can be no doubt that as an instrument facilitating cooperation between scientists and researchers across Europe, the Framework Programmes work.' However, the select committee has identified a number of areas where it feels improvements are needed.
The assessment of the new instruments introduced under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) is described by the report as an 'important undertaking'. It calls on the UK government and the Commission to clearly explain their methods for assessing FP6 and its new instruments to the wider research community.
The select committee would also like to see more transparency in defining the thematic priorities of the Framework Programmes. 'Whilst those who are privy to the selection process accept that the Commission consults widely in formulating its priorities, it would benefit the Commission greatly if it made the selection process better understood,' the report states. The call for expressions of interest issued under FP6 is described as 'a step in the right direction'.
The committee would also like to see more resources earmarked for basic research under the Framework Programmes, with project lifecycles spanning up to ten years for large scale, curiosity led initiatives
Dr Ian Gibson, UK Member of Parliament and chairman of the select committee, explained to CORDIS News that if such improvements were made, he would be happy to call for a more prominent role for the Framework Programme: 'If the system was improved, the committee would support increases in funding for the Framework Programmes from Member States because of its beneficial effect on international cooperation,' he said.
The report also demanded an improvement in the UK government's efforts to encourage participation in the Framework Programmes: '[M]any applicants would benefit from a better organised, funded and presented national contact point network in the UK, particularly SMEs [small and medium sized enterprises],' the report argues.
Furthermore, the committee believes that the UK government's refusal to contribute to the indirect costs associated with participating in the Framework Programmes 'compromises the already delicate finances of our universities and therefore the participation of our best researchers.'
Dr Gibson explained that the criticisms contained in the report were made with the intention of strengthening the EU's research base and promoting European unity: 'Research interaction is an effective way of pushing forward European integration, and I hope that this report will initiate the necessary discussions,' he concluded.
To read the report, please