The summit of the EU heads of states on 22-23 November will be a decisive step in determining the EU research budget for the next seven years. At a time when Brussels is calling for the 27-member bloc to slash public spending, a number of national capitals are responding that if they need to tighten their belts, the EU needs to as well. The proposed €90 billion in funding for the union’s flagship seven-year research programme, Horizon 2020, will be one of the items considered at the summit.
Keen readers will recall my post dealing with the ERC position paper in July 2011:
The paper ends with the remark that “while the ERC is currently covering a much wider area of frontier research than the US National Science Foundation (NSF), its current annual budget is less than half of the funds dispersed towards research grants by the latter in 2010, representing a small percentage of EU annual public research expenditure.” The report thus argues for a doubling of the ERC’s annual budget, to a level of around €4bn per year. of course, I write this on the day that the eurozone’s big banks meet to refine their plans for a second bailout of Greece, so maybe things are not looking too likely.
Cambridge Classicist Mary Beard notes that she has “moved from a degree of uncertainty about this Euro Research Enterprise to being a huge supporter of it. (Thank God for the EU whose reaction the recession is to plough money into research, not take money away from it.)”
Now then is the time when the scientific community should act together and make our case to protect research funding, including that of the European Research Council (ERC), from cuts. An open letter signed by European Nobel Laureates has been published today this week in Nature, Le Monde and other European media.
An online petition has been launched to caution against cuts to the 2014–2020 EU research budget.
The Young Academy of Europe, founded by ERC Starting Grants holders to represent the “next generation of research leaders in Europe”, pointed out when the petition was launched two days ago that “the largest petition for a scientific cause in Europe in the past was signed by less than 30 000 scientists – compared to the hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions from other groups of society”.
Cheeringly, 26 493 people have signed just in the last 24 hours… 55 689 have signed in total, and a quick scan shows that within the UK it is Cambridge, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Norwich and Oxford who are leading the movement.