A European Research Council – the Debate

Publiceret Juli 2002

Following the proposal to establish a European Research Area (ERA), formulated by Commissioner Philippe Busquin (endorsed by the EU Heads of Government in Lisbon in 2000), the debate on implementation of this vision has moved on rapidly. One idea which has been suggested is that of the creation of a European Research Council (ERC), which would provide support for high-quality, long-term, curiosity-driven research. This would be based on a Europe wide competition, not bound by rigid concepts of juste retour but driven only by the need to provide substantial funding for the very best research ideas in Europe.

In its Strategic Plan, 2002-2006, European Science Foundation (ESF) has set itself the task of structuring and leading the debate on this key issue for the future of European science. For information visit: www.esf.org/generic/1520/Plan.pdf. To this end, it has appointed a High Level Expert Group, under the chairmanship of Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College, London to examine the pros and cons of the ERC concept and to produce a final report for publication early in 2003. For members of the High Level Group and terms of reference visit: www.esf.org.

At the same time, the incoming Danish EU Presidency (July to December 2002) has decided to promote a discussion meeting on the same topic which will involve representatives of national Ministries of Research and Science from the EU Member and Accession States, members of the European Commission and the European Parliament, representatives from the ESF Member Organisations and from European research organisations. The ESF Secretary General is a member of the organising committee for this event. This meeting (attendance by invitation only) will be held on 7 - 8 October 2002 and the debate and opinions expressed will clearly influence the views of the ESF Expert Group. For information visit:  http://www.forsk.dk/eng/eupresidency/index.htm

ESF is very keen that the voice of the research community at large must be heard in this debate and this is especially true for the younger generation of researchers. After all, it is the future shape of European research and its support which is being considered. Therefore, we want to hear from you and all the views expressed will be considered by the Expert Group. ESF will also publish a synthesis of the views received

Please send us your opinions on the idea that there should be a European Research Council or Councils. In particular, we would like opinions structured on the following questions:

  • Is there a need for European Research Council funding fundamental research at a European level or is the present system of national funding agencies and the EU Framework Programme appropriate for Europe?
  • Would a new European Research Council structure contribute to the promotion of excellence and make European science more competitive on the World stage?
  • Should such a Council cover all areas of the research spectrum or should there be a series of disciplinary focused research councils?
  • How could a European research council be funded?
    i.   by the European Union from common funds?
    ii.  from a transfer  of national funds to the new body?
    iii. from a mixture of national transfers and EU funds?

These should be sent to e-mail: erc@esf.org

Further background articles may be found at: ESF Communications No.  44 - May 2002. Visit:  www.esf.org/generic/1520/ESFCom44.pdf