Tag: research funding

Widespread opposition to cuts in EU research budget

EUEurope has been struggling with financial crisis in recent years. One of the latest initiatives has been the introduction of EFSI – European Fund for Strategic Investments. After being put forward in late November, the principal plan received political backing in the December meeting of the European Council. The funding available would have its aim to target projects that would boost European economy, as outlined in the press release “to get Europe growing again and get more people back to work“.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commissions president stated that “If Europe invests more, Europe will be more prosperous and create more jobs – it’s as simple as that. The Investment Plan we are putting forward today in close partnership with the European Investment Bank is an ambitious and new way of boosting investment without creating new debt.” More investment without new debt sounds like a great idea. However, this means that the funds for this initiative need to be found from another place.

In this proposal, funding for this investment fund would be partially re-channeled from current European research funding. In a speech to the Parliament, Juncker argued that this would not be an issue as money from EFSI could also be used for research and that this would be “maximizing input”. This claim can be taken with some caution, as the secretary general of LERU noted, there are no earmarked funds, so the funding that is drawn from research can go for any kind of projects in EFSI. Initial overviews show that most of the projects would in fact have a different character.

The plan has been faced with considerable opposition in the university/research sector, where one sector representative called described the proposal as Cutting Horizon to improve the competitiveness of Europe equals cutting off your nose to spite your face’. LERU, the League of European Research Universities also quickly reacted on the proposal, arguing that EFSI was a “vague and highly uncertain project”. They also refer to the frequent attempts to squeeze European research funding: “It should be clear for the EU institutions and the member states that Horizon 2020 is not a lemon which can be squeezed according to the flavour of the day!”. Euroscience, an association for researchers and research professionals, has highlighted how the basic idea is unproductive as the very idea of investing in European research is based on the principle of creating growth. However, despite initial opposition, the plan has moved forward. 

Looking for funding for your research project? Turn to the public with crowdfunding!

crowdfundingIn this post, Hedda’s own Mari Elken examines the idea of “crowdfunding” and its potential for funding research projects. 

Opening up the Ivory Tower and involving the public in research processes is a process that has gained prominence in recent years, a while ago we also wrote about “crowdsourcing” – where communities or groups of people outside traditional research environments provide their skills for research processes. But how about using the general public to finance your research project through “crowdfunding“?

Crowdfunding as a phenomenon has emerged in the business circles as a means to fund start-ups, and. In the business sphere, crowdfunding is considered one of the key developments for funding startups. Recenrtly, Forbes commentary about the development was: “Trust me. It’s going to be big“, as various social network sites have also shown interest in integrating with crowdfunding platforms.

A number of these platforms in more creativity related areas have gained massive support and have been around for some years already. For instance, Kickstarter is a platform for funding filmmakers, musicians, artists and designers – and this platform alone has had 4,7 million people pledge over 768 million dollars for funding over 47 000 projects, with a success rate of 44% of the projects reaching their goals.

With such potential in the world of business and creative arts as a means to find alternative funding sources – why not use this new arena for funding research? Granted, research is arguably often more expensive than your average artsy project, and it is more difficult to the public to make informed judgments about the quality of projects. However, sites for crowdfunding of research projects are in fact emerging.

News: 2013 EUA report on public funding of universities launched

EUA2013This week, the European University Association (EUA) published a new report on the issue of funding of higher education in Europe in the context of crisis, following up on the previous report from June 2012 that identified that the countries which had suffered most from cuts in public funding were to a large extent located in Eastern and Southern Europe.

The news release from the 2013 report highlights that out of the 17 countries that had reported data on funding developments the changes in the last year show that in a number of countries the public budgets are now on the increase:

  • nine countries reported an increase in funding (Austria, Iceland, Czech Republic, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Belgian French-speaking Community, France, Lithuania)
  • eight reported cuts up to 25%  (Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Croatia, Portugal, UK – England and Wales, Greece, Hungary)

Regarding countries with a high increase, Iceland reports a 23% increase from 2012, but this is mostly linked to student numbers. However, the increases were noticeable also in the other countries with positive numbers. It should be noted that in Italy, Netherlands and Slovakia the picture emerging was in  essence that the budget was stable, and not decreasing in any significant manner.

Only in Greece and Hungary the decrease was above 10%, ranging 25% in Greece. According to the report, in both of those countries the situation now is quite dramatic, with the overall developments beteen 2008 and 2013 (not adjusted to inflation) highlighting cuts that total -46% in Greece and about -31% in Hungary.

New patterns in internationalization of science

A few weeks ago, Nature took up the topic of increased and changing internationalization patterns in research. As a part of this, the results from a study examining the internationalization patterns in research were highlighted. The survey covered 17 000 scientists in 16 countries (including four areas: biology, chemistry, Earth and environmental sciences and materials) and the questions were for the most part about country of origin, attractive countries to work in and reasons for migration.

A number of the results were not very surprising, for instance, that United States has a very large number of international researchers (38%), whereas a particularity of the US is their lack of outward mobility. On the other hand, Switzerland has en even higher level of international researchers (58%), but one in three researchers with Swiss origin works outside the country. Of course, in the case of Switzwerland, one has to consider the impact of for instance CERN.

When the respondents were asked about the current stronghouses of research, again the usual suspects were mentioned – with USA, UK and Germany topping the lists. However, when asked on who was seen as having the greatest impact in 2020, the country that emerged on top was China – potentially a somewhat surprising result considering the short time span. Nevertheless, only a fraction of the respondents from the study would consider moving there.

Of the reasons why one would consider to move to another country, the two aspects that received highest support were general quality of life and opportunities for research funding. Other factors, such as salary level, or opportunity for more senior positions were considered important incentives, but not to the same extent, hinting towards more intrinsic motivation linked to the discipline.

Data on research activities in Europe

The EU has a new resource page that features updated data (latest update in Nov 2012) on research activities in EU countries, sorted by country.

The map includes a list of projects in the countries that have received EU funding or have partners in that particular country. In addition, the individual country profiles have updated information about research and innovation in these countries. While not comprehensive, they provide a quick glance to the RDI landscape in Europe.

Some interesting bits of information can be extracted from the data available. For instance, did you know that:

  • Sweden invests 3.4 % of GDP in R&D,and is thus amongst the world leaders in terms of R&D intensity and as the leader of EUs Innovation scoreboard
  • Researchers from Germany most commonly work together with researchers from UK in European projects, and Germany receives the largest share of EU research budget