Euroscience and the Initiative of French Scientists "Let Us Save Research"
Claude Kordon, Honorary President of Euroscience
Times are difficult for European science. With the possible exception of Nordic countries, public support to research is weakening in most countries of the EC – not to speak about the terrible deterioration of Central and Eastern European research. As a result, European science is loosing ground in several disciplines, in contrast to major efforts by North America, Japan, China and India to develop new areas of research. In the long range, decreasing political interest could prove very damaging for education in Europe, and become a threat to its technological autonomy.
Euroscience is thus exploring ways to restore public confidence and interest for science. Looking at the surprising success of the movement of French researchers «Sauvons la recherche» - which has so far gathered support of 318000 people, among which over 74500 investigators -, we are planning to launch an Internet-based consultation of European researchers. The European relevancy and the timeliness of the movement have been acknowledged by the European Commissionner Philippe Busquin.
In the meantime, members of Euroscience can express their solidarity on the international website of .
Read the letter sent by the President of Euroscience to all the signatories of the Lisbon and Barcelona Declarations.
Read the international testimonies of solidarity with the French initiative.
Is there really a Road Map to the ERC, or is it just a talking shop?
Report on the Dublin Conference A European Research Council for all the Sciences,
jointly organised by Euroscience and the European Life Sciences Forum
Since the original proposal for an ERC was advanced, as a natural consequence of the European Research Area, a lot of enthusiasm for the idea has developed amongst researchers. The concept of a European agency, whose sole mission would be to fund basic or fundamental research, and whose activities would be complementary to the EC programme of targetted scientific research, has proved very appealing. So far, there exists no European granting agency for fundamental research able to operate in a purely responsive mode. This creates a strangely European paradox. Whereas targetted research is by its very nature more specific and local, and basic research is essentially universal and international, we do it the other way round. In Europe, the funding mechanisms support basic science at the local, or national level, and targetted research at the European, or international level. Small wonder, then, that our scientists are frustrated by this unique balkanisation of basic science, which is a most discouraging features for aspiring young researchers. Europe, to catch up with the rest of the world, needs an agency capable of operating on the same scale as agencies in North America or in the large markets of Asia. Otherwise, the aims enshrined in the Lisbon declarations will remain pious and rather unrealistic hopes. Thus far, there is wide agreement.
Matters become more complex when the mode of delivery is discussed. As usual, the devil is in the detail. To this, one can add the usual European habit of having too many cooks and an infinite number of excellent dishes to choose from. Thus far, there have been not less than four international meetings since the Copenhagen Conference (held under the Danish Presidency of the EU) It was followed by a meeting in UNESCO (Paris) and another at UNESCO (Venice), culminating this October in the international gathering at the Irish Academy of Sciences (Dublin) organised jointly by the ELSF and Euroscience.
What is the view of the rank and file ? The eyes of all researchers, and especially of all young scientists, are upon this process. What is to be the outcome ? How significant will the decisions be ? The budget of the ERC should be at least 5% of the total European expenditure on science, to match what the EC is already spending on targetted research.. Otherwise, all this flurry of excitement will be taken as another example of European sound and fury, followed by no effective action.
The ERC should also come soon. How long will the talking last ? The Commission comes to the end of its mandate in 2004. This, of course, also happens to be the year of ESOF2004. It would be a great shame to miss this opportunity to announce significant progress at the very first pan-European forum on all the sciences. That is the challenge, but can our leaders deliver in time ?
Book: Quel avenir pour la recherche ?
V. Duclert & A. Chatriot, eds