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The European Research Area (ERA) idea consists in a combination of the European Union "research market" for free movement of researchers, technology and knowledge; national and regional research activities, programes and policies; and all trans-European research initiatives. Its main objective is to overcome the fragmentation of research activities, policies, and programs across Europe. The ERA is viewed as the fundament of a European knowledge society.


What the European Research Area is

The European Research Area is meant to create a unified area all across Europe. Its objectives are [1]:

Enable researchers to move and interact seamlessly, benefit from world-class infrastructures and work with excellent networks of research institutions;

Share, teach, value and use knowledge effectively for social, business and policy purposes;

Optimise and open European, national and regional research programmes in order to support the best research throughout Europe and coordinate these programmes to address major challenges together;

Develop strong links with partners around the world so that Europe benefits from the worldwide progress of knowledge, contributes to global development and takes a leading role in international initiatives to solve global issues.

What it is for

Such an ERA should inspire the best talents to enter research careers in Europe, incite industry to invest more in European research – contributing to the EU objective to devote 3% of GDP for research, and strongly contribute to the creation of sustainable growth and jobs.

Seven years on, the creation of ERA has become a central pillar of the EU 'Lisbon Strategy' for growth and jobs, together with the completion of the Single Market, the European 'broad-based innovation strategy' and the creation of a European Higher Education Area.

Where the ERA stands

Many initiatives have been taken by the EU and Member States. But there are still strong national and institutional barriers which prevent ERA from becoming a reality.

For this reason, The European Commission has published a Green Paper on ERA reviewing progress made, where it still needs to be made and raising questions for debate. The Commission sought answers to these questions and solicited further new ideas in a public consultation which lasted from 1 May 2007 until 31 August 2007.

Following the public consultation results, the Commission and Member States are launched in 2008 new initiatives to develop ERA, including an enhanced political governance of ERA, called the "Ljubljana Process", and five initiatives on specific areas of the ERA Green Paper [2].

Flow of Researchers

This initiative intends to create a European Partnership for Researchers for mobility and career development. The European Commission adopted a communication to launch the initiative on 23 May 2008. Improving the mobility of researchers will enhance the diffusion of knowledge throughout Europe, balance demand and supply for researchers at European level, help create centres of excellence and improve the skills of researchers in Europe. Improving career prospects for researchers in Europe will stimulate more young people to embark on a research career, help retain researchers in Europe and attract more talented non-European researchers. The partnership will aim to accelerate progress in key areas including social security, competition based trans-national recruitment and portability of funding, employment and working conditions and training and skills.

World Class Research Infrastructures

This initiative will consider providing a legal framework to assist Member States to develop and fund pan-European research infrastructures which their national legal instruments might not be able to facilitate. In order to stay at the leading edge of knowledge creation, Europe will need many new research infrastructures in the coming years. Many of these have already been identified through the ESFRI process. The role of the Member States will remain central to the development and financing of major new infrastructures. But national legal instruments are unlikely to provide an adequate basis for establishing future pan-European research infrastructures. The implementation of such infrastructures would therefore be facilitated by bringing forward a proposal to establish a legal framework for their construction and operation.

Knowledge Sharing

On 9 April 2008 the Commission adopted a Recommendation on the management of Intellectual Property Rights in knowledge transfer activities and a Code of Practice for universities and other public research organisations. More information

The objective is to facilitate and promote the optimal use of intellectual property created in public research organisations to increase both knowledge transfer to industry and the socio-economic benefits resulting from publicly funded research. The Recommendation will include a Code of Practice to promote the professional management of intellectual property in the European Research Area within research organisations and to become a reference for cooperation and/or negotiation between research organisations and industry. The Commission Recommendation was welcomed by the Council of the European Union which adopted a Council Resolution on 30 May 2008.

Joint Programming

Currently, the vast bulk of research in Europe is implemented independently by national or regional programmes. This situation leads both to unwanted duplications and to opportunities lost, to achieve critical mass of research efforts. Therefore, on 15 July 2008 the Commission adopted a Communication on Joint Programming between EU Member States of their public research programmes.

The Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs in the European Union calls for an increase of both public and private investment in research. However, in times of tight budgets and global competition it is hard to invest more and the share of GDP invested in public research programmes has stagnated, in the EU27, to some 1% of GDP through the last decade. If we cannot do more, we must do better and make sure that the design and focus of research programmes make them efficient and effective.

European national research programmes are amongst the first and best in the world, but they are not able to tackle some of today's major societal challenges. This is mainly because they are developed and implemented in an isolated way, on a national basis. 85% of European public research funding is invested in programmes conceived, developed and implemented nationally without any transnational coordination or competition. Only 15% is invested through intergovernmental organisations (such as CERN) or programmes such as EUREKA, or programmed jointly in the Community's Research Framework Programme. The lack of cross border programme collaboration has made it difficult to address such common challenges jointly.

This is why the 2008 Spring European Summit called on the Commission and Member States to explore the potential of Joint Programming, asking for joint activities to be launched in 2010.

Therefore, on 15 July 2008 the Commission adopted a Communication on Joint Programming between EU Member States of their public research programmes entitled "Towards Joint Programming in Research: Working together to tackle common challenges more effectively", and aimed to effectively tackle common European challenges in a few key areas: making better use of Europe's precious public R&D resources by pooling national research efforts.

What Joint Programming is. A structured and strategic process whereby Member States agree, through a voluntary and à la carte process, common visions and strategic research agendas to addressing major societal challenges. The aim is to foster a structuring effect so as to increase the efficiency and impact of public research funding.

How it works. The Commission proposes the launch of a process that will combine a strategic framework, a bottom up approach and high level commitment from Member States. Joint Programming will build on the experience gained from existing schemes coordinating national programmes e.g. the ERA-NET scheme and initiatives based on Article 169 (and to some extent Article 171) of the Treaty, as well as from the agenda setting practices of European Technology Platforms.

The Commission proposal entails a High Level Group consisting of nominees from Member States to identify suitable Joint Programming areas, following a thorough consultation of stakeholders. Based on the result of this High Level Group, the Council, upon recommendation by the Commission, will select the few areas in which to launch the first Joint Programming Initiatives. Not all Member States may wish to participate in all initiatives.

Once the initiatives have been identified, they should start with:

Developing a vision for the area;

Defining a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) and SMART [Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (to the objective of the Joint Programming Initiative) and Time-Bound] objectives; and

Preparing for implementation of the SRA by undertaking an option analysis and impact assessment. The best mix of instruments to be used in implementing the individual Joint Programming initiatives is for the participating Member States to decide.

International Science & Technology Cooperation

This initiative will bring forward a proposal on a policy framework for both the Community and Member States to foster and facilitate coherent international science and technology cooperation activities.

One of the overriding features of the research landscape is the increasing globalisation of R&D. Cooperation based on mutual benefit with third countries is crucial to the Community's scientific, political and economic objectives. However, the efforts of the Member States and the Commission are often not well coordinated and lead to duplication of activities. It is therefore necessary to agree on and implement a common policy framework for international S&T cooperation.

the ERA and European Research Council

Being the cornerstone of an Intelligent Europe of knowledge and innovation and the core elements of the Lisbon Strategy, the European Research Area has its engine, the European Research Council. It is designed to make ERA a reality. As such, The ERC aims to [3]:

support the best of the best scientific efforts in Europe across all fields of science, scholarship and engineering; promote wholly investigator-driven, or 'bottom-up' frontier research;

encourage the work of the established and next generation of independent top research leaders in Europe;

reward innovative proposals by placing emphasis on the quality of the idea rather than the research area;

harness the diversity of European research talent and channel funds into the most promising or distinguished researchers;

raise the status and visibility of European frontier research and the very best researchers of today and tomorrow;

put excellence at the heart of European Research.

In its Strategy Note, the ERC highlighted a number of overriding principles: Coherence, viewing research as a unitary activity of the creative mind transcending the specifics of individual domains and subjects; promoting changes in the European research landscape; innovative approach to science and research; promoting interdisciplinarity, a broad view of sciences; These principles are supposed to define the ERC peer review panel structure marked by a funding allocation independent of panel structure. As part of its scientific strategy, the Scientific Council decided that the ERC funding activities involve two major grant schemes: the ERC Starting Independent Researcher grant scheme (ERC Starting Grants) and the ERC Advanced Investigator grant scheme (ERC Advanced Grants).

How the ERC sees the Knowledge Fields and Research Directions 

The ERC Strategy needs an overarching vision of science and research as meta-disciplinary activities, strongly encouraging and foregrounding research proposals of trans-disciplinarity. Replacing basic and applied research with a fashionable notion of “frontier, leading, cutting edge research”, the ERC Board is actually practicing an assortment of sciences and a mixed bag of research domains. Organizing all fields of scientific knowledge as three isolated groups of fields is rather diverting from the large aims of a common European Knowledge, Research and Innovation Area. The reason comes from the “thought addiction” to an old methodology, where all science is a mix of individual disciplines, a pastiche of scientific disciplines and subject matters, lacking a rational systematic organization. This all must present a rather worrying situation not only for the misguided researchers but also for the EU science and technology policy makers. For the misconception of the nature and structure and integrity of science and technology put at risk the whole idea of a single European Research Area, the base of Knowledge based Europe pursued by the Lisbon Process.

Living many openings and gaps, all fields of science, engineering and scholarship are amassed as follows: Mathematics, Physical sciences, Information and Communication, Engineering, Universe and Earth sciences; Life Sciences; Social Sciences and Humanities. Engineering, Information and Communication, with Physical sciences are piling up together, thus deprecating the critical field of applied technology, engineering sciences, or applied sciences, as well as multi-, trans-, and meta- disciplinary cross-fields as decisive as Mathematical Technology, Social Engineering, Cognitive Engineering, etc.

Why it Happens

The ERC panel structure has its high mission " stimulate scientific excellence by supporting and encouraging the very best, truly creative scientists, scholars and engineers to be adventurous and take risks in their research." The scientists are encouraged to go beyond established frontiers of knowledge and the boundaries of disciplines. But the practiced arbitrary assortment of science led to an alphabet soup of the ERC peer review panels of arbiters, deepening fragmentation of the European Science and scientists. As for now, there are 25 ERC panels ...assigned to three research domains: Social Sciences and Humanities (6 Panels, SH1–SH6), Physical Sciences and Engineering (10 Panels, PE1–PE10), Life Sciences (9 Panels, LS1–LS9).

As such, there is no panel for Interdisciplinary Research, making the essence of all frontier science and research, and supporting of which is "the fundamental principle of all ERC activities." However risk-taking and revolutionary a multidisciplinary proposal might be, it has a fat chance to be ever peers reviewed or funded. As a result, what ranked as the interdsciplinary proposals, 29 proposals of 275 selected form all 2167 submitted proposals for ERC AdGrant 2008 Call, hardly make "world-class research of ground-breaking nature, opening new scientific, technological, and scholarly horizons".

What To Be Done

Creating an integrated schema of research domains highlighting metadisciplinarity and knowledge fields convergence;

Reorganizing the fragmented Panel Structure;

Reorganizing the ERC Council Body, chaired currently by narrow-disciplinary researcher (the entomologist, however great in his field, could not do it);

Coordinating with the National Funding Agencies for Science and Research;

Reexamining the submission procedure and eligibility criteria and peer review evaluation based on the old fragmented knowledge scheme and panel structure.

Presently, anybody having 10 articles for last ten years published in the conference/workshop proceedings or journal articles, which are usually multiple-author papers, can go as an ERC advanced grant applicant. The quality of conference papers and the validity of paper-count-based ranking schemes have been increasingly questioned by distinguished scientists. But the worst thing is that the status of a proposal, if it is interdisciplinary or not, decided by some special panel chair; for there is no way to directly apply for Metadisciplinary Research because of its virtual missing from the ERC's Vision, Mission, and Strategy.

There are two ways to solve the problem: either to overturn the ineffective ERC's structure and mechanisms in order to cover all emerging meta-disciplinary domains and fields, or to organize an advanced Board to catch up with the latest developments achieved by the research systems in the US, China, and Japan. As for now, the ERC panel organization is having neither interdisciplinary nor multidisciplinary nor meta-disciplinary nor trans-disciplinary panels. Some positive illusions for bettering the situation are connected with the new position of the Secretary General and Director of the the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA)[4] unless the European Commission put the candidates to an open vote by European research communities.





See also


External links



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