More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on European leaders to shield research funding from austerity measures when the region’s 2014–20 budget is discussed by national leaders at a summit later this month.
What could be at risk at the Nov. 22–23 summit is the €80 billion ($104 billion) budget for Horizon 2020, the European Union’s dossier for research and innovation. Horizon 2020 is a new grouping of all R&D programs across the 27 countries that compose the EU.
The online petition was launched after an open letter by eminent European scientists in defense of research funding was published on Oct. 23 in newspapers across Europe. The letter has now been signed by 44 Nobel Laureates and six Fields Medalists.
“Science can help us find answers to many of the pressing problems facing us at this time: new ways to harness energy, new forms of production and products, improved ways to understand how societies function and how we might order them better,” notes the letter, which was signed by 15 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, including Gerhard Ertl, Jean-Marie Lehn, and Harold W. Kroto. “In the case of a severe reduction in the EU research and innovation budget we risk losing a generation of talented scientists just when Europe needs them most,” they write.
The Nobel Laureates’ letter “acted as motivation to the younger generations to raise their voices too,” says Leif Schröder, secretary for the Young Academy of Europe, a recently formed association of young researchers. The group launched the online petition in collaboration with the Initiative for Science in Europe, an umbrella group for many of the region’s scholarly societies and scientific organizations.
The highest number of petition signatories currently comes from Spain. This is likely a reflection of the Spanish government’s austerity cuts to national research funding budgets, which make scientists in that country particularly dependent on European funding, Schröder says. But it’s not just Spain: Researchers in other economically challenged EU countries are also dependent on EU funding to compensate for reduced national research budgets, he says.