Petitioners Seek To Protect R&D Funding In Europe | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: October 31, 2012

Petitioners Seek To Protect R&D Funding In Europe

Science Funding: Researchers lobby to safeguard financial support for research
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Economy
Keywords: Europe, funding, budgets, austerity

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on European leaders to shield research funding from austerity measures when the region’s budget for 2014–20 is discussed by national leaders at a summit later this month.

At risk of being cut 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 comprise 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 Chemistry Laureates, including Gerhard Ertl, Jean-Marie Lehn, and Harry 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, the secretary for 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 makes 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.

The president of the European Research Council, Helga Nowotny, added her support to the petition and letter: “We urge political leaders to listen to the unanimous voice of Europe’s researchers, both the most eminent ones and the next generation, and what they have to say to address the current economic crisis,” she said in a statement. Horizon 2020 includes the nearly €13 billion ($17 billion) requested budget for the European Research Council.

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