countries need more world-leading basic research teams
to close the gap with the United States, according to
a report published on the 25 March 2004 by the Royal
Society, the UK national academy of science.
report points out that the volume of basic research
being carried out in Europe is similar to that of
the United States, but that there is “probably a significant
shortfall in overall quality and certainly a major
shortfall in its overall impact”. This shortfall is
“particularly noticeable in the standing of the highest
quality research teams.”
report calls for “the development and maintenance
of more centres of research excellence in Europe that
can compete at a world level” and indicates that there
is a “potentially legitimate role for central European
Union funding for this purpose”.
Royal Society was responding to a report for the Council
of Ministers in December 2003 by an expert group,
which included Sir John Taylor, the former director
general of UK research councils, recommending the
establishment of a European Research Council within
the next three years to manage a European Fund for
John Enderby, Vice-President of the Royal Society,
said: “We are generally supportive of the idea of
creating a European Research Council, but in order
to have a beneficial impact, it must use excellence
as the primary criterion for assessing research proposals.
At present, much research funded centrally in Europe
is devoted to specific themes and it is not clear
if it is funded on the basis of its scientific quality.”
Royal Society report stresses that funding through
the proposed European Research Council must not reduce
the support given to research through national governments,
which should increase their investments. In order
to have an impact, the European Research Council should
be distributing funds of at least 1 billion Euros
a year within five years of its creation.
from the European Research Council must cover all
areas, including the arts, social sciences and the
humanities, as well as science, the Royal Society
report states. In addition to funding projects, the
European Research Council should provide long-term
fellowships of at least five years for the best postdoctoral
it is established, the European Research Council would
need to be self-governing and focus initially on quickly
gaining a reputation for supporting research excellence
and operating cost-effectively. It should not take
on other basic research components of the existing
European Framework programme until it has gained credibility
as a funding body.
Royal Society report also warns that the creation
of a European Research Council should not detract
from efforts to boost innovation in European businesses,
which lag behind their competitors in the United States.
Young people need to regard business research as “a
desirable career aspiration”.