Funding system of research: changes, yes, but don’t distort reality

Apart from the fact that funding agencies don’t claim to fund the best research ever, there are certainly good reasons for criticisms of many research funding practices. There is too much competition; success rates are too low; career advances are too much linked to success in getting large research grants; writing and evaluating proposals take too much time; and so on.

The “Lost Generation” of European Scientists: How can we make the system more sustainable?

The “Lost Generation” refers to the growing cohort of senior post-doctoral researchers and other scientists who, after completing short-term contracts and temporary positions, find themselves excluded from research careers due to the lack of opportunities for permanent research positions. This cohort must contend with a ‘game’ whose rules no longer apply in today’s overcrowded and hyper-competitive research environment. Often, the difficulty in obtaining a full-time research position is further exacerbated by geographical, social, and familial constraints, and a lack of transferable skills that would enable a career switch. The loss of these highly trained individuals to our research institutions and to industry creates instability and represents an inefficient use of human talent and financial resources. Although the problem is not new, it is a critical issue and more needs to be done to address the needs of this cohort. Our goal is to launch a discussion with all relevant stakeholders toward actionable ideas to these systemic problems.

Where does scientists’ inspiration stem from?

Are scientists inspired? Where and how do they get their most pressing concerns? What fuels their innermost motivations? Is it a requirement for them to be inspired? In this insightful opinion piece, Francisco Azuaje, a senior researcher at the Luxembourg Institute of Health shares his thoughts on one of the tenets of scientific endeavour. His perspective may inspire others to comment on what makes the scientific discovery process so exciting?

The Linux approach to human and ecosystem well-being

Our democracies have bugs, lack user-friendly features and under-perform. Above all, they are in need of major upgrades. Political and economic systems are failing us because they are structured vertically through top-down hierarchies. Instead we need to adopt a new economic system, driven by principles related to “act local, think global” philosophy. In this stimulating opinion piece, Lorenzo Fioramonti, director of the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation, in South Africa, shares his vision about creating a highly integrated horizontal economic system.

How to balance a European research ecosystem with its national parts

Researchers across France, Spain and Italy are orchestrating a wave of national protests, which will culminate on the 17th and 18th October 2014 in their respective capitals. Their objective is to highlight how Europe’s knowledge economy is being undermined by a lack of investment in research, amongst other factors. European national research systems are struggling; that much is beyond doubt. The question is how to balance national versus EU research support and how the EU can drive rehabilitation of national research systems. Another question is whether the increased focus on excellence-based funding is really necessary. This debate is now fully open.

Gaming the system: who is responsible?

Blaming increase in fraud and unethical behaviour observed in science on a lack of rigour among the emerging ranks of PhDs may appear blatantly reductionist and reactionary. In fact, some might argue that we have been looking and detecting misconduct more systematically than ever before. At the same time, there is a growing movement to raise awareness of scientists’ responsibilities and better equip them to face the pressures to publish more and seek extra funding. Yet, scientists do not exist in a vacuum. They are the product of an educational and research system with values that heavily influences their choices.