European Elections: much general talk, few concrete education and research proposals

In the past few weeks, European elections debates to elect members of the European Parliament (EP) have been in full swing. The vote will take place between the 22nd to 25th May 2014, depending on the country. In most territories, the mainstream press appears to have little concern over higher education, research and innovation. Instead, the discussions, which were the closest to science were related to societal challenges with a scientific dimension, such as the environment, food security and traceability, energy, health, and the digital age. It is also worth distinguishing the debate taking place in academic and research circles. There, the debate is only touching a few of the issues pertaining to research and education that would need to be addressed.

EuroScientist following its vocation as a participatory magazine, has called upon its network of loyal readers, supporters and reporters to gather an overview of issues that are relevant to scientists debated during the various campaigns across Europe. We also relied on the input of secondary sources, such as education and research professional and advocacy organisations from across Europe, including the organisation backing our magazine EuroScience, which has its own view on the subject.

Thus, this article covers a selected group of countries for which the information on party’s position on relevant issues was readily available to us. These include Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, France, Italy, Ireland, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. This article is by no means intended to provide a scientifically rigorous comparison of every single party’s perspective on higher education, research and innovation. Indeed, this would not be possible by relying solely on the secondary sources we used, which covered the parties’ proposal various level of depth of the analysis. Instead, this article will give our readers food for thought by providing an overview and some anecdotal evidence of the debates that have taken place both in the mainstream press and in academic and research circles.

As the election deadline is looming, the general impression emerging from the EP campaign in the national media is that all political parties support education, research and innovation in principle. Corresponding arguments are put forward on the basis that these activities will contribute to employment, address societal challenges such as environment, energy, digital age and health, and counter the effect of the austerity measures previously imposed on citizens.

In the mainstream media, political parties have not built their campaigns on the most pressing key issues relevant to European academics, researchers and tech entrepreneurs. This contrasts with the fact that many recognised the value of education, research and innovation for securing the future of Europe, during the last European budget negotiations.

Instead, in most countries, the debate is dominated by other issues relevant to the national context. One emerging trend is the rise of participative democracy among some of the European parties’ pledge. However, there have been a few notable exceptions in some countries, like Spain, in particular, where research and innovation have been covered by some of the key parties.

We invite our loyal readers to contribute to this article, by submitting links to articles of interest providing an analysis of the parties’ take on higher education, research and innovation in their own country. Particularly, we would like to hear from you if your country has not been included in our initial selection of countries. To do so, you will need to use the comment box at the end of each article. Please join in the conversation about these European elections and let’s progress the debate together!

Part 1: Mainstream EP election debate: Innovation equates with economic recovery

Part 2: Academic and research circles EP election debate: too few concrete proposals

Sabine Louët

Additional reporting Jens Degett (Denmark), Mićo Tatalović (Croatia), Tilmann Warnecke (Germany), Elias Aggelopoulos (Greece).

We are grateful to our generous supporters for providing information on the situation in their territories. Without them such reporting could not have been realised. These include Thomas König (Austria), Jean-Pierre Alix (France), Varvara Trachana ( Greece), Athina Stavridou (Greece), Enrico Predazzi (Italy), Francesco Sylos Labini (Italy), Alberto Baccini (Italy), Marcin Krasnodębski (Poland), Amaya Moro-Martin (Spain), Jose Luis De Pablos Hernandez (Spain), Anna Nilsson Vindefjärd (Sweden), Tony Mayer (UK).

See a print edition of this article in full here.

Featured image credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Rock Cohen

Sabine Louët

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