How to make a decrease look like an increase

Accounting and working with budget numbers isn’t always that boring as it appears to be, especially if it’s spiced up with marketing. Presentation matters and can make reality more shining (or more gloomy) than it actually is. A good example is the debate on the budget of Horizon 2020 as compared to the previous framework programmes. At the start of Horizon 2020, the European Commission press department proudly announced an increase for the European Research Council (ERC) of nearly 60% compared to the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). That’s a strong push for Europe’s fundamental research. But the push is not as strong as it appears: If you look into the numbers for 2013 and the proposed development of the annual budgets for 2014 and onwards, you will be surprised to see annual increases of only about 4% on average. How to explain the divergence? Firstly, you have to know that the numbers for FP7 and Horizon 2020 are often presented in terms of total amounts for the seven-year lifetime of the framework programmes. Also, you have to know that ERC was established only in 2007. For a new institution that needed time to reach full operational capacity, it was reasonable to start off with a low budget for the first calls. The bulk of ERC’s budget increase has already happened in the first years of ERC’s existence. Along similar lines goes the solution on how to make an decrease look like an increase: A budget of “30% more than the … Continue reading How to make a decrease look like an increase