Bitterness cannot be avoided, but should not turn into rejection

Amaya Moro Martín reacts to the FCT head resignation a couple of weeks ago and the recent death of former Portuguese science minister José Mariano Gago. She places this crisis in European research into the wider Southern European research context. She shares her unease about the collective apathy surrounding such austerity measures against research. She believes, if we don’t plant the seeds of research and innovation now, we are unlikely to reap the benefits at all.

Spring of discontent in the European science community

The new Juncker Commission is attempting to tackle the sluggish economic climate by introducing a punchy new plan. It involves the creation of the European Fund for Strategic Investment to invest in job creation and growth. This initiative has generally been welcome. Except that the proposal involves taking €2.7 billion away from Horizon 2020, the very programme supposed to produce the innovations that would contribute to the growth of the economy. This has triggered uproar in the European science community. This reaction was further compounded by criticism from the European Court of Auditors pointing to the many gaps in the proposed plan. Finally, additional concerns that further funding restrictions could be imposed on the way structural funds are permitted to be used have also emerged, given that research features low on the list of EC priorities.

Inadequate childcare policies affect scientists’ careers

The inadequacy of childcare policies across Europe, means that scientists who do not wish to be away from their lab for too long are struggling to balance their life as parents and as researchers. There are still some significant decisions concerning harmonisation of such childcare provision to be made in Europe, while further policy support would be welcome.

ESOF 2014 Copenhagen Special Issue – Print Edition

What can a conference like this one bring to you? Those among our readers who have a sweet tooth will agree that such events can be compared to the cherry on the cake of academic life. Once every two years, it is time to enjoy a stimulating flow of discussions. Participants are guaranteed to have fruitful encounters with other people from various horizons. They may not be like-minded but, at least, share similar concerns about European science, policy or science communication. This is what ESOF 2014 is about!

Research funding gap: her excellence dwarfed by his excellence

Promoting excellence is an explicit goal in European and national research systems. As a result, various excellence-marked initiatives have been established across Europe. However, recent empirical studies and monitoring exercises outlined below show that these excellence initiatives have been more beneficial for male than female researchers. Moreover, this applies to excellence initiatives from organisations or countries with gender equality plans and monitoring practices in place. It even applies in countries with long-term gender equality interventions backed up by political will, such as countries in the Nordic region.

Evaluation: dogma of excellence replaced by scientific diversity

The current dogma says that the largest part of available research funds must be assigned only to the best scientists. This way, researchers are put in competition with each other . Only a small fraction will be able to obtain the research funds needed to fully develop their own scientific projects. There is a fundamental flaw in this strategy. If some competition is good for public research, it is clear that there is a threshold beyond which competition creates more adverse than positive effects.

Co-created knowledge to strengthen sustainable societies

EuroScientist reports from the ‘Davos of Science’, recently held in Brazil. Its goal is to ensure that evidence-based knowledge feeds into policies applied on a global, regional and local level to foster transitions to more sustainable societies. The trouble is that achieving the unique goal of achieving sustainable societies is quite a challenge, given the differences between so called well-developed, evolving and the vulnerable countries. It emerged from the discussions at the event that knowledge co-creation may open the door to sustainability.

Towards research excellence rather than excellence itself

Last April, leading researchers, politicians and key players in European research funding discussed how Europe can finance and provide optimal conditions for excellent research. They adopted the so-called “Aarhus Declaration” which states that “when aiming for excellence, one should aim at the stars: a new knowledge which changes paradigms, invents new fields and opens opportunities for broad societal consequences.” Increasingly, European Union and national funding is anchored around the idea of excellence in research. But what exactly is excellence? Is this yardstick a fair measure of a scientist’s work? Questions are being raised about whether this distorts the research landscape in Europe.