16,000 academics have signed an open letter to the European Union (EU) urging greater consideration for research funding.
The academics have called for a withdrawal from current financial proposals for next seven-year multiannual financial framework (MFF), which would be activated in January; as well as for additional protections to be extended to the European Research Council (ERC), the body which funds much of EU’s fundamental research, with 2016 Chemistry Nobel Laureate Professor Ben Feringa arguing that the Council receives ‘recognition all over the world’.
Writing under the collective name Friends of the ERC, the authors, who believe that the EU is at risk of delivering a ‘disastrous’ budget for European science, have argued that the proposals could result in many top academics leaving the EU for other regions and countries where the research funding landscape is more favourable.
Speaking during a virtual press conference organised by the Euroscience Open Forum (Esof), Feringa added: “In my opinion this is indeed one of the most successful accomplishments of the European Union. I am convinced that compromising ERC budgets will be disastrous for the future of Europe.”
The letter is a response to the European Council’s request for a budget of €86bn – much lower than the €94bn proposed by the European Commission, as this lower figure is seen as an amount which would significantly constrain the ERC’s activities. Indeed, if the European Council’s figure is awarded, it would mean no increase in research funding from the last MMF to the next, something which has not been experienced before.
Professor Dag Rune Olsen, Rector at the University of Bergen, Norway, said: “If we fail to strengthen the next European framework programme, Europe’s share of the global production of knowledge will diminish – there’s no doubt about that. This will have serious long-term consequences for European innovation and industrial leadership.”