Nobel scientists appeal ahead of European Summit
Forty-two Nobel Laureates and 5 Fields Medallists have signed an open letter appealing to EU heads of state and government as well as to the presidents of EU institutions to secure the EU research and innovation budget. They believe that the very future of Europe would be put at stake if funding to research were to be cut - since it is as a result of that research that Europe is at the forefront of so many industries, which in turn provide millions of jobs. Their letter has been joined by an online petition which has been signed by tens of thousands of people.
The letter notes that 'Europe is at the forefront of science in many areas. Transforming this knowledge into innovative new products, services and industries is the only way to provide Europe with a competitive edge in today's rapidly changing global landscape and to ensure Europe's long-term future prosperity.'
The letter comes weeks before a special European Summit where budget cuts are slated to be on the agenda. This meeting, to be held in Brussels on 22 November, was squeezed in to discuss the EU's 2014-2020 budget. News sources have reported that Europe's EUR 90 billion, 7-year research programme 'Horizon 2020' may face budget cuts.
The President of the European Research Council (ERC), Professor Helga Nowotny, also issued a statement emphasising the importance of 'Horizon 2020', 'This strong message to the leaders of Europe confirms the importance of the ERC Scientific Council's strategy to find, fund and empower the best researchers. It is therefore vital that the future EU Research Programme 'Horizon 2020' - and in particular the European Research Council - will be strengthened to achieve further scientific and technological breakthroughs, leading to greater innovation in the future. We urge political leaders to listen to the unanimous voice of Europe's researchers, both the most eminent ones and the next generation, and what they have to say to address the current economic crisis.'
It should be noted that two of the initiators of the open letter, Nobel Laureates Sir Tim Hunt and Professor Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, are members of the ERC Scientific Council. The ERC, or 'Ideas' programme as it is also known, is part of the EU's Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7) and has a total budget of EUR 7.5 billion from 2007 to 2013. Since its inception, the ERC has funded over 3,000 top researchers and their pioneering projects and has created a niche for itself in funding circles as it fosters 'bottom-up' research opening itself up to a wider field of possibilities.
The letter has been published in over 33 newspapers across Europe, including the Financial Times in the United Kingdom, El Páis in Spain and Jurnalul National in Romania. The letter collected over 40,000 signatures on the first day, and at the time of this writing has added another 21,000 signatures over another 24-hour period.
The open letter goes on to warn of a potential brain drain if funding were to be cut, suggesting that the innovators and researchers of the future - the very people who could help lead Europe out of its current crisis - would be forced to leave Europe to pursue prospects abroad and bright scientists who are currently attracted to Europe would cease to arrive.
The letter adds, 'Knowledge knows no boundaries. The global market for outstanding talent is highly competitive. Europe can ill afford to lose its best researchers and teachers, and would gain greatly by attracting foreign talent. Reducing the funding available for excellent research means a smaller number of trained researchers. In case of a severe reduction in the EU research and innovation budget we risk losing a generation of talented scientists just when Europe needs them most.'
The letter ends on a poignant note asking Europe's leaders to think beyond short-term budget cuts and think about the future of science in Europe; '...when the deal for Europe's future budget is announced, what will be the role of science in Europe's future?'
For more information, please visit:
Online petition and letter to heads of state:
European Research Council:
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Data Source Provider: European Research Council
Document Reference: Based on information from the European Research Council
Subject Index: Coordination, Cooperation; Policies; Scientific Research; Social Aspects