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Achieving a European Research Area requires national reforms

The EU is on track to achieving a European Research Area (ERA) but reforms must now be implemented at the Member State level if ERA is to work. That’s according to the latest ERA progress report presented last week by the European Commission.

Since 2000, Europe has been working to build an ERA that is open to the world, based on the Internal Market, and in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely. The recently-published 2014 Progress Report provides an overall picture of progress made in the ERA priorities in all Member States and some Associated Countries. According to the report, Member States are increasingly adopting measures in support of ERA, and reflecting them in their national reform programmes. For example, Europe’s national research systems have become more aligned to the ERA priorities with virtually all Member States adopting a national strategy on research and innovation. However, the report notes, there are still big differences between Member States in the way research funding is being allocated. Meanwhile, transnational cooperation at programme level between Member States is increasing and now forms part of the national strategies of 16 Member States. In terms of the development of infrastructure, 22 Member States have adopted National Research Infrastructure Roadmaps. The report also looks at progress on gender equality, another one of the top priorities of the ERA. On a positive note, specific laws and/or national strategies on gender equality in public research have been adopted in over half of Member States. However, in spite of this, the Commission still deems the pace of real change is too slow. Another priority of ERA is to optimise the circulation, access to and transfer of scientific knowledge. So far 20 Member States have taken specific measures to support open access to research publications but only five have specific provisions on open access to research data. Overall, the report says, national policies, initiatives and practices are still fragmented and some of them do not properly reflect the EU definition of Open Access. The report insists that Member States are the primary actors to introduce the ERA reforms at national level and support their implementation by research funding and research performing organisations. Member States are due to put forward 'ERA Roadmaps' by mid-2015, which will outline their next steps towards ERA implementation. The Commission, research stakeholder organisations and Member States will meet in Brussels in March 2015 to take stock.

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