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Rectors reveal FP6 reservations

The Confederation of EU Rectors' Conferences (EUREC) has published its opinion on proposals for the next research Framework programme, expressing concern about large scale projects, a lack of basic research provisions and the role of the social sciences. 'Basic research is on...

The Confederation of EU Rectors' Conferences (EUREC) has published its opinion on proposals for the next research Framework programme, expressing concern about large scale projects, a lack of basic research provisions and the role of the social sciences. 'Basic research is one of the most important activities to safeguard innovation,' states the EUREC opinion. 'The confederation has difficulties seeing how basic research can be safeguarded within the large scale projects which, to a large extent, are presented as activities for targeted research, problem solving research,' the paper continues. The opinion goes on to say that basic research should be included in work programmes of the networks of excellence. Networks of excellence should also include 'as many and as varied research communities as possible,' states the EUREC paper. 'Networks of small organisations and institutions would be crucial seen from an innovation perspective,' claim EUREC. The confederation states that whilst it supports the proposal to simplify the management structures of the Framework programme, it is concerned that the process will rely on the introduction of large scale projects. The paper outlines EUREC's concern that a move in the direction of large scale projects will have a detrimental effect on the participation of SMEs. 'With the new structure focused on large scale projects, the effects could be even worse than under the present Framework programme, as only the largest industrial research units would be able to ensure the financial and human resources and infrastructures needed to make a bid when calls for expressions of interest are launched, thus also excluding some of the institutions and enterprises active under the current Framework programme,' states the EUREC opinion. The paper adds that such large scale projects would bring about the autonomy often demanded, but would not safeguard objectivity or transparency unless guidelines are set, outlining ways in which to participate. On humanities and the social sciences, EUREC states that these should be regarded as 'much more than mere support disciplines,' and adds that they needs to be seen as research disciplines in their own right. 'The confederation hopes that it is the full spectrum of [...] sciences which the European Commission wishes to exploit, not just the pure technological aspects,' states the paper. EUREC is particularly concerned that the budget allocated to these disciplines is significantly lower than for other disciplines. 'Earlier low Community funding levels to research activities within the social sciences should not lead to the conclusion that quality research within the humanities and the social sciences come at bargain prices,' the paper concludes. EUREC was founded in 1973 and includes around 85 per cent of institutes of higher education throughout the EU. The organisation represents more than half of the institutes carrying out basic research within the EU.