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Towards a European research community: Training, mobility and human resources

It is a well-recognized fact that Western Europe educates, trains and employs far fewer researchers than either the USA or Japan. The improvement in the quality of advanced training and an increase in the number of researchers in Europe has therefore been a clear policy aim of...

It is a well-recognized fact that Western Europe educates, trains and employs far fewer researchers than either the USA or Japan. The improvement in the quality of advanced training and an increase in the number of researchers in Europe has therefore been a clear policy aim of the Community's R&D framework programmes. Of the four activities within the Fourth Framework Programme (1994-1998), one is devoted exclusively to the training and mobility of European researchers. This is expected to be adopted as a specific programme during the current German Presidency of the Council of the European Union; it will draw extensively on the experience of the 1990-1994 Human Capital and Mobility programme. Although the Human Capital and Mobility programme was one of the 15 specific programmes implemented under the Third Framework Programme (1990-1994), the majority of the funding decisions were distributed over 1993 and 1994 and more than one third of all contractual activities only started this year. The first detailed report on results and achievements will be released at the end of 1994. The programme is now closed to new proposals, but the activities and research initiatives supported under the programme will continue for a number of years. The programme was divided into four main activities, each of which was designed to meet a specific need concerning the training and mobility of researchers: doctoral and post-doctoral training fellowships, research networks, access to large-scale facilities, and Euroconferences. Under the programme the European Commission has concluded more than 3,500 contracts, which have helped over 10,000 researchers to pursue research in a laboratory of their choice across the member countries of the EEA. The selection process for most activities under the programme has now ended. The distribution of proposals received and selected by category of activities and by discipline is outlined below. - Fellowships: ECU 250 million (45%) - Networks: ECU 227 million (41%) - Large-scale facilities: ECU 63 million (11%) - Euroconferences and accompanying measures: ECU 16 million (3%) - Total: ECU 556 million. The delay in passing the necessary legislation led to the programme being established two years late; it was not up and running until 1992. This meant that, in effect, four years work had to be compressed into two years. However, in its short period of application, the programme has become established as the Commission's foremost training and human resources development programme for researchers. The aims of the future programme, Training and Mobility of Researchers (TMR), as outlined in the Fourth Framework Programme Decision of 26 April 1994, show the continuity from the 1990-1994 programme: the "bottom up" approach to the formulation of training and research targets will be maintained and activities will fall into four categories as before. In each of these, however, a number of changes are foreseen. - Training through research: Efforts will be devoted to individual fellowships, which can more easily be adapted by each applicant to their own research and career requirements. Institutional training grants will be discontinued since the two-stage selection procedure is considered to be too heavy. The Commission is also concerned to establish a new grant scheme for Community fellows that will ensure, while taking account of local conditions, equality of treatment between Community fellows of the same category, independent of the Member State where their institution is situated. - Networks: The main change is that the Commission intends to provide a more substantial contribution (about ECU 70,000 per year on average) to each laboratory in a research network. This amount, several times larger than the sum allocated under the 1990-1994 programme, will lead, on the basis of five to ten laboratories per network, to contracts falling in the range of ECU 1 to 2 million. Laboratories will be encouraged to use part of this money to cover the cost of post-doctoral trainees recruited directly from a country of the EU other than that of the team concerned. In this way the Commission is seeking to support advanced training, and not only mobility for researchers. - Access to large-scale installations: The Commission proposes to expand this activity; its aim will be, as before, to improve the exploitation of large-scale installations which are essential to modern research and development. Financing will be awarded directly to the operators of such facilities to support both access for researchers and, where necessary, improvements to facilities. Such improvements should provide wider access to researchers and, therefore, a more efficient use of installations. - Accompanying measures, Euroconferences and summer schools: In addition to continuing the development of the Euroconferences programme, this category is now widened to cover the funding of summer schools and practical training courses. The latter category, in particular, is intended to draw on the needs and potential of European industry in relation to advanced research training. - Budget (indicative breakdown): . Training: ECU 223-298 million (30-40%) . Networks: ECU 298-372 million (40-50%) . Large-scale facilities: ECU 97-126 million (13-17%) . Accompanying measures, Euroconferences and summer schools: ECU 30-45 million (4-6%) . Total: ECU 744 million. Throughout the entire programme, special efforts are to be made with regard to the stimulation of R&D in less-favoured regions. This will be achieved by focusing on applications from the target regions. In addition, a broad range of initiatives will be implemented to have a positive impact on less-favoured regions: return fellowships; the inclusion of specific measures for research networks; improved dissemination of information; targeted laboratory courses; travel grants for visiting scientists. In spite of the fact that there is, in theory, no direct relationship between fundamental research and a choice of priorities based upon a "bottom-up" approach, it is probable that the new TMR programme will continue, with its strong focus on advanced training, to contribute significantly to basic sciences. It should be underlined that the programme, which will only account for 6% of the total research budget of the Fourth Framework Programme, will be the only free-research programme. Experience has shown that in the long run, industry is likely to benefit from the type of basic research supported under the Human Capital and Mobility programme. Nevertheless, additional efforts will be made to stimulate greater industrial involvement in the TMR programme through the more systematic dissemination of information to industry during the launching of the programme and through the increased participation of assessors and reviewers from industrial laboratories at the time of evaluating proposals. In parallel, mechanisms will be established for promoting, through the organization of specialized workshops or the creation of industry platforms, communication channels and research links between research networks and industrial laboratories. A wider circulation of information on the training activities should encourage the selection of industrial laboratories as training sites and the attribution of post-doctoral training fellowships to scientists from industry.

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