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Panel commends European Science Foundation's efforts on collaborative research

A detailed report has suggested that the European Science Foundation (ESF) builds up the profile of the European collaborative research scheme EUROCORES in order to guarantee its future success. The international panel also proposed accelerating selection procedures. EUROCORE...

A detailed report has suggested that the European Science Foundation (ESF) builds up the profile of the European collaborative research scheme EUROCORES in order to guarantee its future success. The international panel also proposed accelerating selection procedures. EUROCORES currently has 28 active programmes, each one of which encompasses between five and 15 projects. It aims to offer a flexible framework for researchers to come together to tackle scientific questions which are best addressed in larger scale collaborative research projects. Since its creation in 2001, the EUROCORES scheme has developed into a tool for interdisciplinary scientific cooperation on a European level, and a means for improved interaction between national research funding agencies. 'EUROCORES leads to very high-quality projects involving worthwhile cooperation or researchers from across Europe,' commented the Irish ESF Member Organisation, Enterprise Ireland. Within the Scheme Review Panel Report, the EUROCORES Scheme was identified as the instrument of choice for fighting the fragmentation of research in Europe. Some 70% of the science community questioned described the scheme as a useful instrument, which complements other EU instruments, but has the added benefits of being more open and flexible in terms of subject areas, types of project and types of networking activities supported. Out of the 33 ESF Member Organisations consulted, 25 were positive towards EUROCORES, but would like to see some improvements. 'ESF as an agency of the agencies can offer a healthy new system,' said Reinhard Grunwald, Chair of the Scheme Review Panel at the ESF Governing Council. However, while the survey found that EUROCORES has considerable strengths, it has yet to build a high profile and credibility within many communities. The scheme is not well known, mainly due to its small scale in comparison with other EU instruments, and also due to the fact that EUROCORES is still a relatively new scheme. Other areas identified for improvements included the length of procedures and the risk of duplicating national efforts. 'EUROCORES is now, after a trial and error period, a reasonably well-working instrument; it would be a waste of resources to totally discontinue it. It must find its own and unique role at EU level cooperation,' said Finnish ESF Member Organisation the Academy of Finland. The report identifies key areas for improvement through three operative models which aim to improve the speed and reliability of the scheme's procedures. These include adding features such as a common pot which would improve and speed up the funding process, a binding peer review process and clearer procedures. It was also suggested that the theme selection process could be shortened by requiring more detailed theme proposals, and by linking these to other ESF instruments such as Forward Looks. Nevertheless, the scheme is also described as being more scientifically driven, more focused on fundamental research, less politically motivated, more suitable for collaboration between small teams, and less bureaucratic than other EU instruments. It was also considered to support high quality work, and employ good processes. 'EUROCORES stimulates free/bottom-up European cooperation as a complement to the more directed initiatives of the European Commission,' commented the Swedish Research Council. The report concluded that developing EUROCORES into a more competitive instrument to rival the best and most creative on the European scientific stage and meet the challenges ahead, is the only way forward. The EUROCORES scheme enshrines ESF's goals of enhancing synergy at a pan-European level by providing a framework to bring together national research funding organisations and supporting interdisciplinary research in non-traditional areas, thereby opening new horizons in science.