At a seminar in Brussels on 25 June 1996, Mrs. Edith Cresson, European Commissioner responsible for research policy, outlined the Commission's review of the administration of Community research programmes. The seminar was designed to encourage researchers and industrialists to give their views on the administration of Community research programmes. Mrs. Cresson pointed out that Community research programmes concern tens of thousands of researchers in the 15 EU Member States. The research budget is now the largest of any Community policy managed wholly by the Commission. The Commission has worked to improve the management of research programmes, and the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament regularly concern themselves with the spending of public funds. Since Mrs. Cresson joined the Commission, two demands have been raised. These are, firstly, an improvement in management, particularly a reduction in delays, and secondly, a totally transparent and equitable management of funds. These points have already been raised due to the growing importance of programme evaluations. There is also increased attention paid to the conditions for evaluation and selection of project proposals. The adoption of the model contract is a first step in addressing this point, and many measures have already been taken regarding the evaluation of proposals. Mrs. Cresson reminded researchers that the contradictory demands made on the programme managers who were having to deal with proposals from 15 different countries were unique in the world. However she warned them that the system was not perfect, and that they must remain open to suggestions for improvement. Speaking of the review of the programmes' administration, she said that three areas were identified in which improvements could be made. These are: - Reduction in the rejection rate for proposals; - Efficiency and transparency in the evaluation and selection of proposals; - Procedures for the negotiation of contracts and the treatment of financial aspects. Turning to the Fifth RTD Framework Programme, for which the Commission will soon publish preliminary proposals, she said this would not simply repeat the approach of the first four framework programmes. The new programme would encompass a new approach to Community research policy, oriented firmly towards the needs of society. Three areas would be developed to this end. These are: - Increased flexibility, in order to react rapidly and effectively to the needs of society; - More transparency, to raise confidence in the handling of public funds; - Greater efficiency in administrative procedures. Mrs. Cresson emphasized that the ultimate aim of Community research programmes is to combine the resources of the best teams, chosen on the basis of objective and impartial criteria, to respond rapidly to the needs of citizens and industry.
Policy making and guidelines
27 June 1996