The European Community's Scientific and Technical Research Committee (CREST) has spent considerable time discussing the Commission's proposals for the Fifth RTD Framework Programme in recent months. The Dutch delegation to CREST recently gave an outline of CREST's reactions to the initial proposals, at the Commission's consultation conference held at the beginning of March prior to finalization of the formal proposal. CREST is one of the most influential advisory bodies in the research field. Composed of senior representatives of the Member States' Departments of Science and Technology, its primary function is the coordination of national and Community research policies. CREST supports the Commission's general approach of concentrating on fewer topics. However, it is important that the key actions proposed are oriented towards solving particular problems or responding to challenges at European level. Each key action should include projects of different sizes with diverse participants, as well as supporting research at all points from basic to applied. CREST also called for wider consultation, in particular with end-users, in the design and implementation of the key actions. Turning to the proposed structure, outlined by the Commission in its working documents, CREST is in favour of the proposals in respect of the three horizontal programmes. These would address international cooperation, innovation and SMEs, and human potential. Of the three proposed thematic programmes, CREST members were broadly in favour of the Information Society programme. The other two programmes proposed - "Living world and the ecosystem" and "Competitive and sustainable growth" - raised questions in the Committee. Delegations wanted the key actions under these programmes more precisely defined, and felt that some research areas were not sufficiently addressed. A number of members supported the creation of a fourth programme for energy. CREST notes, in respect of discussion of the budget for the Fifth Framework Programme, that the overriding concern should be to convince researchers and companies, as well as European citizens and policy-makers, of the Programme's research content, management, and its contribution to competitiveness and innovation. In CREST's opinion, the budget should only be discussed once this has been achieved.