Nobel winners urge EU to protect spending on research


A REDUCTION of the EU’s research and innovation budget could damage European science and drive away a generation of talented scientists, a group of leading scientists has warned.

In a remarkable demonstration of solidarity 39 Nobel Prize winners and five Fields Medal winners (comparable to the Nobel but given for maths) have come together to publish letters in leading European newspapers.

They call on heads of state and government to protect research spending at next month’s European summit at which the EU’s 2014-2020 budget will be decided.

The group, which includes Nobel and Fields medal winners from the late 1970s until 2011, have expressed a deep concern that the science budget could face dramatic and disproportionate cuts, hence its decision to appeal directly to political leaders.

Reducing the funding means a smaller number of trained researchers, states the letter, published this morning in The Irish Times and other leading European newspapers.

“In case of a severe reduction in the EU research and innovation budget we risk losing a generation of talented scientists just when Europe needs them most,” they say. Research funding is a “catalyst” for making better use of scarce national resources. The investment in science has proven to benefit science but it also increases returns to society and to Europe’s international competitiveness, the letter says.

The financial crisis has forced governments to make choices, including decisions about science funding. Yet science could help find answers to issues faced by Europe including clean energy, better medical care and efficient production.

EU heads had promised back in 2000 to make Europe the world’s most dynamic knowledge-based economy, and while the intention was noble, “the goal has yet to be achieved”.

It was essential that Europe develop the “extraordinary” research and innovation potential that exists across the community. The younger generation of researchers will seek to make their voices heard “and governments should listen”, the medal-winners say in their letter.

They offered a “simple” question for the heads of state and government when they gather in Brussels between November 22nd and 23rd to agree the EU’s multiannual financial framework budget: “When the deal for Europe’s future budget is announced, what will be the role of science in Europe’s future?”

Funding science for EU’s future: page 17