Support urged for Irish scientists to counter ‘brain drain’

FF TD says targets Government is failing to meet are not ambitious ‘by any means’

The Government needs to provide meaningful support to Irish scientists and researchers to counter a ‘brain drain’ of talent being exacerbated by under investment in critical research, Fianna Fáil’s science spokesman has said.

The Government needs to provide meaningful support to Irish scientists and researchers to counter a ‘brain drain’ of talent being exacerbated by under investment in critical research, Fianna Fáil’s science spokesman has said.

 

The Government needs to provide meaningful support to Irish scientists and researchers to counter a “brain drain” of talent being exacerbated by under investment in critical research, Fianna Fáil has said.

The success of Science Week, which has seen more than 1,200 events around the country taking place, contrasted with reality at the research coalface, the party’s science spokesman James Lawless said.

He said the Government was “over-concentrating resources around applied-commercial research at the expense of the basic/discovery research”.

“The targets set by Government in Innovation 2020 and Horizon 2020 will not be met. In particular, their commitment to spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on research and development activities is not even close to target,” Mr Lawless said.

“It was not an ambitious target by any means, meeting it would merely bring us into line with other European and advanced nations,” he added. “The facts speak for themselves, according to the 2016 figures, Ireland’s exchequer spend on R&D is one of the lowest of OECD countries at 0.32 per cent of GNP – well below the OECD average of 0.51 per cent.”

‘Dearth’

To be in line with the OECD average, Ireland would need to invest approximately €450 million in addition to €739 million currently being invested.

“The dearth of spending doesn’t end there, and there are many Irish scientists and researchers still struggling for basic funding. I have consistently called on the Government to restore the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) funding, which expired in 2015.

“Our universities are tumbling down the rankings in some cases and staying stagnant in others, yet the Government are not providing the funding [for basic and discovery research] which would help them to bolster themselves.

“Instead they are over-concentrating resources around applied-commercial research. The Government want Ireland to be seen as a big international player in science circles, but they are not willing to put the funds behind it,” he said.

Speaking as Science Week came to a close, Mr Lawless said that in keeping with this year’s theme of climate action, the Government “must realise that only through the financing of new research and new technologies will they be able to tackle climate change on a larger scale”.