Funding research vital to society


Sir, – The importance of funding “basic research” for the future wellbeing of Irish society and our economy is clearly articulated by John FitzGerald (“Research to shape public policy is hard to measure – and fund”, Business Opinion, March 3rd), although he could have added that the Irish Research Council funds basic research across all disciplines and has a targeted scheme that brings research and expertise to government and civic society.

Moreover under Innovation 2020, the Government’s five-year strategy on research and development, the Irish Research Council has the specific remit to run a programme for “frontiers” (ie basic) research across all disciplines.

By instigating this programme, Government has recognised that within direct funding for research and innovation Ireland only allocates approximately 5 per cent for frontiers basic research, in comparison to approximately 17 per cent at EU level.

We do not want to be at a disadvantage especially at a moment when researchers in the UK or those wishing to undertake research in an Anglophone country are considering where to relocate.

This is the moment to make Ireland an attractive destination for the best research talent by building a more balanced research ecosystem and one where we value and fund appropriately frontiers basic research.

Renewed investment in research infrastructure building on the transformational achievements made during the early decade of this century thanks to the Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions would also enhance our attractiveness.

No one knows where the next great discoveries might be made so these steps will help to future-proof our research system, create a pipeline of outstanding early career researchers, and better prepare our society for the unprecedented challenges that we are going to undoubtedly face over the coming years. – Yours, etc,



Irish Research Council,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.