Ireland, Europe and scientific research

 

Sir, – On Thursday, The Irish Times published the article “Why Ireland has a bad reputation for research” about the upcoming visit to Ireland of European Research Council (ERC) president Jean-Pierre Bourguignon (“Why Ireland has a bad reputation for research”, Analysis, October 6th). It highlights the low success rate of Irish researchers when applying for funding to the ERC, the “Champions League” for scientists, which funds basic, curiosity-driven research based on scientific excellence alone.

The key issue is that if Ireland does not fund and support top-quality scientists doing excellent curiosity-driven basic research, then they will have little chance to win an ERC award. How can scientists in Ireland build a strong research profile to compete with their peers in Europe if they are not supported to the same extent through national research funding agencies? It’s simply not a level playing field.

When the ERC president last visited Ireland, he outlined the need for Ireland to “invest substantially in long-term curiosity-driven research as well as in more targeted endeavours”.

On foot of this statement, in March 2015 over 1,000 Irish scientists signed a letter to the then-government calling for increased funding for basic research. More than 18 months later, they are still waiting to see this situation being rectified. We think it is fair to assume that the ERC president will not be impressed when he returns to our shores. – Yours, etc,

LUKE O’NEILL, FRS, MRIA

(Trinity College Dublin);

WALTER KOLCH,

(University College Dublin);

ROSEMARY O’CONNOR,

(University College Cork);

DAVID McCONNELL,

(Trinity College Dublin);

EMMANUELLE GRACIET,

(Maynooth University);

FRANK WELLMER,

(Trinity College Dublin);

SEAMUS MARTIN, MRIA

(Trinity College Dublin);

NOEL LOWNDES,

(National University

of Galway);

EMMA TEELING, MRIA.

(University College Dublin);

OLIVER BLACQUE,

(University College Dublin);

DAVID MacHUGH,

(University College Dublin);

STEPHEN GORDON,

(University College Dublin);

GERALDINE

BUTLER, MRIA,

(University College Dublin);

AOIFE McLYSAGHT,

(Trinity College Dublin);

ADRIAN BRACKEN,

(Trinity College Dublin);

KEN WOLFE, MRIA,

(University College Dublin);

Dr ADRIAN BRACKEN,

Assistant Professor

Smurfit Institute

of Genetics,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.