Comprehensive coverage

The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize and marks a decade of fighting the brain drain

The Union has enabled significant scientific progress, and today marks a decade of the program to prevent brain drain, but it still lacks a million scientists and engineers. This is according to the words of the member of the European Parliament who wrote a report in which she called for increasing the budget of the R&D program from 80 billion euros to 100 billion euros

An exhibition as part of the Life Science Baltics 2012 conference. Returning scientists to Europe and curbing the brain drain. Photo: Avi Blizovsky, September 2012
An exhibition as part of the Life Science Baltics 2012 conference. Returning scientists to Europe and curbing the brain drain. Photo: Avi Blizovsky, September 2012

On Friday, we were informed about the European Union winning the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012. While other websites are interested in the question of why the Union is now receiving the prestigious prize. But economic crises should not overshadow one of the great achievements of the Union - curbing the flight of scientists to the USA and returning the status of some of the oldest universities on the continent (with the exception of Oxford and Cambridge and the other universities in Great Britain as a result of individual action by the British government), to the days before World War II.

In 2003, the Union Commission issued a document with several proposed measures to stop the brain drain. At that time, many scientists decided to abandon their careers in Europe for better opportunities in the US and elsewhere. Based on a comprehensive analysis of the structure of scientific careers in the European Union, they established the concept: "European researchers: one profession, multiple careers", in which they identified factors influencing the development of careers in research and development, mainly training, recruitment methods, working conditions, evaluation mechanisms for career advancement .

The Union Commission proposed to establish a competitive labor market at the European level in the field of R&D. To this end, the European Researcher's Charter was developed, as well as guidelines for the recruitment of researchers, a uniform way to evaluate and document researchers' skills, abilities and achievements, advanced training tools, access to adequate funding and minimal social conditions for doctoral students.

It turns out that EU countries produce more PhD graduates than the US but had fewer researchers at the time (5.36 researchers per thousand workers in the EU, compared to 8.66 in the US and 9.72 in Japan). The Seventh Framework Program, which we are currently in the midst of, is designed to achieve the goal of increasing European investment in research and development to 3% of GDP as decided at the Council of Europe meeting in Barcelona in 2002. To reach this figure, the Union must recruit another 700 researchers.

Ten years later the situation has improved, at least in one area - medical research. The Union reports that the phenomenon has stopped, but in the other fields the situation is still far from satisfactory, many of those 700 thousand scientists have not yet been recruited and the gap has even increased to a million. This is one of the reasons that from one R&D framework program to the next, more and more emphasis is placed on basic research, compared to the applied research that was at the heart of the system before.

At the beginning of this month (October 2012), the European Parliament received a report on the progress of the next R&D program: Horizon 2020, and demanded more funding, better flexibility and a stronger role in its design for scientists.
As you remember, the Higgs boson was recently discovered in Europe, which explains why matter has mass. The website states that the discovery of the Higgs boson would not have been possible without Europe's ambitious research policy, which enabled the allocation of sufficient resources, excellence and close cooperation between the member states through the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), a leading laboratory the world and an important partner in the framework programs of the European Union.

From the article by Teresa Riera, member of the Social Democratic Group in the European Parliament, and author of the European Parliament's report for the Horizon 2020 program, it appears that Europe currently lacks a million researchers to achieve the goal of investing 3% of GDP in research and innovation and making the European Union the most competitive economy in the world until 2020.
However, in the midst of an economic crisis, there are politicians who forget that the only way out of the crisis is with the help of innovation.

The next European R&D program for research and innovation for the years 2014-2020, known as Horizon 2020, combines two research programs of the European Union - the Seventh Framework Program for R&D or FP7 and the Framework Program for Competitiveness and Innovation (CIP), so that the organization of the entire innovation chain will be integrated under One plan, from basic research to going to market. Horizon 2020 also intends to strengthen the ties between researchers, universities, private industry and public agencies.

The report calls on the Commission and the member states of the program (including, by the way, Israel, and the European Union finances the return of scientists from the USA to Israel in the same framework of preventing brain drain). It is estimated that the budget allocated for this (financed by the member states) is insufficient. The Horizon 2020 program should double the allocation compared to the seventh program from €50 billion to €XNUMX billion, since it includes both CIP and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

The larger budget should also entail commitment - therefore the European Parliament will have to monitor the investments and measure the results through comprehensive reports.

According to the strategy proposed by Riera, the approach of research and innovation must be strengthened from the bottom up. The research councils should include people with a proven scientific background, and they should help define the research and innovation programs. "I believe that researchers should receive all possible information in order to speed up the process of scientific progress and innovation. Making scientific findings more accessible can increase the chance of raising new ideas in more places. This is the reason why I am calling for open access to the publications that will be created from the public research funded by the Horizon 2020 program."

"The system in which universities, researchers and companies collaborate in knowledge and innovation communities should also be more flexible. There should be transparent procedures in establishing these associations."

In conclusion Riera writes: "Only through research and innovation can we restore our economies. Europe has no natural resources, and we cannot cut our employment conditions, the way forward is to invest in our human capital."

About a year ago, a conference was held in Jerusalem to launch the Horizon 2020 program with a budget of 80 billion euros for seven years. Robert-Ian Smith, Director General for Research and Innovation, European Commission explained, among other things, the basic science part:

The program is designed to respond to the economic crisis and to invest in future jobs and growth, providing an answer to citizens' concerns about their quality of life, safety and environment, strengthening Europe's global positioning in the fields of research, innovation and technology.

It is a single program that brings together three separate programs or initiatives: the (seventh) framework program, the innovation aspect of the CIP Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Program, and the European Union's contribution to the Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT).
The program 'matches' research and innovation starting from research to the market, all types of innovation. The software also focuses on social changes facing society in Europe such as health, clean energy and transportation.
The program will also allow simple access to all companies, universities and will be open to institutions in all EU countries, affiliated companies and more.

The three pillars of the program

  • Excellent science
  • Industrial leadership
  • Responding to social challenges

Expanding on the "excellent science" section, Smith said

  • World-class science is the basis for tomorrow's technologies, jobs and quality of life
  • Europe needs to develop, attract and retain research talent
  • Researchers need access to the best infrastructure

And all this without harming the scientist's freedom of choice in what to do

The proposed budget for basic science

The budget area in millions of euros (2014-20)

European Research Foundation (ERC) –

Research at the forefront of science by the best individual teams


Future and emerging technologies - collaboration between researchers to open new areas of innovation


Marie-Curie activities - an opportunity for training and career development


Research infrastructure (including remote research infrastructure) - will allow access to first class facilities


Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.