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The European Union and fundamental research

The European Commission (EC) has sought feedback from the research community base in the form of a survey for its Horizon Europe research plan. It can be found in
 
 
The overall strategy is already decided, in terms of basic themes etc, and the questions in the survey are already quite specific. Here is a general comment on EU research as funded by the EC. It relates to fundamental research as opposed to directed or applied. 

The framework programs (as all EC endeavors) are meant to complement national efforts and not duplicate them (as a fundamental mandate of relevant treaties). Blue-skies fundamental research is left for national programs, and  is therefore not EC funded, except for the Marie Curie program with the training and mobility argument, and the European Research Council (ERC) with the excellence argument. The latter is essentially an award program, which funds (very generously) a very small number of people, around 1000 grants per year for a community of around 2 million FTE researchers. Most of the thrust of the Horizon programs is for directed research. 

A key problem of research in Europe is its the HETEROGENEITY OF THE NATIONAL PROGRAMS which severely affects European research. If the EC is serious about its research ambitions, this problem should be addressed, clearly and directly. As we have it, the only talent in fundamental research that can flourish is the one in countries with good and well-funded programs (very few). Poorer countries cannot afford a healthy balance between fundamental and directed research. A goal of the EC should be that good fundamental researchers in the EU have same chances of developing their potential irrespective of country within the EU. It is a structural flaw that has been perverting European research since its beginning. It should be at least confronted.


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