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New research and innovation communication from the European Commission

On July 17, the European Commission issued a Communication on A reinforced European research area partnership for excellence and growth. The Communication, as reflected in the title, is to encourage deeper, wider, and more efficient partnership than to date among EU member states, the Commission, and research stakeholder organisations in order to promote excellence and growth, as well as to beat the 2014 deadline for completing the European Research Area (ERA).

The Communication sets out five priorities under which actions are proposed for the three above-mentioned groups of stakeholders:

  • More effective national research systems;
  • Optimal transnational co-operation and competition;
  • An open labour market for researchers;
  • Gender equality and gender mainstreaming in research; and
  • Optimal circulation and transfer of scientific knowledge.
What is highlighted as new in this Communication is the explicit role of research stakeholder organisations. On the occasion of the adoption of this Communication, a Joint Statement was signed by the Commission and five such organisations (EUA, EARTO, LERU, NordForsk and Science Europe) to confirm in general terms their willingness to work towards completing the ERA. They will be systematically involved to complement the primary partnership between the Commission and the member states. To give some concrete examples, they are invited to: work together on common funding principles, synchronised calls for proposals, common and transparent recruitment practices, and the implementation of portal national grants.

Another eye-catching new element introduced through this Communication is a general principle on open access to scientific publications funded by the Commission through Horizon 2020, the EU’s research & innovation funding programme for 2014-2020. This echoes similar moves recently initiated by the United Kingdom and the European Research Council (ERC) and is accompanied by a Commission Recommendation that sets out a complete policy framework for improving open access and preservation of scientific information. It is hoped that other member states and research stakeholder organisations will follow suit to promote a “digital ERA”.

What is missing in this Communication? The external dimension of the ERA. This will be addressed later in 2012, as part of a separate Communication on a strategic approach to enhancing and focussing EU international cooperation in research and innovation.   

European Commission  - European Research Area European Commission  - Communication European Commission  - Joint Statement with research stakeholder organisations EUR-Lex - Commission recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information