Questioning Irish science policy
Over the past 24 hours science policy has been a hot topic on the Irish airwaves. Covered on both the Six One News and Morning Ireland, questions are being asked as to why Ireland secured just 4 prestigious European Research Council (ERC) grants out of 530 awarded. How do you think Ireland fared? I’m looking for your comments about the current state of affairs and any suggestions you may have to improve our situation.
On Morning Ireland this morning, ERC President Prof. Helga Nowotny outlined her concern about Ireland’s focus on the application of research. The ERC funds fundamental research and Nowotny commented on the need to resource long-term research: “We know looking back in the history of time and the history of technology, ideas take a long time to come to fruition”.
Nowotny was also worried about the “scientific brain drain” as Irish researchers choose to work abroad. The impact of this is clear with 5 Irish nationals working across Europe being awarded ERC funding.
Basic science was the unofficial theme of ESOF and I have covered this previously in my post, Back to the basics. So did Science Foundation Ireland listen to the ERCs warnings at ESOF and the many Nobel Laureates focus on the need to fund fundamental research?
On Monday, Director of policy and communications at SFI Graham Love, wrote a piece in the Irish Times. In this article he questions the basic versus applied debate and states: “A fictitious rift between “basic research” and “applied research” has been propagated. These labels are subjective, but a number of influential scientists in Ireland have wrongly concluded that Ireland, and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) in particular, will only fund applied research into the future”. Yet why is the ERC President so worried about Ireland’s funding stance?
I am not an expert on science policy but would like to know what you think about researching in Ireland at the moment. I hope to highlight Ireland’s obstacles and opportunities at the science policy workshop I’m attending in Washington D.C. next month (To Think, To Write, To Publish). So please comment and comment some more!