Widening participation in Horizon


The European Court of Auditors (ECA) published its analysis of ‘widening measures’ taken in Horizon 2020 to redress geographical imbalances in science funding among EU member states.(2)

The widening measures applied to about half the member states, predominantly in eastern Europe. The scheme received €935m of funding between 2014 and 2020 (this budget has been expanded to €2.95 billion in Horizon Europe).

The ECA made the following detailed observations:

  • Evaluation of previous framework programs pointed to recurrent low levels of participation by certain member states.
  • The Commission linked this phenomenon to ‘insufficient national R&I investments and poor access to existing networks’. It therefore undertook €935m of ‘widening measures’ to try to solve the problem.
  • The share of funding secured by widening countries increased between FP7
  • and H2020; countries with a stronger participation in the widening measures were also among those with the largest increase in participation.
  • ECA found that promising results in terms of number of publications, networking and access to more grant funding came from ‘teaming’ (pairing institutions in low and high performing countries)(51) and ERA Chairs (funds to recruit senior researchers internationally) .
  • The most important problem identified was ‘ensuring sustainability by generating income from the exploitation of research results’. Securing complementary funding from sources other than Horizon 2020 and recruiting international researchers were other problems identified.
  • ECA concluded that ‘genuine sustainable change depends to a large degree on research and innovation investments and reforms at national level’.

The ECA recommended that the Commission should:

  • Strengthen the use of the Policy Support Facility (PSF). This is a Commission function that advises member state governments on science and research policy (p. 18).
  • Aim for a more balanced participation of widening countries in widening measures. Not all countries participated.
  • Facilitate the timely availability of complementary funding. At the beginning of 2021, the premises of 60 % of beneficiaries from the 2016 call [associated with Teaming projects] had not yet been fully constructed or renovated (p. 27).
  • Enhance the capacity of project beneficiaries to exploit their research results
  • Enhance monitoring of the widening measures.

The ECA took the view that national decisions [presumably referring to those taken by ministries in the countries concerned] would play the more decisive role in boosting performance. However, it believed that the measures adopted by the Commission could ‘act as a catalyst’.


The widening measures, alongside bigger schemes such as science and innovation aspects of the EU cohesion policy, fix regional imbalances in scientific capacity whereby the west of Europe is felt to be scientifically stronger than the east.

We see similar policies around the world such as China’s regional science fund. In my view, the topic therefore has international relevance and presents opportunities for mutual learning across continents.

The budget for the EU widening measures looks quite large in total. But due to the fact the spending applied to about half the member states for an entire MFF, we seem only to be talking about, on average, €10m p.a. per country in scope (indicative calculation not based on the actual spending profile). The same calculation for the higher budget in the current MFF amounts to about €30m.

We have all known for years that the EU framework programs give most money to public research systems that spend the most already and therefore have the greatest standing capacity.

Funding allocations roughly correlate with the time-honoured principle of juste retour but only because richer member states, who pay most into the EU budget, also spend more on their own R&D institutions.

Practically speaking, it means that as few as 15 large public research organizations in western Europe (I would guess way less than 0.1% of eligible organizations) accounted for 10% of the entire Horizon 2020 budget.(3)

One could say all this is quite usual, self-evident and not unique to the EU. In other science policy systems it might be acknowledged as such and possibly even encouraged as a means of concentration.

You might even ask why the EU does not focus the entirety of the framework budget on a small number of research organizations. The policy question would then be which ones (and it might not be the ones perceived as most prestigious).

Obviously, within the EU, the situation is never so politically straightforward. This means imbalances are perceived by some as a problem in terms of European integration which, to an extent, must therefore be addressed.

Science policy is also generally a national domain. Science ministries have therefore always expected an approximate baseline of juste retour particularly as anything less would in practice mean poorer members subsidizing richer ones.

A big part of the solution to this problem of imbalances lies with the cohesion policy and, indeed, NextGenEU, which are, in principle, progressive (help poorer areas).

I say ‘in principle’ as, unfortunately, tracking the investments in science and research through the cohesion policy has always, for various reasons, proved difficult. NextGenEU is too new to comment upon. You cannot yet do ex-post analysis.

The ECA said it will issue a report on the cohesion policy in relation to science and research in due course. This is one to watch.

Returning, now, to the widening measures, one main challenge identified in the ECA report was that not all the R&D led to financial exploitation of research results and therefore was not, as such, self-sustaining when the EU funding ended.

The expectation that funders, be they from the private sector or national governments, will step into funding R&D initiated with EU grants, is not likely in many areas of science.

In the case of the private sector this is because we are talking here about the kind of science that will never generate marketable IP but is nevertheless vital for citizens.

For example, private investors are not generally interested in environmental protection. Therefore, R&D in this field will not crowd-in private sector funds. Taxpayer funding must be continuous to sustain such R&D.

In many parts of Europe, environmental protection is sub-par, and a huge clean up operation is needed. Some of that effort would benefit from intensive science and research support, yet adequate capacity is also lacking from states.

It is easy to see the problem. Unless solutions are found to keep EU funds flowing, such as coordinated use of cohesion or NextGenEU to build capacity, we reach a dead end.

This brings us to a crucial point about coordination of the various EU science policy instruments.

To my mind, one of the more interesting aspects of the widening program lies with the policy support facility (PSF), which the ECA would like to see expanded.

PSF is an advisory function in the Commission that science ministries of members states could draw upon when needed such as through the comitology and semester processes (and presumably also anytime).

Seems like a good idea but the budget allocated to it in the 2014-2020 MFF was €5.7m (p. 17). This would seem inadequate for such a task.

Giving good science policy advice is a human factor issue in terms of having a team with the strategic knowledge and time to make connections with potentially like minded individuals in the Commission directorates, national governments, and, crucially, to listen to the scientific community at all levels.

This a generic point, but DG R&I is probably too short staffed to fully satisfy on these points even in principle. Its science programs are large and complicated; the staff head count is not enough.

The ECA noted that ‘some projects started late owing to staff shortages at the Commission’ and that the Commission ‘did not make sufficient recommendations to address research’.

As a comparison, NSF in the USA, which deals primarily with basic science, reports a staff count of about 2000. DG R&I has less than 1000 and a larger remit.(4)

When you have a few desk officers dealing with entire countries, there is a problem of bandwidth. A more proactive and flexible policy that identifies opportunities and then supports them is difficult both in terms of capacity and legal strictures. Everyone has to work around it as best they can.

Overall, the ECA argued that improvement hinges on the efforts of national authorities in the countries concerned, rather than the actions of the EU.

In my view, this does not seem to offer much promise for the scientific community in these countries, particularly the junior members of it, who do not control what their senior officials choose to do.

The ECA comment also seems slightly unfair to the national authorities themselves, in light of what we know about the history of this policy problem in which western Europe has not been a disinterested actor.

In the longer term, we have to be prepared for variations in R&D budgets including cuts. Given we are entering a period of economic distress, how could increases be politically justified, if citizens cannot afford to eat properly or heat their homes?

If there is one thing we learned over the years, it is that we need to think within the existing financial envelopes and possibly also with cuts to science budgets even if we also hope for rises.

To conclude, and this is a very important point, the ECA does not mention that gender balance was exceptionally poor in the ERA Chairs program. Of 59 ERA chairs projects funded under Horizon 2020, 4 (about 7%) were women and 52 were men (3 are still working on recruitment), citing DG R&I. Previous analysis, dated 2017, revealed a figure of 3% female.(5)

There seem to have been unacknowledged problems with the operations of the ERA Chairs in regard to gender balance which needed to be fixed.

As an international comparison, it is interesting to note Chinese experience of their Thousand Talents program. A paper by Huang and Zhao, dated 2018, reported that 8.6% of recruits were female.(6)

What we can say with certainty is that at least 50% female participation is crucial if such schemes are to work.

A lot more thought would need to be put into the workings of schemes intended to address brain drain if it turned out they were excluding half the brains.

Long-term strategies

The ECA report (and the policy) concerned Portugal and Luxembourg as well as the states of eastern Europe. But, evidently, the majority of the countries discussed are in eastern Europe. I decided to make eastern Europe my focus here with apologies to Portugal and Luxembourg.

By global standards, the eastern member states of the EU operate significant public R&D programs, with combined GBARD exceeding US$ 10b p.a., based on OECD data (Poland probably accounting for about half this amount in very approximate numbers).

Put another way, the taxpayers of the region spend, combined, about as much as Apple on R&D, but about half as much as Amazon, NASA or South Korea.(7)

As we would expect, research institutions attached to government departments or with an autonomous status such as an academy of science are prominent within the public budget. A number of universities are also notable research actors, such as the Universities of Ljubljana, Tartu and Warsaw; and Masaryk and Charles Universities.

The majority of these public-funded research organizations trace their distinguished histories back to the early or mid-twentieth century (or even earlier in some cases). Acknowledging of course changes in governance, funding, intellectual agenda and so on, in the intervening years, they are, indeed, extremely durable.

Despite the obvious scale and scope of R&D in the region, a multi-topic science enterprise budgeted in the low billions looks underpowered in a continent like Europe where public research is particularly well funded and, of course, is a drop compared to big multinational firms and the two superpowers.

Regrettably, no amount of restructuring, policy changes, networking programs, strategies, etc. will directly boost the budget. This is probably the reason, indeed, why we are having this discussion at all.

How could one increase the effective budget without spending any more money? On this point, I am not talking about the fabled ‘crowding in’ of private sector funds or even ‘efficiency savings’, topics which anyone can read about elsewhere. Instead, I am talking about the strategic reallocation of existing taxpayer funds.

I do not want to accidentally invoke vintage Comecon (Soviet bloc) structures for science and research cooperation prior to 1989, such as the coordinating centers, etc.(8) But obviously one could combine capacity across borders to create multinational research entities with unified budgeting (not just within the region but across the continent or even further afield).

Networks like the Swiss ETH Domain, involving both government research institutions and universities across applied and more basic research, seem to me the most interesting contemporary model to integrate public sector capacity (a perennial problem not just in eastern Europe).

ETH Domain is a national phenomenon but there us no reason to believe a multinational equivalent could not be created at some point in the next decades (see recent reports on INSAIT in Bulgaria, clearly at a very early stage, but also recalling this initiative is not seemingly part of a wider policy and funding framework).

The non-university public research institutions in eastern Europe (see table beneath) have an overall budget, I would guess, approaching one billion €.

Non-university public R&D organizations in eastern Europe (selected countries)*

CzechiaCzech Academy of Sciences; entities with legal status of veřejných výzkumných institucí (v.v.i.)
HungaryEötvös Loránd Research Network (ELKH); Bay Zoltán Nonprofit; National Agricultural Research and Innovation Center (NAIK)
PolandŁukasiewicz Research Network; Polish Academy of Sciences; entities with legal status of Państwowy Instytut Badawczy (PIB)
RomaniaAcademy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences (ASAS); Romanian Academy; entities with legal status of Institutul Naţional de Cercetare-Dezvoltare (INCD)
*Table covers the four largest countries in eastern Europe by population as exemplars; it is not intended as a comprehensive record of research institutions and I have not recently updated it. †v.v.i. entities are listed in RVVI; see also members of AVO. ‡PIB entities are listed in OPI PIB; see also members of RGIB. ¶INCDs are listed on the website of the Romanian Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitization. The Eötvös Loránd and Łukasiewicz Research Networks in, respectively, Hungary and Poland, are structural developments that are hard to read as an outsider although they might have made the research systems of these countries more legible. As we all know, the creation of the Hungarian network has been wrapped up with political issues; these have been analyzed by Petra Lea Láncos, 2021, ‘The state of academic freedom in Hungary,’ in: Academic Freedom Under Pressure? A Comparative Perspective. The Bay Zoltán Nonprofit, established 1994, is an Hungarian version of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft but obviously not developed at that scale.

Can we imagine the splash created by a new European R&D center concerned with environmental protection, featuring nodes across eastern Europe, and combining relevant units of academies of science and agriculture as well as public research institutes and universities?

There is, obviously, no shortage of environmental challenges in which science and research could play a progressive role, as well as a lot of intriguing solution-focused science in the region that would gain a higher profile.

The total budget of such a multi-national enterprise would perhaps automatically figure in the low hundreds of millions €, which is a respectable sum. Indeed, if any ‘machine’ could take on juste retour at the EU level, and beat it, it would be this (recalling specialized funding ‘magnets’ in western Europe such as Wageningen Research also operate on a turnover of hundreds of millions €).

Public research systems would need to be renovated to deliver the desired outcome. This would be complex legally due to the dispersion of institutions across numerous ministries and autonomous public bodies as well as complicated liabilities, property portfolios, etc., acquired over the decades.

Renovations of this kind would also require European, rather than national, thinking and, evidently, moves away from science policy as a sovereign activity.

If one were to be optimistic about the future, multilateral institutions for science and research affiliated directly with the EU could go some way to answering this problem as, in theory, all the member states control them.(9)

The cohesion policy (see table below) suggests funding options, but probably only if we could see integrated action across science policy instruments.

Research facilities in eastern Europe funded through the cohesion policy (examples)

ProjectEU investmentFacilityLocation(s)
ELI€850mLasersDolní Břežany, Szeged, Măgurele
ACCORD€105mClassrooms and labsBratislava

The European Light Source (ELI) would appear to be the largest single expenditure from the cohesion budget on a scientific facility. Nearly a billion € has a certain materiality.

There are general questions of whether large scale science equipment of this kind can multiply investments in related scientific fields, whether it rapidly becomes obsolete, and so on. But, given the scale of the spending of public money, there is a moral necessity of answering those questions positively.

As we all know, we have a large academic and policy literature and a good deal of experience globally trying to reinforce local science ecosystems by means of taxpayer investments.

If, indeed, the ambition were to be the new Grenoble, Tsukuba, etc. (there is no evidence that it is at present), strategic thought will be needed on what it ought to look like and how we might get there in the next decades. Regrettably, ELI finds itself troubled by day-to-day difficulties. At the least, as far as I can tell, it seems to be encouraging science ministries to talk with one another and the European Commission.

Moving beyond ELI, and referencing in particular the Tsukuba model, a new, eastern, node of the EU Joint Research Center (JRC) would be a good initiative, given its current locations are exclusively in western Europe (currently there are plans to improve the site at Seville). The EU Agencies also need to gain directed R&D capacity from somewhere. Perhaps scientists in eastern Europe, with additional European funding, might supply it.

History of the issue

There exists a large community of well trained scientists who have great expertise in fundamental research on primarily classical subjects such as mathematics, mechanics, theoretical physics and materials research…The pool of sound knowledge in Central and Eastern Europe is generally underused and undervalued by both industry and by society as a whole. Thus its contribution to the competitiveness of industry and to economic growth is very limited…One of the main threats to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe is the brain-drain: the flow of highly qualified scientists to the West.

Commission of the European Communities, 1992, Cooperation in the field of science and technology between the European Community and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, SEC(92) 785, p. 3.

Let us now briefly talk about the particular histories of European science and research policy on the civil (non-military) side since 1989.

In my view these histories still matter as a backdrop because science and research occur on long time scales not typically captured by shorter-term policy thinking (as perhaps evidenced by the fact we are still talking about geographical imbalances in scientific capacity more than 30 years since the Berlin Wall came down).

Perhaps accounts of what happened to scientific institutions in the years leading up to 1989, and subsequently in the 1990s/2000s and even in the 2010s, might appear to some people as antiques.

This would, though, be regrettable given they would be missing out on Europe’s most interesting and important science policy story.(10) What, therefore, can we say about the past four decades briefly and schematically?

In the 1980s, there was a large scientific and technical enterprise in eastern Europe (acknowledging also significant variations in scale and agenda).

Women in scientific leadership roles were reportedly a key element of some countries, such as Poland and Hungary, unlike in western Europe.

Political dissidence as well as party loyalty among scientists and the technical middle class in general would add to the picture. Working as a natural scientist or engineer might have been a form of political protection. In some places, I guess, we could also talk about roles for dissident scientists in the nascent environmental movement.

In the decades after 1989, we saw unanticipated cuts, closures, mergers, privatization, and probably other kinds of interventions that transformed scientific institutions across the economy, as well as intellectual changes.

In some parts of eastern Europe, structural changes were rapid, while others saw a much slower and more limited pace.

Polish science, for example, has been associated with ‘gradual transformation’ and ‘institutional stability’ (Heinecke). In contrast, Romanian scientists, who must have already suffered under the Ceaușescu regime prior to 1989, were then subjected to further ‘brutal’ change (Sandu, 2004, ibid.).

Where there were staffing cuts, the human cost was no doubt high. This had a gender dimension: female scientists would appear to have lost out the most.(11)

In a report written by Coopers and Lybrand for the European Commission dated 1999, the Czechs were credited with ‘having quickly dealt with overdimensioned [sic] academic establishments’ (p. 99). A telling euphemism.

Today, science and research remains, thankfully, a prominent activity in eastern Europe. Regional scientific imbalances have though persisted with countries that did more science prior to 1989, notably, Czechia, Hungary and Poland, continuing to dominate.

One could perhaps say that change kept science in the region standing still in a storm. I think, though, we still await a multidimensional appraisal of what happened before we can draw solid conclusions.

The table beneath is my attempt to summarize some data, such as I know it, concerning those changes (please see the footnotes beneath the table for further discussion).

Conjecture on direction of change in eastern European science over the last 40 or so years*

Number of tertiary education studentsrise(a)rise(b)rise(c)rise(d)
Number of scientists and engineersrise‡
Collaboration between scientists(e)no datano datano datano data
Number and scale of public research entitiesno data(f)no data(f)static(g)no data(h)
Number and scale of R&D-intensive firms(j)fallfallfallfall
Links between research and production(j)weakenedweakenedweakenedweakened
*Comparing the mid/late 1970s or early 1980s to the present for selected countries in eastern Europe using data available by searching the internet in English as well as my own book collection. †Contemporary data point refers to sum of data from Czechia and Slovakia reflecting the 1993 split. ‡Suppositions based on poor data and referring to all the former members of Comecon in eastern Europe. Concerning the number of scientists and engineers, figures of 263900 and 263203, respectively, for 1982 and 2020. The first figure refers to Comecon countries in eastern Europe including DDR, the latter figure concerns the equivalents in 2020 but does not include Germany; therefore I guessed a rise. Concerning funding, I compared GERD as a percentage of GDP across the Comecon countries in eastern Europe in 1982 to equivalents for 2020, respectively, 1.8% and 1.2%; the caveat concerning DDR again applies and therefore my guess was funding was approximately static as a percentage of GDP. Hanson and Pavitt, 1987, The Comparative Economics of Research Development and Innovation in East and West: a Survey (pp. 53 and 55); and Eurostat are my sources, respectively, of the 1982 and 2020 figures. (a) Comparing figures of 36 and 144926, respectively, of ‘schools’ and ‘students’ cited on p. 5, Toma, 1976, The Educational System of Czechoslovakia (US Department of Health, Education and Welfare); and combined figures for 2019 of 460152, comprised 319343 for Czechia and 140809 for Slovakia, in the category ‘enrolment in tertiary education, all programmes, both sexes (number)’ in UIS Statistics. (b) Comparing figures of 60 and ‘around 100k’, respectively, of institutions and enrolments cited on p. 18, UNESCO, 1985, Higher education in Hungary; and figure for 2020 of 281461 in the category ‘enrolment in tertiary education, all programmes, both sexes (number)’ in UIS Statistics. (c) Comparing figures of 92 and 454000 (1981), respectively, of ‘civilian academic institutions’ and ‘total number of students’ cited on pp. 16 and 12, UNESCO, 1987, Higher Education in Poland; and figure for 2019 of 1430981 in the category ‘enrolment in tertiary education, all programmes, both sexes (number)’ in UIS Statistics. (d) Comparing figures of 209 and 77419, respectively, of institutions and ‘effectifs d’étudiants‘ cited on pp. 26 and 44, UNESCO, 1978, L’Enseignement supérieur en Roumanie; and figure for 2019 of 533749 in the category ‘enrolment in tertiary education, all programmes, both sexes (number)’ in UIS Statistics. (e) I found it difficult to draw solid conclusions. There was significant scientific communication between east and west even during the Cold War (Hollings, 2016, Scientific Communication Across the Iron Curtain). After 1989, the assumption is that there was more collaboration with scientists outside the region leading to English language publications, citing, for example, Kozak, 2015, ‘How have the Eastern European countries of the former Warsaw Pact developed since 1990? A bibliometric study‘, in: Scientometrics. But I have not been successful in finding comparator data on intra-bloc and national collaboration prior to 1989 which of course might not in any case be captured in bibliometric measures. Knowledge exchange would often have occurred by other means. (f) I have yet to obtain data and therefore cannot comment on the trend. (g) Would appear to be roughly static although noting cuts seen in one aspect of the public enterprise (government institutes) with expansion in another (universities), citing p. 7, Heinecke, 2015, ‘The gradual transformation of the Polish public science system’, in: PLOS One. (h) I have not got hold of data later than 2000, citing p. 266, Sandu, 2004, ‘Romania: transformation of the S&T system’, in: From System Transformation to European Integration: Science and Technology in Central and Eastern Europe at the Beginning of the 21st Century (ed. Meske). (i) It is a frequent assertion in writing prior to 1989 that R&D and production were poorly connected in eastern Europe and that this meant R&D results were not translated into the wider economy. A clear view of this question would though depend on how we saw the proper roles of science and research in production, whether that be through creation of new products, absorption of imported technology, improvements in production processes, strategic research, protection of the environment, etc. This is not a historically stable quantity nor one that I can easily discern. Looking back at the 1980s, we ought to note a number of conglomerates in the region that might have had an interest in science and research (famous names include Energoinvest, Ikarus, IZOT, Škoda, Tesla, Zeiss-Jena, etc). I lack data to comment further. A study of Energoinvest (Yugoslavia) indicated that managers in that particular firm closely connected research and production. Many of these organizations are now bust; compare them with what we know about the handful of R&D-intensive firms in the region today, notably, Gedeon Richter (reporting about €170m of R&D spending for 2021). My guess, for it is not even a hypothesis, is that we saw a fall reflecting general deindustrialization across Europe.

Brussels was one of the official players after 1989. Its tactics varied. But my impression is that European officials recognized core elements of the crisis quite soon after the first political upheavals in Poland and Hungary (and certainly by the early 1990s once the entirety of eastern Europe had shifted).

The PHARE program was quickly developed, thereby establishing a strand of policy making. But the tailor-made or perhaps more experimental policy initiatives, probably none of the necessary scale but valuable all the same, were later dropped in favor of integrating eastern European countries directly into the existing framework program (and eventually, in many cases, admitting them as member states).(12)

The shift might have abolished certain kinds of relationship as eastern European science then fell under formal examination by the western ‘teacher’ (even if legal links were not made with accession). This is pure speculation on my part and I know some officials would disagree with it.

We ought also to note the EU agricultural subsidization regime, introduced when the states became members. This point is particularly important in Bulgaria and Romania where agriculture contributed significantly to the economy as compared to other EU states.

Regrettably, as elsewhere in the EU, policies did not encourage agricultural research and extension relevant to ecological approaches. Indeed, quite the opposite scenario played out to the detriment of the environment, citing a report on the Romanian case.(13)

Brain drain is an important theme in writing about the period after 1989.(14) It is tempting to express it more politically by saying western states appropriated science and expertise found in the east.

In Europe, the prime beneficiaries of this appropriation have been western Germany, UK, Switzerland and Scandinavia (outside Europe, it would be Canada and the USA).

By the time we reach the first few years of our present century, the way R&D was structured in western Europe had also, of course, changed through the preceding decades, such as by outsourcing, deindustrialization or the closure or privatization of government enterprises.(15)

The UK, as a prime example of a deindustrializing economy in western Europe, is a place where science policy came to mean, quite explicitly, university funding policy. Organic connections between research and production fell away in some areas (due to the absence of production) while substitutes were sought.

Deindustrialization was a notable feature in parts of eastern Europe after 1989 (as well as a decline in agricultural employment not seen in the west). The impacts of this pattern of change on R&D are therefore an important general question which is likely to have complex answers.

One suspects deindustrialization removed a consistent political lobby for R&D spending in a few places, namely, locally-rooted industrial firms.

Examples of institutions where science and research were successfully sustained, such as Bay Zoltán Nonprofit in Hungary, warrant examination. We might ask what political conditions led to such decisions. Regrettably, in many cases, it is difficult to answer this question due to lack of information.

Science met political and economic forces greater than it. Science and research rarely mattered enough to be intentional priorities in decision-making; they were after-thoughts (if even that) in processes such as privatization.

The institutional consequences are the material upon which new science policy has always to be made. This raises questions about the cogency of the landscape we now find in front of us, as well as the possibility of strategic change in future.


The widening policy of the EU Commission is trying to fix a complicated, long standing, and not always well understood science policy problem which reveals itself in various ways, such as imbalances in the allocation of framework funds.

How big a problem you think it is depends on your perspective. But, if you think it is a big problem, the EU budget allocated to it is probably too low. A policy that applies to more than half the member states and might be crucial to the future of European science could not be funded to the tune of 10-30million € p.a. per member state.

More significant interventions might need an honest re-appraisal of history. A Europe-wide reform of science policy in which eastern Europe (both member and neighbourhood states) is seen as an integral part of the policy design, not an issue to be fixed within existing frameworks, would be good. The chance of this, however, seems low.

A specific and detailed discussion of individual countries and sub-regions could be useful, and there are plenty of these discussions around, but I did not get a chance to cover the topic here.

The Dioscuri Centres of Scientific Excellence associated with Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Germany are an example of a bilateral initiative in the basic sciences that could be supported by the EU. As I already noted, legal requirements to achieve at least 50% female participation would be helpful.

Overall, we might want to look beyond the geographical framing to one of gender or other factors and consider how these could be improved. Ultimately, we could develop multidimensional indicators on the equity of RD&D investments.

I would also personally like to see the science policy community get together globally to compare the various brain drain schemes in operation and see what could be learned from them. They seem to be crucial instruments to address historical wrongs in the distribution of scientific capacity.

Progressive goals such as environmental protection or public health, were relatively neglected in science policy discussions over the past four decades (a more narrow economic framing dominated). These now ought to brought into the foreground.

If, in another 30 years, European science policy geeks are still discussing geographical imbalances in scientific capacity, perhaps we should not be surprised, even though it will then be 60 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. However, the rest of the world will probably have long moved on.

(1) All evaluations in this part of the website comprise: a précis of the report under consideration; my own commentary, having reflected on the report and the wider context of the policy problem; brief notes on what is known about the historical background of the problem and what solutions have been sought in the past (nihil sub sole novum); and a conclusion. Please be advised that the discussion comprises my personal views at a given point in time and typically based on very limited thought, analysis and research, and should therefore not be relied upon too much.

(2) https://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/DocItem.aspx?did=61346

(3) My own calculations based on data in the European Commission H2020 Projects database: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/dashboard/sense/app/93297a69-09fd-4ef5-889f-b83c4e21d33e/sheet/a879124b-bfc3-493f-93a9-34f0e7fba124/state/analysis.

(4) https://www.nsf.gov/about/who.jsp; https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/european-commission-hr_key_figures_2022_en.pdf

(5) Griessler, et al., 2017, ‘D5.1: Diagnosis: RRI in Widening Participation, SWAFS, EIT, JRC, EURATOM and Instruments of H2020’, p. 55.

(6) Huang Yuanxi and Zhao Linjia, 2018, ‘The development of women scientists in China and its supporting policy’, National Natural Science Foundation of China, p. 623.

(7) American Institute of Physics; EU JRC; Eurostat; OECD.Stat; PWC

(8) Geeks with an interest in vintage science policy can inform themselves about this topic in Sobell, 1984, The Red Market: Industrial Cooperation and Specialization in Comecon, pp. 211-224.

(9) The difficulties the EU has had in building durable, continent-wide, R&D entities are obvious. Rhetorical points concerning such entities are not new; probably all the permutations were explored deep in the mists of time, i.e., the 1970s and prior, for example in debates between Alteiro Spinelli and Ralf Dahrendorf.

(10) I am definitely not an expert on the subject, nor do I know the relevant languages. With those big caveats in mind, my reading list (from dipping into this topic over the years) is as follows:

Balázs, et al., 2014, 25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain: the state of integration of East and West in the European Union; Brill, 2017, Von der Blauen Liste zur gesamtdeutschen Wissenschaftsorganisation: Die Geschichte der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft (an interview in Der Spiegel published in 1991, cited in Brill, p. 36, is available online and is worth a read); Calori, 2019, Making transition, remaking workers. Market and privatisation reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina: the case of Energoinvest (1988-2008); Gummett, et al., 1996, Military R&D after the Cold War: Conversion and Technology Transfer in Eastern and Western Europe; Heinecke, 2016; Heinecke, 2018, 2019; Hodges, 2017, Cosmologies in Transition: Science and the Politics of Academia after Yugoslavia; von Hirschhausen and Bitzer, 2000, The Globalization of Industry & Innovation in Eastern Europe: from Post-socialist Restructuring to International Competitiveness; Jablecka and Lepori, 2009; Mayntz, et al., 2013, East European Academies in Transition; Meske, 2004, From System Transformation to European Integration: Science and Technology in Central and Eastern Europe at the Beginning of the 21st Century; Meske, 1998, Institutional transformation of S&T systems in the European economies in transition: Comparative analysis; Meske, et al., 1998, Transforming Science and Technology Systems, the Endless Transition?; Meske, et al., 1997, Die Integration von ostdeutschen Blaue-Liste-Instituten in die deutsche Wissenschaftslandschaft; Pavlínek, 2008, A Successful Transformation? Restructuring of the Czech Automobile Industry; Radosevic and Lepori, 2009, ‘Public research funding systems in central and eastern Europe: between excellence and relevance: introduction to special section’ in: Science and Public Policy; Sandu, undated, ‘The resilience of the Romanian R&D system’; Sandu, 2004, ‘Romania: transformation of the S&T system’, in: From System Transformation to European Integration: Science and Technology in Central and Eastern Europe at the Beginning of the 21st Century (ed. Meske); Schimank and Lange, 1998, Wissenschaft in Mittel- und Osteuropa: Die Transformation der Akademieforschung, in: Leviathan; Tillet and Lesser, 1996, Science and Technology in Central and Eastern Europe: The Reform of Higher Education; UNESCO science report 2005.

Other sources: website of former TESLA research staff (not the car firm); Karl Hall’s website; Steliana Sandu’s website; Wissenschaftsrat, 2020, interviews reflecting on the restructuring of DDR scientific institutions after 1989.

(11) Etzkowitz, et al., 2000, Athena Unbound: the Advancement of Women in Science & Technology, p. 219.

(12) A speech given in 2006 by Potočnik, then the science and research commissioner, seems to me emblematic on this point. But it is of course difficult to know as an outsider how representative it is without interviews with officials of the time or at the least much more extensive study of documents.

(13) Details are revealed by Roger, 2014, ‘Agricultural research in Romania: rival institutional dependencies on private companies’, in: Science as Culture.

(14) The issue of ‘brain drain’ is described for the Romanian case by Baltes, 2017, ‘The critical situation of R&D in Romania: the main cause of the Romanian researchers’ migration’, in: East-West Migration in the European Union (ed. Marinescu).

(15) Meske makes this point on p. 4, Transforming Science and Technology Systems, the Endless Transition?

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s