Key principles for the foundation of a European Research Council (ERC)

07/08/04

EUROHORCs agree on position statement

The presidents and chairpersons of Europe's research organisations, known as the European Union Research Organisations Heads Of Research Councils (EUROHORCs), under the leadership of the current president, Professor Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, President of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), have agreed on the key principles for the foundation of a European Research Council. In this document, the current 37 presidents from 20 European countries declare that the concept of an agency to support basic research, a European Research Council, must form a cornerstone of the European Research Area. The ERC is intended to help secure Europe's competitive global position in science and research. A future ERC must include all areas of research, i.e., the humanities and social sciences as well as the natural sciences, medicine and engineering. A future ERC must have a constitution establishing its authority to act autonomously and to develop its own criteria for structures, procedures and decisions, independent of the European Commission and of government agencies. The sole criterion for funding decisions by the ERC must be scientific excellence, determined on the basis of a peer review system by highly respected, well-established experts.

The EUROHORCs are publishing these principles now because the prospects for the funding of basic research by an organisation established outside the European Commission as part of the 7th Framework Programme for 20062010 are now quite good. An important step by the European Commission was its statement of priorities for the 7th Framework Programme in mid-June, in which one of the six major objectives was the funding of basic research through a competition of excellence within the framework of an agency yet to be defined in detail. In November the Council of Ministers will issue a detailed resolution, which will then be incorporated into the preparations for the 7th Framework Programme in 2005.

The EUROHORCs' President, Professor Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, summarises the arguments of the scientific community for the foundation of an ERC as follows: "The fact that Europe needs more basic research, that the European Research Area can survive in global competition only if efforts in this area are increased and do not remain purely a matter of national responsibility, is also largely recognised by politicians. The research community has framed conditions for this from the very outset in the form of key principles: It is primarily a matter of competition on the basis of quality, the application of the most important criterion in basic research--scientific excellence, as well as autonomous, scientifically based processes. The fact that politicians in Europe, the governments and the commissions, are working to agree on support for basic research is a breakthrough. That they seek to support and to hold a dialogue with the science and research communities, with the organisations of research funding in the member states, is an opportunity. Now is the time to take this opportunity."

The key principles of the EUROHORCs may be found in the attachment to this press release.

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