Dear Presidents von der Leyen, Michel, and Sassoli, Dear Commissioner Gabriel,
We praise all your efforts to coordinate European response to the COVID-19 crisis. In particular, we consider very highly your swift and strong response based on opening up opportunities for researchers and innovators to contribute with their knowledge and ingenuity to support Europe in all phases of the crisis.
With your action, you have contributed to restore the public trust in Science, which was undermined by irresponsible politicians who seemed, at times, unperturbed by this urgent global crisis. In the next few years, as we all know, further systemic crises will be triggered by predictable and unpredictable causes. Climate change, antimicrobial resistance, and future pandemics are examples that immediately come to mind. While tackling COVID-19 head on, we should recognize that Research is a common public good and probably one of the most effective ways to face these global threats.
For the upcoming budget proposals, we ask you to defend the central role of Education, Research, and Innovation as fundamental resources for the future of Europe. This is the moment to decide the strategic long term priorities for Europe and to heavily invest in those. It is in the national interest of Member Countries, but also much beyond. We trust you, highest representatives of the European Institutions, to do whatever it takes to achieve this goal.
Due to the current crisis, the radical changes in geopolitics which we have seen in the recent years will accelerate. Our relationship with China and the USA will evolve, and even more than before, Europe needs to increase its research and innovation capacity. Furthermore, the flux of international students and researchers from Asia will decrease while the brain drain within EU-27 is likely to increase. The dramatic economic impact of the Covid-19 epidemic will increase even more the East/West and North/South divides.
A good overall balance of the stimulus plan and of the next MFF will be hard to attain. The COVID-19 crisis demonstrates the importance of a high level in research, and we are hopeful that this will be taken into account. But there may be some pressure to put too much emphasis on fields like virology, at the expense of others.
To address these two dangers, we humbly suggest you to accompany the higher budget for research with proper policies that will guarantee an appropriate distribution of research capacity, and an efficient balance across all fields of research and all countries. This will ensure that European science, technology, and innovation are more resilient in the long term and contribute to the cohesion of the European Union.
Europe has always been at its best when faced with a major crisis. The current COVID-19 epidemic is an opportunity to reassess priorities and to bring back the trust of citizens in the European project as a whole, as well as in science and evidence informed policy making. Don’t miss it!
Professor Martin Andler
President of the Initiative for Science in Europe
ISE represents major European Learned Societies and Research Organizations in Europe operating within different disciplines and across sectors. Active in the policy debate at the European level, ISE has been instrumental in promoting disruptive excellence-based funding programmes for scientific research such as the ERC.