EU bureaucracy letting down science

6 July 2006

EU bureaucracy letting down science

Ronald Plasterk, a scientist and columnist for leading Dutch daily De Volkskrant, recently wrote a piece exposing the veritable hell which fellow scientists must undergo in order to receive European Union research and development subsidies. Even once they've received them, in fact, the bureaucratic nightmare continues. Agreeing wholeheartedly with these criticisms, SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer has put a written question to the European Commission in which, amongst other things, he argues that if the system cannot be made more efficient it should simply be abandoned "because the way in which it is now conducted is fatal to scientific cooperation."

Ronald PlasterkA great deal of time and energy is spent, Plasterk argues, sitting in meetings of a 'steering group', 'partnership board', a 'workpackage committee', a 'Scientific Advisory Board' and a 'Technology Transfer Panel'. As a consequence, in one case, before an article on the research in question could be published, thirty-five days had to elapse after written permission was requested from all of the sixteen other groups involved in the programme, as well as from the European Commission. "The result is that this system selects against quality and the subsidies paid don't actually compensate for the costs of the lengthy and time-consuming preparations demanded," said Erik Meijer. "It even sometimes happens that money is given to projects of mediocre quality, while, for example, programmes in which Nobel laureates are involved are rejected."

The Commission must take responsibility for this and establish a less time-consuming and bureaucratic procedure. Meijer argues: “If it turns out to be impossible, however, to make more effective use of the subsidies and ensure that they bring added value to projects, then perhaps the Commission should consider abolishing them completely so that scientists can return to devoting their time to science instead of spending it on senseless bureaucracy."

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