At its meeting on 28 February 2018, the EUA Research Policy Working Group (RPWG), chaired by EUA Vice-President Professor Martine Rahier, the Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester and member of the Commissioner’s High-Level Expert Group “Research, Innovation, and Science Policy Experts” (RISE), Professor Luke Georghiou, was invited to discuss major elements of the next EU Framework Programme for Research & Innovation (FP9), such as mission-driven R&I, multidisciplinarity and the integration of the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH), the role of a future European Innovation Council (EIC), and recent trends in doctoral education across Europe.
In his capacity as Chair of the Steering Committee of the EUA-Council for Doctoral Education (EUA-CDE), Professor Georghiou highlighted the fact that doctoral education in Europe faces a number of challenges, such as a transition of career patterns, growing concerns over mental health and well-being as well as the impact of open science on current and future generations of early-career researchers.
The discussion concerning the future FP9 revolved around three key aspects: namely, the role of mission-driven R&I, multidisciplinary research with a focus on SSH disciplines, and the shape of an EIC. With regard to mission-driven R&I, a topic which brought about a great deal of attention due to a recent ;report by Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Georghiou described the important position of universities in an inspiring initiative, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and underlined that the university sector in Europe could contribute in a similar way to the civilian missions in FP9. Georghiou and the RPWG noted in unison on multidisciplinarity and the integration of SSH disciplines measures that formed an integral element of the November 2017 EUA proposals for FP9, and that, in consequence, evaluation panels should include reviewers with multidisciplinary expertise. The full inclusion of SSH in projects would, however, need constant attention in the next framework programme. Regarding an EIC, RPWG and Georghiou emphasised the importance of a holistic perspective where universities often play a crucial role in orchestrating key players and in nurturing an environment for breakthrough innovations. RPWG also observed that social innovation and interaction with social enterprises should be essential features of a future EIC for the benefit of society at large.
Another major topic of the meeting was research ethics and research integrity. Professor Ulrike Felt, chair for Social Studies of Science and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Vienna, presented her empirical work on the topic. Professor Felt broadly set the scene by showing how science is under scrutiny externally from society and politics and, at the same time, internally, science shows some signs of transgression from good practice, indicated by the rise in article annulments and recurring fears of idea theft in the writing of research proposals. In addressing day-to-day scientific practice, Felt stressed the crucial role of institutional leadership in fostering proper conduct and ingraining research ethics and research integrity in researchers’ minds and behaviour, based on the reproductive function of universities through research and teaching. EUA will continue its work in this area in a dedicated session during the EUA Annual Conference at the University of Zurich on 5-6 April 2018.