When research funding is like Robin Hood in reverse

429px-CC_No_07_Robin_HoodIf you ask officers of the European commission in research and innovation whether any of the funding attached to Horizon 2020 (the biggest EU research and innovation programme ever) will improve research career conditions, they are likely to politely cough, roll their eyes and answer: yes. They’d point, for example, to the European Research Council (ERC) starting grants and the Marie-Sklodowska-Curie individual fellowships which both fall under the £63bn programme. But are such initiatives really having an impact?

On the one hand, the ERC starting grants are extremely competitive. They are supposed to fund only the cream of excellent European researchers. It has been argued that this focus on research excellence is a smokescreen for funding austerity. At any rate, three hundred researchers received a starting grant from ERC in 2013, with a success rate of about 10%.

Many young researchers have just given up applying. The chances of being supported by host institutions with their application, particularly if not doing research in a trendy field, are remote – especially if they haven’t won the lottery of publishing in elite journals such as Nature and Science.

Click here to read more from this November 7, 2014 article in The Guardian.

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