Ten Years of the European Research Council

This little video reminded me that we’re coming up to the tenth anniversary of the founding of the European Research Council (ERC).

 

In my opinion the ERC has been an outstanding success that has revitalized science across the continent and here in the United Kingdom. Sadly the UK government has decided that the United Kingdom will play no further part in ERC-funded schemes or any other programme funded by the EU.  The participation of UK scientists has already started to diminish and when it dries up completely there will be a significant loss of research income, especially for fundamental science. I’m grateful to Paul Crowther for pointing out that over the past decade there have been no fewer than 176 ERC awards to UK physics departments, meaning over  1/3 of a billion Euros in research funding.

I estimate that most physics & astronomy departments in the UK will lose 20-30% of their research income as a result of leaving the EU. Most also have a similar fraction of staff who are EU nationals, many of whom will leave because of the UK government’s shocking refusal to guarantee their right to remain. I find it sad beyond words that we as a nation are not only about to throw away our leading role in so many excellent research projects but also destroy our own credibility as a civilized nation by the mean-spirited way we are behaving.

But the ERC will at least offer British scientists two ways to continue their involvement with EU programmes. The first is that existing grants are portable, so principal investigators who decided to relocate to an EU country can take their funding with them. The second is that future ERC grants are open to applicants from any country in the world who wish to carry out their research within the EU.

As Niels Bohr famously remarked “prediction is very difficult, especially about the future”. I don’t know whether there will be a significant brain drain to the EU from the UK as a result of BrExit, but I do know many colleagues are talking about it right now. As for myself, if someone were to offer me a job in Europe I’d definitely take it.

(My CV is available on request).

 

 

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7 Responses to “Ten Years of the European Research Council”

  1. Reblogged this on Disturbing the Universe and commented:
    Peter is not alone in looking at opportunities outside the UK in the wake of Brexit.

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    As Niels Bohr famously remarked “prediction is very difficult, especially about the future”.

    I recall also a book review in Physics World about Soviet physics and the historical revisionism that frequently went on. (Check how many times Sergei Mikhalkov, appropriately a satirist, had to rewrite the words to that magnificent Soviet national anthem…) The phrase bandied around at that time and place was “The past is very hard to predict.”

  3. Joseph Conlon Says:

    “Sadly the UK government has decided that the United Kingdom will play no further part in ERC-funded schemes or any other programme funded by the EU.”

    Is there a government statement to this effect? Israel, for example, is in no sense an EU member state but participates in the ERC and ERC grants can be hosted there.

    While not agreeing with you on the EU, I agree on the ERC. One of the reasons I think it works so well is because of the clear commitment to excellence and rigorous peer review. I have applied for ERC grants three times (unsuccessful twice, successful once) and the level of feedback goes far beyond anything from the national research councils. When you get ten referee reports back one cannot complain about a lack of care put into the evaluation process.

    • The PM made it clear in her recent speech that the UK would not pay to belong to EU schemes after we leave the EU. That’s why we’re leaving euratom and is why continued involvement in Horizon2020 is out of the question.

      Israel is involved, but pays a hefty subscription to participate – although it gets back more than it pays.

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