Evaluering av Det europeiske forskningsråds strukturer og organisering


Mot en førsteklasses organisasjon for grensesprengende forskning: Gjennomgang av Det europeiske forskningsråds strukturer og organisering

Towards a world class Frontier Research Organisation. Review of the European Research Council’s Structures and Mechanisms

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Rapport lagt fram av uavhengig ekspertpanel 23.7.2009

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1. Introduction
The European Research Council (ERC) came officially into existence on 2 February 2007, by a Decision of the Commission, in accordance with the Decisions of Council and Parliament on the Seventh Framework Programme and Rules for Participation, and the Decision of the Council on the Specific Programme "Ideas".

This Commission decision formally established the ERC Scientific Council (ScC), and provided for the establishment of the dedicated implementation structure as well as the position of ERC Secretary General, whose role is to assist the Scientific Council in ensuring its liaison with the Commission and the dedicated implementation structure.

The dedicated implementation structure (DIS) became, as from 15 July 2009, an executive agency of the Commission – the ERC Executive Agency (ERCEA), whose role is to implement the Ideas programme.

The Scientific Council is an independent body, representing the European research community and consisting of 22 scientists, engineers and scholars of the highest repute from a broad range of fields, and has the responsibility for setting the scientific strategy for the "Ideas" specific programme. It has full authority over decisions on the type of research to be funded and acts as guarantor of the quality of the activity from the scientific perspective. Its tasks cover, in particular, the establishment of the annual work programme, including the definition of calls for proposals; the methods and procedures for peer review and proposal evaluation, monitoring and quality control of the programme’s implementation from the scientific perspective; and communication.

In accordance with the objectives of the Specific Programme “Ideas” the Scientific Council has developed, up to now, only two "core" funding schemes, which are based on the "investigator-driven" principle, enabling individual Principal Investigators (PIs) leading individual national or trans-national teams to propose "bottom-up" research projects (i.e. without predefined topics) including high risk, interdisciplinary projects, which are evaluated against the sole criterion of excellence:

The ERC Starting Independent Researcher Grants (“ERC Starting Grants” (StG)): supporting the independent careers of excellent researchers, whatever their nationality, located in or moving to the Member States and associated countries, who are at the stage of starting or consolidating their own independent research team or, depending on the field, establishing their independent research programme.

The ERC Advanced Investigator Grants (“ERC Advanced Grants” (AdG)): supporting excellent, innovative investigator-initiated research projects across the Member States and associated countries, directed by leading advanced investigators of whatever age, who have already established themselves as being independent research leaders in their own right.

These funding schemes are designed to promote research excellence in all fields of knowledge and scholarship, and to secure the corresponding human capital, by both retaining in Europe and progressively recruiting from abroad some of the top research talent of both the current and the next generation. They provide substantial funds (up to € 400,000 per year over five years for StG and up to € 700,000 per year over five years for AdG) and quite flexible conditions. They are intended to operate for the period of the Seventh Framework Programme, with progressively increasing call budgets and with call deadlines organised on an annual basis, thereby presenting a high level of continuity and predictability to the research community.

2. Review
The key principles on which the ERC should operate - scientific excellence, autonomy, efficiency and transparency - were established and confirmed during the political debate leading up to the Commission proposal for the Specific Programme "Ideas". During the subsequent negotiations, in which the European Parliament and Member States expressed broad support for the concept of the ERC, the nature of its implementing structure was intensively discussed.

The Commission's proposal that the body should be an Executive Agency was substantially debated and accepted, subject to a later review of performance, to ensure that the ERC is able to operate in the longer term under the most optimal conditions.

In its August 2008 communication to the Council and to the European Parliament, the Commission set up the methodology and terms of reference for the review to be carried out by independent experts concerning the European Research structures and mechanisms.

The Commission proposed to conduct the mid-term review within the term of the European Parliament (July 2009) and to complete it during the term of the current Commission. The objective was “to move forward to a stable and predictable longer term structure as soon as possible”.

In line with the provisions of the Specific Programme, The Commission decided to appoint a Panel comprising a Chair and four further members, as well as a rapporteur. The panel was appointed by the Commission in March
2009 with the view that a report be submitted to Commissioner Potočnik in July 2009.

The panel was asked “to prepare a final report in which it will provide recommendations and conclusions. This should include an analysis and evaluation of the adequacy or deficiencies of the existent structures and mechanisms and whether any changes needed can be regarded as “technical fixes” (for example, adjustments to the Executive Agency model) or are regarded as substantive organizational and/or legal issues.”