EU Research Experts to Assist Hungary and Bulgaria in Defining Standards

Bulgaria and Hungary are the first E.U. member states to enlist the European Commission’s help to reform their research policies. The two Eastern European nations will receive guidance from external reviewers as a piece of the commission’s new Policy Support Facility (PSF), declared here yesterday.

For registering for the scheme the countries were praised by moedas. “Having a [science] minister [who] says: ‘we’re committed to doing the reforms, please include independent experts and tell me if I’m doing the best thing’; I think it requires a lot of bravery,” said Moedas, who presented the strategy with Bulgaria’s science minister Todor Tanev.

Bulgaria has requested “peer review” and advice in three areas: public funding of research, science professions, and knowledge transfer from academia to business. The commission has collected a number of five external reviewers and five “peers”–senior government officials involved in research policy within their particular state. The panel, headed by Luc Soete, rector of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, will conduct state visits in April and June and is anticipated to provide recommendations by the end of July.

The media on the whole don’t cover this sort of European cooperation but it makes interesting reading in these times of Brexit and other countries questioning the advantages of the European Union. SOme of the bigger broadcasters do cover these events to some extents though for example the BBC, you can actually watch the BBC in France and other European countries – see here.
This type of exercise is not completely new: there have been reviews of national science systems before, through consulting companies or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for example. But Soete says PSF could carry more weight if its recommendations are linked to the European Session, the annual evaluation of financial reforms in member states of the commission. Presently, the commission’s prescriptions focus mainly on budget area, but armed with the reviews of PSF, it might make more powerful recommendations about research and initiation reforms. (All member states have signed up to align their policies under the European Session, but its recommendations remain nonbinding.)

The commission has consented to prepare the ground to get an identical exercise in Hungary after in the year. Other nations, including Poland and Italy, have expressed an interest in setting their research policies beneath the microscope too. “The countries that feel the most powerful pressure as being underperforming [will] be the first to rap on the door,” while other nations “wait and see,” Soete says. Nonetheless, “I wouldn’t be surprised if many nations took advantage of this” eventually, he adds.

Authorities who use PSF will also have the ability to get practical assistance from your commission officials to roll out reforms.

 

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