Bulgaria and Hungary volunteer for E.U. scrutiny of their research systems
BRUSSELS—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 countries will receive advice from external reviewers as part of the commission’s new Policy Support Facility (PSF), announced here yesterday.Endowed with a budget of up to €20 million until 2020, the PSF provides “a sort of technical aid,” E.U. research commissioner Carlos Moedas told reporters. Moedas praised the countries for signing up for the scheme. “Having a [science] minister [who] says: ‘we are committed to doing the reforms, please come with independent experts and tell me if I’m doing the right thing’; I think it takes a lot of courage,” said Moedas, who presented the plan with Bulgaria’s science minister Todor Tanev.Bulgaria has requested “peer-review” and advice in three policy areas: public funding of research, science careers, and knowledge transfer from academia to business. The commission has assembled a group of five external reviewers and five “peers”—senior government officials involved in research policy in their own country. The panel, led by Luc Soete, rector of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, will conduct country visits in April and June and is expected to provide recommendations by the end of July.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)This kind of exercise is not entirely new: there have been reviews of national science systems in the past, for instance through consulting companies or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. But Soete says PSF could carry more weight if its recommendations are linked to the European Semester, the commission’s yearly assessment of economic reforms in member states. Currently, the commission’s prescriptions focus largely on budget discipline, but armed with PSF’s reviews, it could make stronger recommendations about research and innovation reforms. (All member states have signed up to align their policies under the European Semester, but its recommendations remain nonbinding.)The commission has agreed to prepare the ground for a similar exercise in Hungary later in the year. Other countries, including Italy and Poland, have expressed an interest in putting their research policies under the microscope as well. Although any E.U. member state or associated country can apply, the expectation is that PSF will be most in demand in Eastern and Southern Europe, where science is often struggling. “The countries that feel the strongest pressure as being underperforming [will] be the first to knock on the door,” while other countries “wait and see,” Soete says. Still, “I wouldn’t be surprised if many countries took advantage of this” eventually, he adds.Governments who use PSF will also be able to get practical help from the commission officials to roll out reforms.