Too much bureaucracy in EU’s research grants ‘putting off prospective applicants’

Jan Piotrowski

Jan Piotrowski
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net



The opening sessions of the conference were full of optimism over the future of international science and technology (S&T) research collaboration. Looking forward, much hope is being placed on the EU’s new framework for funding scientific research — Horizon 2020 — to be launched in 2014.

One of the 69 billion euro project’s aims is to enhance the research and development, and innovation capacities of developing nations.

This is certainly an important initiative, but behind the scenes, there are concerns over how effective Horizon 2020 will be in fostering capacity-building in the developing world.

The problem does not lie in commitment of the EU and international partners, says Zainab Osman Director of Institute of Technology Research in Sudan, as both sides acknowledge the benefits to be gained.

Rather it is the over-complexity of the application process act as a barrier to researchers wanting to receive funding.

Speaking outside of a side event, aimed at guiding researchers through the Horizon 2020 application process, Osman says that the fact she needs to attend, even with her experience of the European research environment, is proof that the procedure is inaccessible.

“If the application process can be streamlined, it will encourage a lot of scientists to participate and to apply for the grant.”

“But the EU needs to take leadership on this issue, but at the moment there has not been enough effort to make clear what is involved,” she adds.

Amin Soebanrio, Indonesia’s deputy Minister for Science and Technology Networks, also acknowledged the need to find a way to make the bureaucracy understandable.

“Researchers can be put off by applying for EU grants as they think the complex process will slow down their work,” he says.

But, he adds, for collaboration to be possible there also has to be trust on both sides, which is undermined by the fact that EU scientists often ignore the local scientific regulations, choosing to adhere only to the EU regulations identified in the grant proposal.

This issue must be addressed to encourage local scientists to engage with the EU in collaborative project, he adds.

This blog post is part of SciDev.Net’s coverage of EU Science: Global Challenges & Global Collaboration which takes place 4-8 March 2013, in Brussels, Belgium. To read further news and analysis please visit our website.

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