wrong timing for lowering ERC budget

As posted in the recent issue of Nature, a pandemic is not the best time to lower the European Research Council budget! And to quote

Jean-Pierre Bourguignon is furious. The mathematician is interim president of the European Research Council (ERC), and is outraged by proposals that the agency’s budget for 2021–27 is to be cut by €1.3 billion, a reduction of almost 10% from the €14.7 billion that had been proposed by the European Commission in 2018. “I don’t understand it,” he told Nature. He wants the decision reversed. So do we.

This is especially damaging when considering the controversy surrounding the “resignation” of the previous ERC president, Mauro Ferrari, who claimed he left because the ERC refused to allocate special funds to fighting the pandemics (while the ERC scientific council pointed out his lack of investment and multiple external positions, esp. in the US). The ERC scientific council also expressed at the time how much funding fundamental research has benefited the European contribution to fighting COVID. (The forced resignation of Mauro Ferrari was the reason for Jean-Pierre Bourguignon returning as an interim president, until a new president is designated by an ERC search committee.)

Beyond the tremendous contraction of the European economy due to the pandemic and the Keynesian allocation of supporting resources to desperate companies, another reason for the reduction of the ERC budget is the UK leaving the EU and hence no longer participating to its budget. However, further funds have been allocated to medical research, as well as to defence projects, thus to the detriment of fundamental research. A classical political move, seeking short term gains over long time prospects…

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