Archive for European Commission

ERC descriptors

Posted in Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2020 by xi'an

Here are the descriptors (or keywords) validated by the (European Research Council) ERC for submitting grant proposal. The recent addition of PE1_15 in the Mathematics panel should help when submitting more methodological projects:

PE1_14 Mathematical statistics
PE1_15 Generic statistical methodology and modelling
PE1_19 Scientific computing and data processing

even though other panels could prove equally suited for some, as in Computer Science and Informatics,

PE6_7 Artificial intelligence, intelligent systems, natural language processing
PE6_10 Web and information systems, data management systems, information retrieval and digital libraries, data fusion
PE6_11 Machine learning, statistical data processing and applications using signal processing (e.g. speech, image, video)
PE6_12 Scientific computing, simulation and modelling tools
PE6_13 Bioinformatics, bio-inspired computing, and natural computing

in Systems and Communication Engineering,

PE7_7 Signal processing

in Integrative Biology,

LS2_11 Bioinformatics and computational biology
LS2_12 Biostatistics

in Prevention,Diagnosis and Treatment of Human Diseases,

LS7_1 Medical imaging for prevention, diagnosis and monitoring of diseases
LS7_2 Medical technologies and tools (including genetic tools and biomarkers) for prevention, diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of diseases

and in Social Sciences and Humanities,

SH1_6 Econometrics; operations research
SH4_9 Theoretical linguistics; computational linguistics

wrong timing for lowering ERC budget

Posted in pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , on October 8, 2020 by xi'an

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…

resignation of ERC president

Posted in University life with tags , , , , , , , on April 10, 2020 by xi'an

[Reposting the ERC Scientific Council statement about the resignation of Mauro Ferrari:]

The ERC’s Scientific Council notes with regret the statement made by Mauro Ferrari concerning his resignation on 7 April. We here present the facts of the situation.

On Friday 27 March, all 19 active members of the ERC’s Scientific Council individually and unanimously requested that Mauro Ferrari resign from his position as ERC’s President.

This request was made for four reasons:

  1. During his three-month term in office, Professor Ferrari displayed a complete lack of appreciation for the raison-d’être of the ERC to support excellent frontier science, designed and implemented by the best researchers in Europe. Although voicing his support for this in public pronouncements, the proposals he made to the Scientific Council did not reflect this position. He did not understand the context of the ERC within the EU’s Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020.
  2. Since his appointment, Professor Ferrari displayed a lack of engagement with the ERC, failing to participate in many important meetings, spending extensive time in the USA and failing to defend the ERC’s programme and mission when representing the ERC.
  3. In contrast, Professor Ferrari made several personal initiatives within the Commission, without consulting or tapping into the collective knowledge of the Scientific Council, and instead using his position to promote his own ideas.
  4. Lastly, Professor Ferrari was involved in multiple external enterprises, some academic and some commercial, which took a lot of his time and effort and appeared on several occasions to take precedence over his commitment to ERC. The workload associated with these activities proved to be incompatible with the mandate of President of the Scientific Council.

Professor Ferrari subsequently resigned on 7 April 2020. Therefore, his resignation in fact followed a written unanimous vote of no confidence. In contrast, Professor Ferrari has stated that the reason for his resignation is that the Scientific Council did not support his call for the ERC to fund a special initiative focused on the COVID-19 virus. To address this point specifically, we did not support a special initiative because that is not our remit and the Commission’s Research and Innovation Directorate General, with which we are connected, was already very active in developing new programmes to support this research through the appropriate channels.

Indeed, many ERC funded researchers have been active for some time in researching the coronavirus family and many other equally dangerous pathogens. Over 50 ongoing or completed ERC projects supported for a total value of about EUR 100 million are contributing to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing insights from several different scientific fields such as: virology, epidemiology, immunology, paths for new diagnostics and treatments, public health, medical devices, artificial intelligence, social behaviour, crisis management.

In addition, as stated on its website in reaction to the COVID-19 crisis, the ERC offers ‘grantees the flexibility to adjust their research project”. This is an efficient measure because several ERC grantees already enquired about the possibility of addressing COVID-19 related research in their ongoing ERC project. All this information is publicly available on the ERC website, which also includes testimonies from funded ERC grantees on how bottom-up frontier research is critical to deliver new – and sometimes unexpected – insights relevant for better understanding and fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as for providing social behaviour and crisis management related solutions.

However, the ERC does not make calls for specific topics, since a guiding principle of ERC is that our researchers are free to pursue the goals they define and to decide on what they wish to work. In our view, this is a crucial way to generate the best science.

The Scientific Council wishes to clarify, in case of any doubt, that they absolutely endorse the view that scientific research will provide the best solutions to tackling pandemics, such as COVID-19.

Therefore, we regret Professor Ferrari’s statement, which at best is economical with the truth. This Scientific Council remains dedicated to pursuing the mission for which the ERC was established: the support of bottom-up ground-breaking research. It is also worth noting that despite the pandemic, the ERC Executive Agency is struggling against the odds to actively process applications for our Consolidator Grants and Starting Grants, which will support researchers throughout Europe to make the discoveries of the future.

The ERC Scientific Council

EU without education is like a bird without wings [apologies to ostriches]

Posted in Kids, University life with tags , , , , on September 21, 2019 by xi'an

[Reposting a call for keeping education and research in the EU commission denomination:]

The candidates for the new EU commissioners were presented last week. In the new commission the areas of education and research are not explicitly represented anymore and instead are subsumed under the “innovation and youth” title. This emphasizes economic exploitability (i.e. “innovation”) over its foundation, which is education and research, and it reduces “education” to “youth” while being essential to all ages.

We, as members of the scientific community of Europe, wish to address this situation early on and emphasize both to the general public, as well as to relevant politicians on the national and European Union level, that without dedication to education and research there will neither exist a sound basis for innovation in Europe, nor can we fulfill the promise of a high standard of living for the citizens of Europe in a fierce global competition.

President von der Leyen, in her mission letter to commissioner Gabriel, has emphasized that “education, research and innovation will be key to our competitiveness”.

With this open letter we demand that the EU commission revises the title for commissioner Gabriel to “Education, Research, Innovation and Youth” reflecting Europe’s dedication to all of these crucial areas. We also call upon the European Parliament to request this change in name before confirming the nominees for commissioner.

Please support this letter by signing up as a supporter via https://indico.uis.no/event/5/registrations/

ERC panel [step #2]

Posted in Kids, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2019 by xi'an

Another post that was written ages ago, about the second round of the European Research Council (ERC) panel on starting grants for mathematics in which I took part as an expert and not as an applicant. While anonymity possibly fell apart for the several dozens of applicants who were shortlisted for interview, in particular more like those few from my own field, the official list of the panel only came out much later. The interviews were quite interesting, obviously, with a strict attention to time and questions to make all interviews as “equal” as possible. And sometimes painful to attend as the candidates were visibly stressed and more over-prepared than not. Which did not necessarily help as the preparation, presumably with the help of local consultants out of maths, had removed some of the enthusiasm behind the project and too much of the maths. I think we all stopped breathing when one applicant broke mid-sentence, as in a theatre play when one actor forgets one’s lines… The rehearsal does not work so well for later questions, even though preparing for these is also essential,  and some upgrading or downgrading may then occur because of a single answer. An unavoidable limitation of the exercise.

Overall I remain impressed by the quality of the collective work of the panel [despite a gruelling schedule on interview days] and of the overall selection of eleven projects, even though it sounds like more theoretical and abstract topics seem privileged, in a bias that seems difficult to counteract. And [not because no statistics proposal was selected this time] making me (and others) wonder whether or not a separate statistics section of the ERC would not be more appropriate, since statistics proposals are not uniquely and solely centred on the maths aspects.