Commission: Wake-up call for basic research in Europe

The Commission has published a Communication on the situation of basic research in the EU, calling upon governments to boost investment in this key area in order to keep up with the US.

With the aim of sparking off a debate on how to promote basic
research in Europe, the Commission on 15 January 2004 published a
Communication on "Europe and fundamental research". Commissioner
Busquin said that the paper was designed to act as a "wake-up call"
for Europe to realise that it is quickly losing ground in the area
compared to the US and Japan. Fundamental research, he said, is key
to growth, competitiveness and better quality of life, and must not
be neglected.

'Basic research' is driven by a researcher's interest in a
scientific question with no immediate or obvious commercial value.
Nonetheless, results of basic research have often led to
ground-breaking scientific discoveries such as the DNA and X-rays
and inventions like the Internet. Basic research also plays a
crucial rule in the training of scientists.

While the EU held a leading position in basic research in the
early 20th century, this has been overshadowed by other fields
which are seen to be more profitable, such as applied,
market-orientated research.

The Commission's initiative comes at the time when public
research organisations have showed their dismay at governments'
failures to increase research budgets despite their pledge to
achieve the

three percent
as set out by the 2002 Barcelona
Council. In France, more than 5,500 leading researchers have signed
an internet petition threatening to resign from their positions if
their demands for boosting national research are not met (see


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