Researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators are invited to share their views on the EU’s R&D programme Horizon 2020 via a new public consultation launched today.
The public survey will run until January 15. A separate consultation on Euratom, a nuclear research and training programme funded under Horizon 2020, has also been launched with the same closing date.
The consultations are part of a broad Commission effort to make mid-course adjustments to the €72 billion, seven-year Horizon 2020 programme, and start planning its successor for 2021 and beyond. The Commission will publish a summary of views by mid-2017, which will influence the formal midterm evaluation of Horizon 2020 also scheduled next year.
Meanwhile, the Commission will continue gathering views on the European Institute of Innovation and Technology until 20 November.
A consultation on public-public and public-private partnerships under Horizon 2020 will also be launched “in the near future”, the Commission also said.
As expected, some of the big lobbying organisations in Brussels were quick off the mark to release their first comments. One response was a plea to tackle the programme’s huge oversubscription, which has meant the odds of actually winning a grant have fallen below 14 per cent.
“A clear signal indicating the need for more funding are the very low success rates of some parts of Horizon 2020,” said The League of European Research Universities (LERU), an association of 21 top research institutes, in a statement.
“These success rates threaten Horizon 2020, its reputation and impact. LERU suggests to make the most popular call topics recurrent and to adopt a flexible approach regarding budget assignments, resulting in more budget for hugely oversubscribed call topics,” the statement added.
Science Europe, an association of national European research funders and performers, in its submission suggests a range of measures to tackle the problem, including clearer texts in the various calls for grant applications; fewer calls; greater use of two-stage evaluation of the calls; further restrictions on re-submitting applications; and, greater encouragement for researchers to self-assess before submission.
Another bugbear is what many participants feel is an inconsistent quality to Horizon 2020 evaluation and feedback.
“Sufficient feedback is necessary: final scores and comments should not be a mere compilation of the feedback of individual reviewers but should formulate a consensus, and strengths and weaknesses of the proposal should be provided,” Science Europe said.
LERU recommends tweaking the evaluation process by introducing standing panels of 15-20 experts per area, combined with a greater number of remote referees.
“Having the members of these panels formally appointed would help to attract the best scientists and entrepreneurs. Being a Horizon 2020 evaluator should be an honour in the future,” the association adds.
In its first two years, Horizon 2020 competitions received over 76,000 eligible proposals.
Over 9,000 grant agreements were signed by 1 September 2016, for competitions with deadlines in 2014 and 2015 worth almost €16 billion.
Almost a half of successful applicants are newcomers to EU research funding, the Commission says.