- Chinese students and scholars are mobilised to defend China’s image abroad
- UKRI to improve support for postgraduate research
- France to put €10M in US and UK-led cancer research partnership
- Commission organises research and innovation foresight event
- Three new Africa-Europe research clusters launched
- US NIH modifies its plan requiring access to foreign grantees’ notebooks
Horizon Europe is well underway, but the world of European R&D policy goes well beyond the confines of the €95.5 billion R&D programme. EU climate, digital, agriculture and regional policies all have significant research and innovation components. National governments often come up with new R&D policies, decide to fund new research avenues, and set up international cooperation deals. This blog aims to keep you informed on all of that and more.
If you have any tips, please email them at [email protected].
You can read the full archive of this blog here.
China uses academics and students abroad to shape public opinion and exert global influence, according to a new report from the Mercator Institute for China Studies.
The report highlights the role of nationalist Chinese students and groups in defending the Chinese government’s positions. Hong-Kong protesters in Europe and elsewhere have previously complained about intimidation from pro-Beijing students. “China’s embassies are in close contact with student associations and have publicly praised efforts to defend China’s image,” the report states.
“With a new Patriotic Education Law in the making, this brand of internalized defensive nationalism is posed to grow.” The draft bill would extend patriotism courses to Chinese communities overseas.
The authors recognise that diaspora groups are also the main victims of surveillance and coercion abroad, “especially students and scholars who research, discuss or advocate on critical issues."
UK Research and Innovation promises to lead the work on reforming support for postgraduate research in the country, in new report outlining the next steps and what’s been done already.
The plan includes a sector-wide commitment to discuss a potential common baseline for a minimum stiped for student’s living costs as well as wider support.
UKRI has already increased the minimum stipend paid to its students by nearly 20% in cash terms between 2022 and 2024, and launched the PGR Funders and Providers Forum to facilitate discussions among funders and representatives from research organisations.
France’s Institut National Du Cancer (INCa) will invest €10 million in research taking on cancer’s toughest challenges through the global Cancer Grand Challenges initiative.
France’s investment will help to fund the next round of teams. There are currently 12 teams shortlisted, each hoping to win up to £20 million in grants when the results come are announced in March.
The initiative was founded in 2020 by Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the US.
On 13 October the European Commission will host an event to discuss the latest developments in research and innovation foresight – a form of future gazing to assist policymakers.
The event will share the results of a so-called Mutual Learning Exercise, which seeks to understand how to learn lessons about how to use foresight to support science and research.
It will be held at the Estonian Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels. Registration can be accessed here.
The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities and the African Research Universities Alliance have unveiled three new joint research clusters, focusing on creative economies, engineering, and the politics of sustainable development.
There are now 20 such clusters, bringing together 250 researchers in 60 universities and research institutes. These latest groups are a response to an EU push to strength research and innovation cooperation with Africa, following an African Union-EU Innovation Agenda launched in July.
“At this particular time, when European discourse about Africa is increasingly dominated again by migration and crisis, it is more critical than ever to show how Europeans and Africans can only progress by addressing our common challenges together, in real partnership; and this is what all three Clusters do,” said Jan Palmowski, secretary general of the Guild.
After complaints from health researchers, the US National Institutes of Health announced some changes to a new rule it is planning to require access to foreign grantees’ lab notes.
The original plan, which had followed US government audits of prior NIH grants, would have required foreign recipients of NIH grant “sub-awards” – that is, scientists abroad who are working with US NIH grantees in research consortia – to “provide copies of all lab notebooks, all data, and all documentation that supports the research outcomes as described in the progress report, to the primary recipient no less than once every six months.”
The revised rule, which NIH said was in response to comment it received from the research community, modifies that language to require annual, rather than semi-annual, access. And it says the access can be electronic, rather than on paper.
Either way, the proposed change in the agency’s standard grant terms had stirred alarm among many foreign researchers and ministries, fearful it could compromise patient confidentiality or data privacy regulation – and create a bureaucratic obstacle to health-research collaboration. NIH is the world’s largest civilian funder of health research, and has numerous collaboration agreements with research agencies around the world. These links have been widely credited as a driving factor in the record-fast development of COVID vaccines in 2020 and beyond.
A US think tank has released an analysis mapping out which countries are carrying out gain-of-function research, a technique that enhances the capabilities of pathogens to understand them better.
The research method has come under scrutiny by lawmakers in the US after some journalists and scientists argued it could have been behind the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in Wuhan, China.
But it remains seen as a highly useful scientific tool, and is often used in tandem with so-called loss-of-function research, which strips pathogens of their abilities, the report, from the Center for Security and Emerging Technology, says.
The analysis finds that any regulation of gain-of-function research will prove highly complicated, because scientists cannot always predict whether changes they make will make a pathogen more or less virulent.
The Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara), a UK charity that places threatened academics at UK universities, has said that it has rescued more scholars than at any time since the 1930s, when it was established to help researchers flee the Nazis.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, more than 210 Ukrainian academics have been placed at over 60 UK universities, said Cara.
40 Afghan researchers and their families fleeing the Taliban have also come to UK institutions.
“In our 90th year, we are now receiving more requests for help than at any time since we were founded in the 1930s," said Stephen Wordsworth, Cara's executive director.
The European Investment Fund (EIF) is investing €40 million, with support from the InvestEU programme, into the European climate tech growth equity fund Blume Equity.
EIF joins an investor base that includes the Swedish National Pension Plan, Visa Foundation, US fund-of-funds programme Impact Engine, and other institutional investors who see the opportunity to invest into the next generation of European climate tech companies.
This is one of the largest investments EIF has made into a first-time growth-stage fund.
The investment is part of the EIF's mission to support high-growth and innovative Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) across Europe, as well as to ensure at least 25% of its activity is in climate and environment-related projects by 2024.
The proposals put forward by the European Commission on 13 July to improve working conditions for young researchers in the European Research Area (ERA) do not go far enough, according to the League of European Research Universities (LERU).
In a statement published on 20 September, the network of universities welcomed the measures, which include the creation of an observatory to monitor research careers and a new European competence framework for researchers.
But it also noted several deficiencies, including a lack of recommendations addressing national barriers to mobility. Bert Overlaet, chair of the LERU careers of researchers and HR policy group said: “We need a much stronger coordination effort at the European level to overcome structural barriers hindering research careers in Europe.”
While the Commission recommends limiting the number of fixed-term contracts for researchers, the LERU says these contracts are a “direct consequence of the precariousness of funding”.
The full statement is available here.