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BIS: EU Framework Programme 8

BIS made a call for evidence regarding the EU Framework Programme. The call for evidence, and the government’s response to this evidence, are at The Geological Society made a written submission.

Response to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills consultation on the EU Framework Programme

Submitted 4 January 2011

  1. The Geological Society is the national learned and professional body for Earth sciences, with 10,000 Fellows (members) worldwide. The Fellowship encompasses those working in industry, academia and government, with a wide range of perspectives and views on policy-relevant science, and the Society is a leading communicator of this science to government bodies and other non-technical audiences.
  2. The Society recognises the importance of the Framework Programme as a source of funding for UK researchers. However, we have not prepared a full submission responding to the questions set out in the consultation document, as the resources we have to develop position statements and to respond to policy consultations and inquiries are limited. We focus our efforts primarily on matters of ‘science for policy’, where the Geological Society and the Earth science community can make a distinctive contribution. Where possible, we seek to work cooperatively with others on matters of ‘policy for science’. We therefore welcomed the opportunity to meet with colleagues from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) and other scientific societies to discuss the present consultation and our respective organisations’ responses. We are also grateful to the RSC for sharing with us a draft of their submission following this meeting.
  3. The discussion convened by the RSC revealed much common ground between the organisations represented – as such, a secondary benefit of this consultation has been to stimulate discussion of research funding in a European context among learned societies. The Geological Society is pleased to support and endorse the more substantial response which we understand the RSC intends to submit. In particular, we would highlight the following points:

    a) There is a strong case for UK Government to make information available in a simple and easily accessible way about the full range of potential sources of funding (national and international) for UK researchers – for example via a web page which is then widely publicised. The small investment required would pay great dividends in terms of the productiveness of UK researchers, both by reducing current inefficiencies caused by lack of information and duplication of effort, and by leveraging a greater proportion of international funds. (There is a perception that sources such as the Framework Programme are underused in some sectors due to lack of awareness.

    b) Emerging UK plans for Technology Innovation Centres (TICs) present an opportunity. They should be configured so as to attract Framework Programme funding, learning from overseas systems such as the Fraunhofer Institutes which do this very effectively, particularly in light of the relatively modest levels of new national funding currently envisaged, and concern in the research community that this may limit the usefulness of TICs.

    c) The continuing emphasis of the Framework Programme on knowledge transfer is welcome. The Geological Society is notable for its track record of seamless association between theory and practice, and routinely brings together the best from across academia and industry to exchange views and research findings through its scientific meetings and publications. We would be pleased to assist in communicating with this broad Earth science community about FP8, and to work to stimulate its engagement with the programme.
  4. We support the RSC’s observation that a focus on ‘grand challenges’, while welcome, should not weaken support for fundamental research by concentrating resources entirely on that which is close to application. The Geological Society has recently identified a number of policy challenges of national and global importance for the coming decades, an effective response to which will depend on interdisciplinary research across a wide range of specialisms. We note that there is considerable overlap between the priorities outlined here and the roadmap priorities identified as candidate ‘grand challenges’ by the RSC in their submission:

    a) A holistic view of resource cycles

    Our future is one in which natural resources are limited, with the impacts of extracting and using them ever more keenly felt, and an increasing global population which rightly expects greater prosperity and more equitable access to resources. Critical resource challenges include the availability of good quality drinking water, and of water for agricultural and industrial use; the supply of a wide range of strategically important minerals; and energy generation. We must manage interdependent resource cycles sustainably. This will require us to move beyond classical recycling and conservation, to develop our understanding of dependencies and possible synergies between multiple resource cycles, and to secure the safe return of waste materials – from landfill to carbon dioxide and radioactive waste – to the geosphere. 

    b) Sea level change and coastal zone management

    We are highly dependent on the near-shore environment for natural resources, and much of our infrastructure, including that for energy generation, is located in the coastal zone. We expect significant sea level change in future, but there is great uncertainty about the extent and rate of change, and how it will interact with continuing coastal erosion. Improving our understanding of this change, and our strategies for decision-making in the context of high levels of uncertainty, will be fundamental to infrastructure and resource planning.

    c) Land use 

    Our patterns of land use, under competing natural and social pressures, are changing rapidly. Their interaction with natural and human systems will be complex and uncertain (for example, through flooding). Increasing pressure on availability of land will require new approaches to the remediation of contaminated ground, to the identification of sub-surface resources which might be sustainably exploited in parallel with development at the surface, and to multiple concurrent uses of land (for instance in cities).