In a report released on 20 July, the 11-member panel calls for "an urgent re-engineering of the overall management and administration" of the E.U.'s Framework Program. Although the program accounts for only 5% of Europe's total spending on research, Framework 5 is the European Union's largest source of research funds, providing $17 billion over 5 years for multinational efforts and scientific networking. Fulfilling a requirement that it regularly review E.U. research programs, the European Commission appointed a panel of 11 scientists, academics, and business leaders to take a close look at Framework programs from 1995 to 1999.
The panel concluded that Framework needs to be more flexible to respond to hot new research fields and other demands. They realized, however, that it can't chart a course for European research by itself. To do that, the panel recommended that member nations find better ways to coordinate national research efforts. And arguing that European science in general needs a financial injection, the panel calls on E.U. member nations to step up their public and private research investment to "at least 3%" over the next decade. On average, member nations now spend about 2% of their gross domestic product on R&D.
The report tapped a vein of frustration among some scientists. "We found many researchers who are concerned about the excessive bureaucracy and about the means of evaluation," says panel member Jeanne Bell, a neuropathologist at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. Nearly two-thirds of the 2275 scientists and others who responded to a questionnaire about the Framework programs said they thought "the whole application process was too slow and/or costly."