Covid-19 has caused loss of tax revenue and business spending, which impacts public budgets
Danish research is facing a historic decline in funding, according to the Forskerforum, due to a fall in GDP caused by the coronavirus crisis.
The Forskerforum, a trade magazine for the Danish research community, has projected that research funding losses caused by a drop in economic activity could amount to 1 billion Danish kroner (€135m). This is because public research spending in Denmark is set at 1 per cent of GDP.
Denmark’s GDP has been forecast to fall between 4 and 7 per cent next year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The EU’s forecast is even worse, estimating that GDP in Denmark will shrink by at least 5.9 per cent. This would mean there would be around Dkr1.7bn less annual spending on research.
Frede Blaabjerg, chairman of the Danish Council for Research and Innovation Policy and a researcher in power electronics at Aalborg University, said a decrease of between Dkr 1bn and Dkr 1.2bn is realistic. This would particularly affect early career researchers employed in fixed-term positions, he told the Forskerforum.
According to Blaabjerg, university closures due to the coronavirus have meant that young researchers—who are most often paid by external funds for a limited period—were not able to work in laboratories, meet with commercial partners or present their findings at conferences. If they are not given the opportunity to complete the projects, it can be difficult for them to advance in their careers, he said.
“It is probably the young researchers in particular who will pay the price,” said Blaabjerg. “If they choose to wave goodbye to a future career in science, because they can’t get on with their research, Denmark will pay a high price.”
Blaabjerg suggested that the government should amend its spending target beyond 1 per cent of GDP.
“It is paradoxical to want to save money right now when we are in a crisis, and we are completely dependent on research finding answers to the problems,” he said. “Now it should be about avoiding the loss of talent, so that we can find solutions and technologies.”
Unlike other Nordic countries, such as Norway, the Danish government includes EU spending on research as part of its national spending calculation formula. Several research bodies have suggested amending the formula to adapt to new economic conditions.
According to Forskerforum, Denmark’s research minister Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen has ruled out making changes. In a reply to the Liberal Party’s Ulla Tørnæs on 11 August, Halsboe-Jørgensen confirmed that the government does not plan to increase the proportion of GDP spent on research.
It is expected, however, that the Social Democratic government’s supporters in parliament, in particular the Socialist Party, will try to apply pressure on the minister to ease the squeeze on research resources.