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Government scraps research fund in 2012 budget

The Norwegian government's budget for 2012 on 6 October introduces significant changes to the way in which public sector research is funded in the country.

Public sector research in Norway is partly paid for using the interest payments from a national research fund. The fund, worth 80 billion kronor (€10bn), was established in 1999 with a fixed interest payment for 10 years. But when the ten year term ran out, the future interest payments would have halved because of lower returns resulting from the financial crisis. The government has therefore decided to scrap the fund and make direct payments for research from annual budgets. The payments from the fund were equivalent to 16 per cent of the total science budget.

The move has given researchers in Norway cause for concern about the future stability of their funding. “We now expect the government to establish a mechanism to safeguard the interests the fund was designed to protect so that we get long term funding of the central priorities,” said Arvid Hallen, the head of the Norwegian Research Council.

But the government says that the scrapping of the fund was necessary to ensure the long term viability of Norwegian public sector research. “We can not allow interest payments to determine how much we invest in research,” said Tora Aasland, the Norwegian minister for research.