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White Paper calls for long-term planning in science

The Norwegian government wants to make research a more “integral” part of all ministries to give science in the country a long-term perspective, according to a White Paper released on 8 March.

The White Paper states that research spending pays off best if there is long-term planning involved. It recommends that the Norwegian research council, the Forskningsradet, be tasked with preparing such a long-term strategy for science in the country.

“The paper makes it clear that research has become an even more important part of all sectors of society,” said Arvid Hallen, the director general of the Forskningsradet. “This illustrates that all sectors are now incorporating a knowledge perspective as an important part of their strategic thinking.”

The White Paper also states that Norway must improve its career options for researchers, in particular those for professors. It recommends a trial system for tenure-track positions, which, the paper says, could become an essential part of academic recruiting.

The White Paper says that Norway also needs to do better when it comes to supporting industrial research. A long-term budget for research should contain plenty of funding opportunities and programmes for businesses, including a tax reduction scheme for small businesses, it adds.

Not much has changed in terms of research priorities, however. The White Paper recommends the same priority research fields as its predecessors. Most notably it says that Norwegian research expertise should be strengthened in marine and fisheries research, where there are excellent cooperation opportunities, and where Norway is already recognised as a leader.

“The challenges in Norwegian research in the years to come will be related to focusing on the right areas, investing adequate amounts of funding, achieving effective use of resources, and managing to utilise the results well enough,” said Hallen. “I believe this White Paper provides a good starting point for success.”

However, the White Paper contains little information about potential spending increases. The Forskerforbundet, Norway’s research union, has stated that clarity must be given on the future development of the research budget, if the White Paper’s proposed long-term strategy is to work.

“The government needs to be ambitious to increase research efforts on par with the other Nordic countries,” said Phillip Aaslestad, the Forskerforbundet’s leader.