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More nations could back EU push to boost research management

Image: Craig Nicholson for Research Professional News

Earma 2023: Commission warns that countries not joining ‘Action 17’ priority “won’t have a voice”

More EU member states could yet throw their support behind a policy push to improve research management and its contribution to research and innovation systems, the European Commission has said.

Amid past scepticism from national governments about the idea, Commission policy officer Stijn Delauré (pictured) warned that countries that did not sign up could suffer in future.

“We need to make the R&I system stronger, and the research management community has a crucial role in that,” he said.

Any countries that do not commit to supporting what is called Action 17 “might be handicapped” in developing policies to improve their systems through research management, Delauré suggested.

Setting priorities

Action 17 is one of 18 priorities for the European Research Area policy package in 2022-24 that received backing from enough member states to be taken forward, out of 20 that were proposed. Through the action, interested member states are now working on policies to help increase the capacity, skills, recognition and networking of research managers.

But the backing of 15 member states required to take Action 17 forward was reached only in February this year, months after what was meant to be the cutoff point.

No comprehensive list of which countries have signed up has been released, leaving many in research confused about whether their own nations have joined.

Speaking at the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators annual conference in Prague on 25 April, Delauré said that, as the supposed deadline approached a year earlier, there had been “a lot of scepticism” about Action 17, which only seven countries supported at the time.

“Government officials did not even know in several cases what a research manager is or does,” he said. “Some found the scope of the action too wide…Several member states also said that this was not a priority for them, and that they did not have the resources needed and people that could help them follow up this action at ministerial level.”

No money down

Delauré said the Commission thinks part of what brought reluctant member states around was that the Commission dropped a request to devote funding to the action. This was instead changed to merely a request to delegate an expert to discuss policy needs, he said.

“That’s why now we see that several member states who previously did not commit now committed and delegated experts to join us,” Delauré added.

Now, the Commission is focusing on discussions with the community and identifying what is needed, he told the Earma meeting.

“We started with recognition of the profession and now we move forward to upskilling,” Delauré said.

“I’m sure more member states will get interested if we show evidence of the value of research managers…Action 17 tries to identify the main remaining gaps in all countries, and if a country wants to raise its voice, it needs to be there.”

Research Professional News is media partner for the Earma 2023 conference in Prague. Read all of the coverage here.