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MEPs told to study evidence in ERA law debate

Interest group Science Europe has said that the European Parliament must consider evidence before “prescribing cures”, in its response to a manifesto that suggests introducing legislation on the European Research Area.

In the manifesto, Towards a Maastricht for Research, MEPs said that the existing voluntary approach to the ERA is not working and that member states need a push to make it a reality. It follows a report on ERA that showed slow progress and admitted it would not be completed by 2014, as originally planned.

Although Science Europe says it is pleased the Parliament is discussing the issue, it offers some words of caution, saying that ERA is a globally competitive research environment that must be allowed to evolve and be creative.

“It is a long-term project, and to strive for its ‘completion’ would be to lack ambition,” the statement says.

“Any policies or legislative measures need to be based on a sound analysis of what works and what does not. We need more evidence-based policy and less policy-based evidence,” it continues. “Let’s apply scientific rigour to science policy and legislative decisions, especially when they have the potential to have disruptive effects on our research systems.”

The response continues to say that mobility and collaboration “are not ends in themselves, and are only justified in so far as they support scientific endeavours”. It also notes research commissioned by Science Europe showed similar levels of collaboration between researchers in European countries and between researchers in different US states.

“This begs the question: are we focusing only on the negative, instead of recognising and playing to our strengths?” the group asks.

It says that there must be diversity to allow different models for cooperation within Horizon 2020 and that collaboration must be allowed to continue in a responsive and flexible way.

“We would like to accept this invitation to discuss ERA policy in the same spirit: responsively and without any pre-conceptions,” it says.