What is "Science Connect?"

One of the most frequently asked questions I heard over the past three years when meeting colleagues or other science stakeholders was, “So what’s become of ESF?”

Well… I’m delighted to say we’re alive and kicking!

The ESF Association will remain on the European research landscape, and very productively so.

To this end, I’ve spent a good  part of my time during these past three years, along with former CEO and current President Martin Hynes, and other colleagues, convincing our former governance that the tremendous value of ESF’s 42 years of expertise in science management should not be wasted.

Fortunately for science and the European Research Area, the final decision allowed ESF to remain on the scene, but with a quite different remit. That is, to act as a science service provider for institutions and funders of research, and to continue to disseminate best practices through the services we are now proposing.

What now? Science Connect!

The ESF Association remains with its institutional name. It continues to have members, and to support these members in terms of networking, national road mapping efforts, specialised reports and seminars, establishment of project consortia, etc.

The services available for public and private stakeholders range from peer-review, evaluation, project and programme management to career tracking platforms, and the hosting of specialised structures and expert boards.

These services will be developed and offered through the new expert services division of the European Science Foundation: SCIENCE CONNECT.

Science Connect is launched officially, with a new web site (www.esf.org or www.scienceconnect.eu) and an ambitious mission: to continue supporting the development of the European Research Area through the provision of science services and the development of proper tools and metrics for scientific decision-makers.

42 years of setting science agendas for Europe

Over the past four decades, the European Science Foundation has supported over 300,000 scientists from 186 countries through some 2,000 programmes and networks, funded by 80 Member Organisations in 30 countries, extending well beyond Europe.

We have trained several generations of science officers and science administrators. In turn, these have gone elsewhere to apply the excellent practices we have developed. This includes programme and project management, peer-review and evaluation of grants or institutions, science policy and strategy setting, future scoping and science road mapping.

Funding gap

All this comes at a price though: ESF will not fund collaborative, cross-border research anymore. Who will? Nobody really knows.

Major instruments such as EUROCORES, the Research Networking Programmes or the Exploratory Workshops have disappeared from the scene and have not really been replaced by other existing mechanisms.

Recently an independent forum organised by the Initiative for Science in Europe (ISE) concluded there was “…a significant funding gap after the demise of the EUROCORES instrument and that there is currently no other scheme which addresses the promotion of bottom-up, cross-border collaborative research in a similarly comprehensive way.” (see http://www.initiative-science-europe.org/2016fundinggap/Conclusions_ISE_funding-gap.pdf).

We are certainly glad to find some echo of our concern on this critical matter. One thing is certain: scientific decision-makers will have to address this gap so that the pace of building the European Research Area does not slow, or stop altogether.

A new calling

Meanwhile, I am optimistic about the ESF’s and Science Connect’s future. We have supported and funded so many research projects, and we have so much experience in terms of managing the evaluation of our own grants, that supporting others to do it now becomes a natural move.

We have developed very robust and responsible peer-reviewing and evaluation guidelines that can be put to use in places where these best practices are not yet fully developed. We have also built an invaluable database of tens of thousands of scientists, with whom we are working for evaluation and peer review. We are, therefore, uniquely positioned to provide the scientific research community and funding agencies, both public and private, with expert, independent research support services.

Our intention is to be a key partner in delivering a globally competitive European Research Area. (See the article on this subject from Research Professional)

And we will strive to provide you with regular updates on our activities and projects through our social media accounts and posts on this blog, “The Science Connector”.

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