Monday, January 28, 2013

EU politics: a picture of ignorance

Observer 027-nur.jpg

From the same wellspring as Mr Cameron telling us that we have to be in the EU to be part of the Single Market, we now have Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, telling us that we've got to be in the EU to "win" EU science funding.

Notwithstanding the fact that we are net contributors to the EU budget, and could afford to take up the EU-funded programme and still save money, the man is talking out of his posterior. It is not necessary to be in the EU to take part in EU research programmes. 

The evidence for this is our old friend Norway, which takes a very active part in the programme, without being a member of the EU. Thus, through the Research Council of Norway, it participates in the Seventh Framework Programme. So far, it has been involved in 1,139 projects, contrasting with Ireland with about the same population, which has roughly the same input. Despite being an EU member, it participates in only 1,079 projects. Furthermore, we are told that:
Norway has long traditions in participating in EU RTD actions. It first started in 1987 on a programme level. The EEA agreement (from 1.1.1994) gives Norway full rights and obligations in the framework programmes. Norway's participation in EU Framework Programmes has resulted in a research community that is far more engaged than before, both in European research collaboration and as a participant taking responsibility for structuring and internationalising Norwegian research.
Additionally, Norway is also part of the European Research Area, and of COST (European Cooperation in the Field of Scientific and Technical Research), and of the European Science Foundation (ESF). 

A very detailed evaluation of the participation is here, from which we learn that there is a payment made for participation, amounting in 2010 to £142 million, accounting for nearly 80 percent of Norway's £179 million contribution to the EU budget. 

However, it certainly gets value for money. Norway is also actively involved in policy co-ordination activities outside the framework programme (FP). It has participated as observer in European Research Area Committee (ERAC) meetings, dealing with financial co-ordination outside of the FP and the development of better framework conditions for research in Europe (mobility, careers, intellectual property and so on). 

ERAC will likely be the platform where the European Commission will discuss its plans for ERA-type regulations and directives and seek sufficient support from the Member States before launching anything. 

Norway participates in ERA-policy committees such as the Strategic Forum for International Science and Technology Co-operation (SFIC), the High Level Group on Joint Programming (GPC), the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), the Steering Group on Human Resources and Mobility, the Working Group on Knowledge Transfer and the European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC). 

In the past five years Norway was also invited to participate in the Informal Ministerial Competitiveness Council. 

Thus although not an EU Member State Norway has actively taken part in policy co-ordination activities. Given the stability of the EEA agreement its role does not have to be renegotiated with each new Framework Programme. 

So, it would appear that Sir Paul Nurse, the man who thinks that human activity contributes seven times more CO2 to the atmosphere than derives from natural sources such as the oceans, knows as little about the workings of the EU as he does about climate science – unaware that Norway has been in the EU research programme for over 25 years. 

But that does not stop the legacy media giving him free access to spread his misinformation and propaganda. In that, at least, we are not surprised. It was ever going to be thus.