Is the EC Afraid of Its Own Visions?

Science  02 Mar 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5816, pp. 1220b
DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5816.1220b

In a visionary phase of political decision-making, the European Commission (EC) initiated new instruments of research funding within its 6th Framework Programme (FP 6), including the Integrated Projects (IPs), large-scale interdisciplinary programs. The first ones started in early 2004 with several tens of partner organizations and funding beyond 10 million Euro. In FP 7, launched on 22 December 2006, this instrument was scaled down and—at least for the first funding cycle—nearly abandoned.

Why has this change been made? Will most of these IPs, which have at least two more years to go, be failures?

Since February 2004, we have coordinated the IP ALARM (1), which is made up of 67 partner organizations and 250 scientists from 35 countries and receives EC funding of nearly 13 million Euro. ALARM focuses on some of the main drivers of biodiversity change [climate and land use change, environmental chemicals, invasive species, and loss of pollinators (2)] and combines ecological, environmental, and economic research. The consortium includes many leading scientists, who increasingly appreciate the opportunities offered through a project of such size and scope, e.g., by forming new teams conducting inter- and transdisciplinary research.

This is exactly what is urgently needed in science, as expressed by Carpenter et al. (3): “Meeting the research needs described will require new coalitions among disciplines that traditionally have been isolated.…The [Millennium Ecosystem Assessment] has provided a road map; now, we need to start the journey.” We think that large integrated projects have the clear potential to fulfil these requirements.

By initiating the IP instrument, the European Commission created considerable support to get the journey started. Do they now intend to stop halfway?


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