A bleak Horizon

News on the progress of the European budget negotiations for 2014–2020 are not good. With the pervasive push for austerity and the conflicting political agendas by different member states, such as the high farming subsidies, it's starting to look probable that the Commission's 80 billion euro proposal for research could see a cut as steep as 12%. This would kill the promise of growth in European research funding that was hoped for, and would be particularly serious for Marie Curie and ERC grants for young researchers – me included.

Last week's Nature Physics editorial already sounds hopelessly hopeful (behind a paywall):

Emotions run high as the European Commission's ambitious framework for research and development forms the focus of a special budget summit in Brussels.

The jewel in the crown of the European Commission's seven-year budget set out in summer 2011 was, for many, Horizon 2020 — a pledge for 80 billion towards ensuring Europe's global competitiveness in research and innovation. Aimed at promoting excellence in science, the programme identifies the development of talent and research infrastructure as key areas for targeted funding, whilst stressing the need to establish Europe as an attractive destination for the world's best researchers.

As part of their promise to agree on elements of the budget framework by the end of 2012, the Council of the European Union scheduled an extraordinary summit of European heads of state for 22–23 November 2012. But in the wake of economic unrest, certain member states had threatened to make cuts in the Commission's proposal, prompting widespread concern over the fate of the framework.

Lobbying for Horizon 2020 gathered momentum late in October, when the European Parliament passed a resolution emphasizing “the need to enhance, stimulate and secure the financing of research and innovation” (available via http://go.nature.com/CMESuv) and issuing mild warnings to member states unwilling to co-operate. A letter in support of the proposal, signed by 54 Nobel laureates and five Fields Medallists, fanned the flames — as did an online petition circulated by young researchers.

As Nature Physics goes to press, the outcome of this summit remains unclear. But a vote against such necessary measures would seem imprudent, particularly at so crucial a time for initiatives fostering economic growth.

In any case, signing the petition mentioned in the Nature News article doesn't take much time and can't hurt: http://www.no-cuts-on-research.eu/index.php?file=home.htm