College: how do European researchers work collectively?

“Overall, research cooperation in Europe is doing well,” says French university president Manuel Tunon de Lara, but it could do better. ” A European Union countries, even those with a tradition of research such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom or Italy, can only be saved if they join forces. The European force must emerge much stronger. “

However, researcher Marion Maisonobe, who worked on the geography of research activities, noted that “in Europe in 2014 45% of scientific cooperation takes place between cities in the same country, 30% between cities in European countries and 25% between European cities with cities on different continents. These shares are stable during the period from 1999 to 2014.

For her, this stability is explained by the age of these areas for cooperation. “If the state remains the strongest level of structuring, the European level is also a space for structuring relations long, even before European programs with learned societies, the emergence of European conferences,” adds -she.

Researchers are verifying this in the field. For Jean-François Doussin, CNRS Atmospheric Chemistry Researcher and Coordinator of the European Eurochamp Project, “Europe is a natural source of exchange because researchers get to know each other through learned societies and international organizations, and because we are encouraged to do so.“.

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On the other hand, Rhine Baptiste Gault, head of the Tomographic Atomic Probe Research Group at the Max-Planck Institut für Eisenforschung in Düsseldorf, observes the same exchange rate: “We have a lot of industrial and academic cooperation in Europe, researchers know how to find us when needed. ”However, the researcher adds“ it is difficult to have funding mechanisms ”.

The EEuropean Union countries, even those with a tradition of research – such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom or Italy – can only be saved if they join forces. (M. Tunon de Lara, French University)

Whereas if the European Union encourages researchers to cooperate, in particular through framework programs such as Horizon 2020 or the new Horizon Europe, the administrative burden is very high in terms of access to the funding that these programs offer. “French researchers are often reluctant to submit their projects because administrative and financial support for research has been quite weak for several years,” says Jean-François Doussin. This is confirmed by his colleague from Düsseldorf, for whom “Europe requires the construction of large projects, while small projects are easier to set up”.

These framework programs are currently the subject of cooperation with countries outside the European Union, such as Switzerland, but now also the United Kingdom. So much so that European researchers such as biologist and Nobel laureate Emmanuelle Charpentier or sociologist Helga Nowotny have signed call on politicians to sign the agreement as soon as possible.

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but European cooperation also takes place thanks to major research infrastructures such as CERN in Geneva, the European Center for Marine Biological Resources. It’s going through, too funding of major research projects, such as the MOSAIC expedition to Svalbard in northern Norway. These infrastructures are subject to agreements between the states and the European Commission.

We have a lot of industrial and academic cooperation in Europe, researchers know how to find us if needed. ( B.Gault)

In addition, European states can financial cooperation itself. Baptiste Gault thinks that “for France, where relatively little money is spent on infrastructure, Sending researchers abroad would be good for them to have access to infrastructures that are not available. ” According to him, “France should therefore facilitate these exchanges. Today in Düsseldorf, it is easier to have a Chinese doctoral student who comes with a scholarship from the Chinese government than to have a French-funded Frenchman here.”

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Finally, in 2018, Emmanuel Macron launched a new inter-university collaboration tool at the Sorbonne called the “European University”. Although this project has materialized through the creation of 41 university alliances across Europe, their goal is primarily on higher education.

Éric Tschirhart, Professor at the University of Luxembourg and Coordinator of the European University Universeh, testifies to the usefulness of this cooperation mechanism: “We are working here in Luxembourg on everything related to space law and this alliance has allowed us to work with the Supaéro school in Toulouse. Without it, our research teachers would never have met. “

The Universeh Alliance has allowed us to work with the Supaéro school in Toulouse. Without it, our teacher-researchers would never have met. (E. Tschirhart, University of Luxembourg)

And in this contract, research accounts for about 20% of the budget. For Universeh, “the total research budget is two million euros, to be distributed over three years among five partners,” the Luxembourg researcher said.

If a political stimulus forced French universities to be very present in the system, other European universities seem less enthusiastic. These alliances have just been formed, we will have to wait for the real results …

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