Friday, 14 May 2010

Proposal to Simplify EC's Funding Process Published

Good news from Europe: an EC proposal to cut the bureaucratic nightmare of applying to the Framework Programme has been published. It's intended to cut the byzantine rules governing the negotiation of the funding contract, but retain the necessary accountability and transparency.

The proposals also suggest that the payment procedures be simplified, including allowing researchers to submit expenses claims in full rather than having to submit hundreds of smaller ones for individual items. Researchers will have to show that project milestones—or outputs—have been met, but they won’t have to account for every single euro.

It is hoped that the proposals will also make the auditing of Framework projects less onerous.

Reported in Research Fortnight, the proposals will suit those applying for funding for basic, or frontier research projects. They are intended to attract more applications from organisations such as small businesses, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the research commissioner, said.

This leaner approach has received widespread praise. “It is a breakthrough on the scale of the ERC,” says Jerzy Langer, a member of Academia Europaea, the European academy of sciences. “As various institutions have different cost systems, this flexibility and understanding will make the programmes much simpler and easier to deal with.”

“One can see the amount of thinking that was put behind this communication [from the Commission],” says Thomas Estermann, a senior programme manager at the European University Association. “Finally this issue is being taken seriously by all players, and it is accepted that some areas of the Framework programme do not work well and need to be addressed.”

The Commission’s proposals will now be forwarded to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, who will discuss the paper and publish their responses. Changes to Framework’s legal or financial structures need to be approved by the European Parliament.

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