Monday, 23 May 2011

UK's 'Dr Doolittle' Stance on FP8

BIS has published the UK's official response to the EC's consultation on the future of the Framework Programme. The 'Common Strategic Framework', which will take over from FP7, is intended to bring together a number of European funding streams, including the Framework Programme, the Cohesion Policy and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.

Generally, BIS was happy with the proposals, and it thought that the time was right to consider the way forward. However, it did suggest that the EC should consider a 'pushmi-pullyu' set up for future funding:

'The UK proposes that the bulk of future funding is based on two broad pillars addressing: a key technology/knowledge "push" and a challenge "pull".'

A push and a pull. Hmm. It took me a while to get my head around this. When does a push become a pull? Surely when it comes to research funding any kind of impetus is really just, well, a moving force, whether it be pushing or pulling? Why make the distinction? Isn't this all just semantics?

Well. From what I understand, the 'challenge pull' is to tug recalcitrant mules on to the green fields of the 'grand challenges'. Here they should ruminate on the lush topics of climate change, energy, water, and food security, protection of natural resources and the ageing population. The 'technology push' is when you open the field gate, crack the whip and let the young colts gambol in the wide open rolling plains.

So we're all clear then? That's all very well, but what happens when, instead of mules and colts you have a pushmi-pullyu? What if the colts are recalcitrant and the mules gambol? Oh the future of Euro-funding. It's a positive farmyard of poetential misunderstanding. If we could only talk to the animals...

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