ESF's Governing Council meeting in Budapest gives 'go ahead' to key measures

April 24, 2007

(BUDAPEST, Hungary) -- The ESF Governing Council has taken a number of important steps aimed at advancing the European research agenda.

Held over the 19th and 20th of the Governing Council was the first following the Governance changes agreed by the ESF Assembly in November. The "new look" Governing Council comprises single representatives at Head of Organisation level from each of ESF's member countries.

This new configuration provided the environment for discussions on a number of key issues for both ESF and the European research scene in general.

Ian Halliday, President of the ESF, said: "We are faced with a number of key challenges, and it is crucial that we work together, review our practices, and consolidate our efforts."

Green Paper on Future Perspectives for the ERA

To respond to the ERA "green paper" consultation, ESF will work with the European Heads of Research Councils (EuroHORCs) to provide a common input on behalf of their members. A joint high-level task force will highlight key issues for the ERA and outline ways to address these issues.

ESF Science Advisory Board

In an important decision for the operation of ESF, the Council approved the terms of reference and the potential membership of a Science Advisory Board, a high-level advisory panel comprising the chairs of ESF Standing Committees and independent scientists under an independent chair. The Board will play a key role in overseeing the quality of ESF's procedures and will provide high level scientific advice in respect of key instruments, policy and strategy and the launch of major new activities.

The Membership of the Board will be announced shortly in a separate press release.

ESF Budget

In preparation of the 2008 budget, which will take place in September, the Council discussed the Strategic Directions for ESF in 2008 and beyond. The discussions provide the opportunity for ESF's Member Organisations to set the agenda for ESF and to ensure that it has the means to deliver that agenda. In addition to giving important advice on the rationale to be used in matching the agenda to the budget discussion, the Council strongly endorsed the overall Strategic Directions which focus on investing in strategy; improving the quality of Forward Looks; providing high quality support to MO Fora; developing the strategic role of Standing Committees; consolidating the ESF Research conference scheme; developing the peer review role for the ESF and maintaining quality assurance through the new Science Advisory Board.

Forward Looks

The Governing Council strongly supported the continuing development of the Forward Look instrument as ESF's flagship strategic instrument.

The Council approved the funding for the Forward Look in the topic Non-Commercial Clinical Studies, which received extensive support from ESF Member Organisations and from high-level international experts as being "of great importance for the progress of medical research in Europe". The launch of this Forward Look will be announced in a press release.

Three highly promising topics were given the go ahead to conduct "scoping workshops" to refine them to the stage when they could be launched as Forward Looks. These are; Re-emergence of Religion as a Social Force in Europe; Ageing, Health and Pensions in Europe and Foundations of Future Information Technologies.

Member Organisation Fora

The use of this new strategic ESF instrument, following the recommendations of the ESF Strategic Plan, enables ESF, its Member Organisations and other stakeholders to engage in networking, exchange of best practice and the development of new strategies in topics which do not, at least at that time, need calls for proposals or research funding. The Council noted the successful progress of the Fora in Peer Review and in Social Sciences in Eastern and Central Europe (MOCEE) and approved the launch during the next months of new Fora in the areas of Evaluation of Research Programmes and in Research Careers.

Research Infrastructures

The Council received a presentation of the Draft Report of the EC/ESF/EuroHORCs Survey of European Research Infrastructures. In endorsing the report, the Council expressed their thanks to the EC and ESF staff involved and to the ESF Standing Committees for the work in conducting the Survey. The Council looked forward to the strategic discussions which would now be possible on the basis of the survey's database and to the proposed establishment of a Research Infrastructures database portal. The Survey Report will be published in the coming months.

Looking Ahead

The Council agreed that the strategic topic for the ESF's 2007 General Assembly, taking place in Strasbourg on November 28-30, will be "The ERA in the world wide context". This topic will give ESF Member Organisations the opportunity to discuss amongst themselves and with invited experts from around the world the external relationships of the ERA, and the influences of the rest of the world on the ERA.

The 2008 General Assembly will be hosted by Swedish Member Organisations, in Gothenburg.

European Science Foundation

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