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The usefulness and possible scope of common guidelines / shared principles for external funding in the ERA context

October 19, 2009
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Tatjana Volkova

Discussant session 1.3

 

Following the invitation to focus debate of the workshop session around the two main issues mentioned by Sabine Herlitschka toward responsible funding conditions in the European Research Area I support the idea that there is a strong need for development of common shared principles (guidelines) for external funding in the ERA context.

 

1. The usefulness of common guidelines/shared principles for external funding

 

Due to the current context of insufficient funding for higher education institutions in Europe and the globalization the Universities are operating in a more competitive environment.  Thus the University and other Research Institutions leaders have to develop entrepreneurial mindset and implement managerial approaches for ensuring long term sustainability of Universities and other Research Institutions. The clusters based economic policies also require stronger collaboration of all actors involved at many different levels based on common understanding of funding conditions for research and of their impact on the sustainability of the Universities and other Research institutions. As it follows from European Clusters Memorandum the strategic importance of clusters for European innovation and global competitiveness is only now becoming fully recognizing and success depends on concerted changes in policies, programmes, initiatives, and thinking at many different levels and in many different places across Europe. The 7th Framework Programme is already a good sample of including a wide range of activities open to clusters, innovation and competitiveness. 

 

The opening debate of necessity for developing common guidelines/shared principles of external funding in ERA context is in line with clusters and partnership development and will help to foster mutual trust and understanding between all partners involved in research over Europe as well will serve as a good sample for developing a new initiatives based on already existing experience and expertise. The necessity of developing common shared funding principles is linked to the fact that different funding schemes impose different (even conflicting) rules for institutions that make it difficult for them to establish well designed processes and have heavy burden on time and human resources. The common guidelines would serve as a good communication and transparency tool on national, transnational and regional level with wider public.  

 

On the level of society (including NGO’s; mass media, etc.) the development of common guidelines/shared principles of external funding will help to build mutual understanding and trust, to increase awareness of the research importance for European innovation and global competitiveness as well  necessity to increase funding for the research both from public and from private resources.  It will be helpful in communication process with society for increasing transparency of funding of research activities and helping to build trust between Universities and other Research Institutions, business, society and government.

 

The European University Association (EUA) project „Towards full costing in European universities” showed that Higher Education Institutions are still largely state funded, but at the same time institutions have to adapt to more business like perspectives and have to pursue alternative income streams. However, Institutions to a large extent are not sufficiently prepared for this. The new Project of EUA – European Universities – diversifying Income Streams (EUDIS) is looking to how universities with different missions and profiles are diversifying their income streams, by identifying the essential external conditions as well as the obstacles and pitfalls involved. The first results of the Project are showing that the lack of common terminology, accounting principles, nationally agreed standards towards full costing models, the lack of risk management policies, etc. are issues which need to be addressed by all partners involved in funding research for building mutual trust and respect. 

 

2. The possible scope of common guidelines / shared principles for external funding in the ERA context.

 

There are three primary actors to be interested in the development of shared principles for external funding:  governments, other funders, Universities and other Research Institutions.  Each of partners has a different set of issues to be addressed regarding the external funding in order to demonstrate its own contribution towards the results expected. The design of common principles could be focused on the following:

 

·         on the level of Governments -  setting clear incentives for introducing full costs model at Universities and to be facilitator of the move towards it; to initiate the development of  joint terminology as „common language” of effective communication tool for partners involved in funding  Universities and other Research Institutions;  increasing awareness of responsible funding of all partners involved; establishing clear auditing structure for Universities and other Research Institutions which will be helpful for other public control and external auditing institutions to understand the funding mechanisms of Universities and other Research Institutions; developing efficient and effective research public funding policies at national level; fostering development of regional cooperation in attracting external funding;  developing jointly with Universities and other Research Institutions the measurements for research outputs aiming at measuring effectiveness of research ; developing a road map of Intellectual Property Rights Protection in order to foster commercialization of research results where its appropriate; setting favourable environment and incentives for the commercialization of research results based on “win-win” principle; developing fiscal policies on national level for fostering external research funding;

·         on the level of Universities and Research Institutions – setting common financial accounting and managerial accounting principles; implementing the sophisticated financial and risk management principles; developing  research funding policies based on socially responsibility principles and Code of Ethics; developing trust by having in place greater transparency and communication tools with society; increasing of awareness of benefits of full costs models among staff and developing necessary competencies; active involvement in developing costing terminology; 

·         on the level of funders – understanding the full costs methodology and pricing the research services;  following the social responsibility and  „good for all”  principles of funding research; seeking for continuity and long term relationship development;

 

Development of common guidelines/joint principles for external funding is only a part of the more complex task. The more essential part will be the effective communication and monitoring the progress of its implementation.

 

In conclusion, it is important to mention that Universities and Research Institutions themselves need to have long term goals and multiply purposes in mind when applying for external funding in order to keep growth led by mission and targets set by Universities and other Research Institutions instead of being led by market forces and external funding providers.

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