British Taxpayers Fund German Research

In news which will no doubt cause ruffled feathers in academe, it has been revealed that nearly 1.3 million euro (around 900,000 GBP) of UK scientific research grants have been transferred to German universities over the last few years. “One Oxford scholar was incensed by the departure of one of his key researchers to a German university ‘taking 650,000 GBP of UK taxpayers’ money with him as a generous dowry,’ he said.”

Though Stuart Ward of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) claims that the agreement between Britain and Germany is a two way thing, funnily enough there are no figures for German money arriving in British Universities.

Though this is currently an agreement between the EPSRC and its German equivalent the German Research Foundation (DFG) there must have been Government support as this is government grant funding (that’ll be taxpayers cash we are talking about – bet Joe down The Dog and Duck will be delighted that his hard earned cash is going to help Fritz produce bangs and stinks). Worse this is one of those semi-detached arms of Quangocracy with arms length lack of control and no ultimate (official) responsibility, or as they describe themselves a “a non-departmental governmental public body.

Worse still this has the unmistakable whiff of a pilot scheme for a pan-European project where poor countries will be able to offer lucrative packages (in kind) to researchers to poach them and their grants. I give it two years before the first proposal hits the European Parliament for this to become official policy. Shall we say an integral part of Framework Programme 7.

Indeed, this already seems to be well on the way to fruition.  As the above-mentionded German Research Foundation DFG writes on its website, “[a]nother way in which the DFG’s international funding is developing is international funding. The close cooperation between the DFG, the Austrian Science Fund (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung, FWF) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (Schweizer Nationalfonds, SNF), termed D-A-CH, has given rise to a cooperation agreement allowing researchers to receive individual or joint funding from organisations located abroad (‘money follows researcher’) in cases of particular interest to the organisation concerned. Similar agreements have also been concluded with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the United Kingdom and with the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). To date, twelve European countries have signed a letter of intent to this end, and more are expected to follow.”

So what we have here is a driver of the European Research Area, deciding where national research budgets can be spent, what is more: encouraging them to be spent in countries other than the taxpayers’ own. What is telling is the priority given in the following statement: “The aim of the examples given, as well as other activities, is to use the DFG’s prestige, principles, instruments and processes to further the development of the European Research Area through joint funding mechanisms, while maintaining an emphasis on basic research in European research policy.”
Note that the aim, that is the first and primary aim isn’t research, but the creation of a fully functioning European Research Area. (pdf)