The independent experts’ evaluation report on the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for Research and Innovation has just been made publicly available of the European website (http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=newsalert&year=2015&na=na-191115).
In the report a number of key achievements of FP7 are highlighted, together with 5 major recommendations for future EU R&I policies:
(a) Ensure focus on critical challenges and opportunities in the global context; (b) Align research and innovation instruments and agendas in Europe; (c) Integrate the key components of the Framework Programmes more effectively; (d) Bring science closer to the European people; (e) Establish strategic program monitoring and evaluation.
However, one of the things that strike me most in this rich report lies at page 52. The table visualizes the Marie Curie Actions (MCA) patterns of mobility. The United Kingdom is the most attractive country for MCA fellows (the reports embarrassingly says “obviously”), with more than 3.600 incoming MCA researchers, and only 600 outgoing ones. Countries like Germany, France and The Netherlands have developed extensive exchange with other EU countries, but do not show a significant net gain. That is, the numbers of incoming and outgoing researchers are equal.
What is embarrassing is the net outflow experienced by Mediterranean countries, with Italy leading what could be labelled an “exodus”. While Italian universities in the period 2007-2013 have welcomed 800 incoming researchers, they have renounced to 2.300 Marie Curie recipients, i.e., excellent researchers positioning themselves in the EU top 15% each year.
This is embarrassing first and foremost for Italian universities, which disown those same scholars that are an excellent “product” of their programs. But this is embarrassing also for the Italian Government, in a moment in which the Ministry of Education, University and Research is up to issue a new National Plan for Research.
We cannot but hope that the minister is going to read the expert evaluation report.