Organization offers cash to help life scientists set up in less-developed nations
By Stephen Pincock | March 6, 2006
Researchers who are thinking about setting up a lab in one of Europe's less scientifically developed countries were offered a cash incentive this week by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), which has announced a new funding scheme that could net scientists ?50,000 annually for 5 years. Still, some scientists expressed doubts about the feasibility of the program, and whether it's enough to entice researchers to move who weren't already planning to do so.
The new arrangement, called the EMBO Strategic Development Installation Grants, will initially be offered to life scientists who want to set up labs in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey.
The aim is to build the scientific infrastructure in participating countries by bringing in talented researchers, the program's manager Gerlind Wallon told The Scientist. "The initial thought was to identify countries which spend below a certain level of gross domestic product on research and development and make them part of this program," she said. Other countries are expected to sign up in the near future, she added.
The program is open to scientists of any age, so long as they have an "excellent publication record," Wallon added. They must also be in negotiations for a full-time position in one of the participating countries before applying -- although in the first year, EMBO will also consider candidates who are already recently installed.
Frank Gannon, EMBO's executive director, said in a statement that the launch of these grants is timely. "Europe is increasingly aware of the need to strengthen science in all countries of the European Research Area. This is exactly what these grants aim to do."
But not everybody was convinced. Paul Andrews, a postdoc cell biologist at the University of Dundee in the UK, said he thought the program would most likely appeal to researchers who originally came from one of the participating countries and wanted to return. "I can't imagine it would be an incentive for someone based in the UK or Germany, say, to go to one of these countries to set up a lab," he told The Scientist.
Shamshad Cockroft, professor of cell physiology at University College London, added that while the scheme seemed like a good idea in principle, she wondered how it would work in practice. "Because most of these countries don't have the infrastructure, I just know that they have problems of a different nature," she said.
"You need a critical mass of researchers so if you are running an experiment and need a reagent or a piece of equipment you can buy it quickly or go down the corridor to another lab and borrow it," said Cockroft, who is a member of the Career Development Committee of the European Life Scientist Organization. "I don't think you can bypass the infrastructure development."
EMBO said that a central part of the scheme will be a guarantee of ongoing career opportunities for awardees beyond the duration of the initial grant. The organization is also asking institutions at which the new labs are established to make a commitment to ongoing support of the scientists.
Links within this article
EMBO Strategic Development Insertion Grants
A.Scott, "Enlarged EU good for science," The Scientist, May 3, 2005.
S. Pincock, "EU promises new funding deal," The Scientist, February 2, 2006.
A.Scott, "EU explores funding options," The Scientist, December 20, 2004.