The European Commission, in concert with key research organizations and funding agencies in the European Union (EU), yesterday (July 17) signed a statement and memorandum of understanding pledging to help EU researchers cross European borders to conduct research—a long-standing goal of many EU organizations that have pushed for the creation of the European Research Area (ERA).

“Today marks an important milestone and a basis for a new era," Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, EU commissioner for research, innovation, and science, declared at yesterday’s ceremony in Brussels. "The ERA is an idea whose time has come."

“Almost 80 percent of the research community has indicated that a lack of open and transparent recruitment hinders international mobility,” Robert-Jan Smits, the European director general for research, added at a press conference. “We are asking member states to step up the pursuit of joint research agendas, enhance competitive funding for institutions and projects and invest efficiently in...

The idea of the ERA began with physicist and former EU commissioner Philippe Busquin, who coined the term. In 2007, His successor, Slovenian Janez Potocnik, incorporated the concept of the ERA into the 6-year Framework 7 Programme funding paradigm. But “up to now, what has been done it is not enough,” Smits said yesterday. For the ERA to work, EU research organizations must find and implement better strategies, such as a common EU-wide Internet portal, to allow EU researchers to communicate job openings, share national grants, and otherwise collaborate on research endeavors. “What is needed is a system to fill research positions in a transparent, open and merit-based recruitment procedure and to step up links between industry and academia,” Smits said.

One step in the right direction, advocates agree, is the recent push towards more open-access publishing. Indeed, a new policy announced earlier this week (July 16) will require UK researchers to post any government-funded research in open-access databases within 6 months of publication.

(Hat tip to ScienceInsider.)

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