07-07-2014

Financement of research centers in case of independence: the example of NERC in the UK

One of the questions that arise in relation to research in an independent Catalonia is the situation of research centers belonging to CSIC, an institution which depends on the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness of the Spanish government.

The Spanish government could use as an example the response obtained by researchers from NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) in the UK, about the possible situation in terms of research funding in the event of a vote ‘Yes” in the Scottish referendum. We transcribe the information that has been sent to NERC staff regarding the official line of the organization through the process of independence:

-          Public bodies can continue to talk to the Scottish Government about business as usual issues – e.g. ongoing projects, etc.

-          If the Scottish Government ask for information that is readily available and in the public domain, then public bodies, including the Research Councils, should provide this.

-          UK public bodies, including the Research Councils, should not engage in any discussions that constitute, or could be constituted, as contingency planning or negotiations in the event of either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote.

-          The UK Government, including the Prime Minister has been very clear that it is not making contingency plans for Scottish independence, or pre-negotiating with the Scottish Government. If the Scottish Government want to discuss the use or ownership of specific institutions and infrastructure, the line to take is that assets and use of infrastructure would be subject to negotiations.

-          The Government has a very clear line on a future research relationship between an independent Scotland and the continuing UK: “The research councils fund UK-based activities. UK research councils, in the event of a split, would finance research activities in the continuing UK. That is how it would work. By and large, we do not finance research activities in France or Germany. We would of course collaborate on an international basis wherever possible, but this would not be on the same basis as the current UK-wide arrangements.”

-          In addition, the Research Councils can refer to the latest line to take on possible negotiations: “In the event of a majority vote in favour of independence, both the UK and Scottish Governments agree that negotiations would be needed. But that does not mean that representatives of the continuing UK would or could facilitate everything that the Scottish Government has said it hopes to achieve through independence.”

09-06-2014

(Català) Espanya i Catalunya retrocedeixen en el rànquing d’innovació europeu, el País Basc millora

Espanya i Catalunya retrocedeixen en el rànquing d’innovació europeu, el País Basc millora
Segons l’últim informe Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014 (IUS 2014) sobre innovació a la UE, tot i que Espanya ha millorat molt lleugerament el seu rendiment innovador, en la classificació europea passa del lloc 16 al 17 entre els països ”moderadament innovadors”.
L’informe, publicat fa un parell de mesos per la Unió Europea (UE), assenyala que malgrat que Europa ha avançat en innovació i està recuperant el seu retard respecte als Estats Units i el Japó, les diferències entre els seus Estats membres segueixen sent grans.
El IUS utilitza un conjunt de 25 indicadors classificats en diverses dimensions: recursos humans, sistemes d’investigació, finances i suport, inversió de les empreses, emprenedoria, etc. Amb aquests es calcula un índex amb el qual es crea el rànquing.
En l’IUS es classifica als estats membres en quatre grups diferents en funció dels seus resultats. Suècia en primer lloc, seguida de Dinamarca, Alemanya i Finlàndia, formen el grup capdavanter d’innovadors ”excel•lents”, ja que els seus resultats estan molt per sobre de la mitjana de la UE.
Àustria, Bèlgica, Xipre, Eslovènia, Estònia, França, Irlanda, Luxemburg, els Països Baixos i el Regne Unit tenen una qualificació de notable i estan lleugerament per sobre o pròxims a la mitjana.
Per la seva banda Espanya, Grècia, Itàlia, Portugal, Txèquia, Croàcia, Eslovàquia, Hongria, Lituània, Malta i Polònia estan per sota de la mitjana de la UE i són qualificats com a ”moderadament” innovadors.
Finalment, Bulgària, Letònia i Romania són considerats innovadors ”modestos” amb resultats molt per sota de la mitjana de la UE en aquest àmbit.
Tot i que el rendiment en innovació d’Espanya ha millorat entre 2006 i 2013, en la major part dels aspectes avaluats està per sota de la UE. Enguany ha baixat un lloc en la classificació, del 16 al 17, a causa d’una millora de la puntuació de la República Txeca. És probable que en els anys següents aquesta caiguda es mantingui.
En el marc de les comunitats autònomes espanyoles, en un informe europeu paral•lel per regions, el Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2014, només inclou dues comunitats de l’Estat espanyol -País Basc i Navarra – en el grup de “innovadors notables”, el segon grup. El descens relatiu més pronunciat ha tingut lloc a l’Aragó, Catalunya i Madrid, que han perdut la seva posició i ara formen part del conjunt de regions d’innovació moderada. Les Illes Balears se situen entre les regions menys innovadores del continent.
El notable diferencial vers al País Basc cal que ens faci pensar en les possibilitats que se’ns poden obrir amb un millor finançament. Cert és que de segur que el govern basc ha fet en els darrers anys polítiques d’innovació molt millors que la resta, però sens dubte, sense el recolzament econòmic que suposa el concert econòmic basc i el conveni navarrès difícil ho haguessin tingut. Donat que a nosaltres se’ns ha negat obstinadament i reiteradament aquest dret, només tenim un camí: #SISI

15-02-2014

Independence, research funding and the country that we want

A few months ago we discussed in this blog the presentation of the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence, a document which contains questions and answers about independence, some of them about research and health in an independent Scotland. Recently, an article entitled “Health on the agenda in Scottish independence referendum” has been published in Lancet. Although the article refers mainly to the specific situation of Scotland and the UK in relation to the public health system, one can draw some basic ideas which can be applied also to Catalonia.

For example, in the article it is mentioned that the Scottish Government will seek to maintain the UK-wide research funding system, with Scotland contributing directly to the Research Council budget. As it is commented in the white paper, Scotland already contributes to funding of the UK Research Councils through the tax base and the Scottish Government intends that it should continue to contribute as an independent country. What is the situation in Catalonia? Between 2008 and 2011 we received approximately 700 million annual funding from the R & D National Plan, which corresponds to 20% of the total budget in Spain. What will happen when we become independent? Will we not be allowed to access the National Plan funds? It is possible, because the attitude of the Spanish Government is not the same as the UK Government. However, we must keep in mind that we have already paid the funds of the National Plan, because we contribute to the central government income through taxes. In fact, according to estimates of the Department of Economy and Knowledge of Catalonia, Catalonia accounts for 19.4 % of total revenues of the central government, but only receives 14.2 % of the total expenditure of the state. As Josep Maria Martorell comments in a recent interview “the amount that we attract through the National Plan is probably much less than what our citizens pay. So, we should not worry too much to have access to the National Plan if we have our own resources … With the additional resources that we will obtain, we can launch our own policy of research projects.” He adds an interesting point: “I think that the Catalan Government will dare to agree common policies with neighboring countries”. Spain will be one of these neighbors. Will we dare? Will they?

Another aspect that could be highlighted from the article published in Lancet is that the Scottish independence referendum is about more than national identity. It’s certainly not a nationalistic debate—it’s very much becoming a debate about the kind of society people want to live in. In this sense, the Catalan National Assembly is making a start with the project “The country that we want”.  The project aims to create a pluralistic and participatory process in which citizens will raise the main challenges and proposals on the social, political, cultural and environmental live in a better country. It aims to be a forum to respond to questions about the independence process and its consequences. It is an exercise of sovereignty construction, with participation of different sectors of the country, the more plural and transverse the better. One of the axes of this project is “Research, knowledge and infrastructure”, and Research for Independence participates in it. We will keep you informed about the project and how you can contribute to it.

31-12-2013

Barcelona, the world’s 18 best city for higher education

Barcelona has three institutions in the World University Rankings top 400, according the Times Higher Education (THE). Catalonia has 12 universities in total, with a student population of around 235,000. Of these, eight are situated in Barcelona, with three making the top 250 of the latest World University

  • University de Barcelona (UB)
  • University Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)
  • University Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC)
  • University Pompeu Fabra (UPF)
  • University Ramon Llull (URL)
  • University Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)
  • University Internacional de Catalunya (UIC)
  • University Abat Oliba (UAO-CEU)

And other four in catalan provinces:

  • University de Vic (UVIC)
  • University de Lleida (UdL)
  • University de Girona (UdG)
  • University Rovira i Virgili (URV)

The THE are the only global university performance tables to judge world-class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook

Look at the european cities that host the most universities that appear in the latest THE:

London. With nine institutions placed in our World University Rankings top 400, four of which place in the top 40 (Imperial College of London, University College of London, London School of Economics and Political Science, King’s College of London). London is a formidable hub of higher education. A quarter of the city’s 400,000 university students come from outside the UK.

Vienna. Today the city has a thriving higher education sector, with three institutions in this year’s World University Rankings top 400, with the University of Vienna the pick of the crop (ranked 170th).

Milan. This city boasts three universities in the top 300 of this ranking. The University of Milan – Bicocca reached the 226-250 bracket.

Stockholm. It’s also one of Europe’s leading centres for higher education, with three institutions ranking in the top 200. Karolinska Institute also registers in the top 50 of this year’s World University Rankings

París It is a global centre for science and business, and boasts six of the world’s top 400 universities. Of these, the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, École Polytechnique and École Normale Supérieure all make the prestigious top 100.

Outside of Europe are: Istanbul, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, New York, Boston (Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the second and fifth place, respectively), Sydney, Melbourne, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong.

In addition, according to a study done last year by ESADE, Barcelona is the 5th city in the world and 2nd in Europe in attracting international talent to study an MBA (Master in Business Administration), which means that, as a city​​, this raise about 60 billion euros annually due to host nearly a thousand participants from these masters.

However these data contrast with the preference of Erasmus students. According to the European Commission, two universities of Valencia and two of Catalonia are in the top twenty European universities that host Erasmus students: the University of Valencia in fifth place, the Polytechnic University of Valencia in sixth position, the University of Barcelona in sixteenth position and the Technical University of Catalonia in seventeenth position. However, UAB and UB are well positioned in the ranking THE, but the two Valencian universities occupy the last positions (397 and 398 respectively).

15-12-2013

The question of “YesYes” a century after the approval of the Mancomunitat de Catalunya

The Mancomunitat de Catalunya was officially constituted on 6 April 1914, as a result of the application of the Ley de Mancomunidades Provinciales (Provincial Federations Law), approved by the Spanish Cortes and the Eduardo Dato’s government in December 1913, one century ago. The Mancomunitat was a federation of the four provincial Catalan councils and, although it was a strictly administrative institution, it was a recognition by the Spanish state of the character and unity of Catalonia. It was the first self-governing body since 1714. With it, the Catalan language returned to an official sphere of influence. Its first President was Enric Prat de la Riba and afterwards the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, both of the Lliga Regionalista. The Mancomunitat was disbanded and outlawed during Miguel Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship.

The Institution established the bases of modern Catalonia. It carried out the important task of creating an efficient infrastructure of telephones, extending the charities and health provision. The Mancomunitat also undertook initiatives to increase agricultural and forest yields, introducing technological improvements, the improvement of services and education, and promoting education in technologies necessary for Catalan industry. The Mancomunitat worked hard in the Catalan countryside to provide a solution to the crisis in farming and to promote co-operatives. The School of Agriculture and similar initiatives gave farmers and their laborers a solid training. Various departments of the Mancomunitat (Highways, Ports, Hydraulic and Railway Works, Agriculture and Forestry) improved the infrastructure of the countryside.

Another important milestone of the Mancomunitat was the promotion of the work of Pompeu Fabra, who was chiefly responsible for the current Catalan writing system and linguistic standard. The Mancomunitat de Catalunya carried out valuable work in the fields of culture, public education and social action. It set up a network of libraries around the country and promoted museums and archaeological research. It built and improved schools for primary education and vocational and professional training.

In a framework of the monografics course of High Studies and Exchange (organized by the Mancomunitat de Catalunya in order to promote and modernize the scientific renewal in our country), Albert Einstein visits the city, invited by the scientist Esteban Terradas, from 22 to 28 February 1923. Albert Einstein’s visit to Barcelona expected creating a modern scientific community in Catalonia.

2014 will be a century since the creation of one of the most important institutions that have taken place in Catalonia. But even taking our appreciation, we must ensure that 2014 goes down in history as the moment the Catalans said YesYes.

27-11-2013

How will research be funded in an independent Scotland?

Yesterday the Scottish Government issued the document “Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland”, which sets out the gains of independence for Scotland – whichever party is in government – and the vision and priorities for action if they are the first government of an independent Scotland. It consists of five parts, one of which contains 650 questions and answers about independence. We transcribed some of these issues related to research funding if Scotland becomes an independent country (questions 247 to 249 ). As in many other aspects, such as currency or even the monarchy, the current Scottish government is in favor of sharing structures and financial systems with the UK. Possibly there are differences with the situation that an independent Catalonia would live in relation to Spain. However, it is clear that researchers are conscious of the benefits of collaboration across borders, and of sharing certain infrastructures. Maybe these questions and answers could become a starting point for discussion, we invite you to share your feedback.

 

How will research be supported in an independent Scotland?

The excellence of Scottish universities is recognised internationally and they are highly successful in winning competitive funding grants. Building on their reputation our universities will continue to compete for substantial funding for their research on the same competitive basis as they do currently.

 

Will an independent Scotland set up its own research councils?

There are a number of options for research funding in an independent Scotland including establishing a Scottish Research Council for the allocation of research monies or as a mechanism for directing funding into existing pan-UK research councils. We recognise the benefits – for the academic community, business and research charities across the UK – of maintaining long-term stability in research funding and systems that support initiatives of scale and researchers working together across boundaries. With independence we will seek to maintain a common research area with the rest of the UK including existing shared Research Councils.

 

Why would UK research councils continue to fund research in an independent Scotland?

Scotland already contributes to funding of the UK Research Councils through the tax base and this Government intends that it should continue to contribute as an independent country. The excellence of Scottish universities’ research is reflected in their success in winning competitive UK Research Council grant funding.

The rest of the UK benefits from Scotland’s high quality research and our centres of excellence and shared infrastructure are used by researchers from across the UK including: five Medical Research Council research centres; five Isotope facilities; the All-Waters Combined Current and Wave Test Facility; and the Roslin Institute.

Successful research depends on collaboration across boundaries, whether disciplinary, institutional or national. Research collaboration contributes directly to the competitiveness of the Scottish and UK economies through knowledge creation and exchange and direct collaboration with business, as well as supporting intellectual life and the academic aspirations of institutions and researchers.

It is in both Scotland’s and the UK’s interests to minimise any barriers to research collaboration and to maintain a common research area.

 

How would the research councils be funded?

Scotland already contributes to the funding of the Research Councils through the tax base. Following independence, Scotland would contribute directly from the Scottish Government budget giving us a clearer role in setting the strategic objectives of these bodies. With independence, we would intend to negotiate with Westminster a fair funding formula for Scotland’s contribution based on population share but taking reasonable account of the fact that the amount of research funding received by Scottish institutions from the Research Councils may reflect higher or lower levels of funding.

30-10-2013

Knowledge transfer: from basic research to industry and the markets

Recently, the swiss company Biocartis and Hospital del Mar announced their license agreement that enables Biocartis to develop a new colon cancer test. The test is based on research results published by Dr Montagut and her team in Nature medicine on 2012. They described a specific epidermal growth factor receptor mutation which makes colorectal tumours resistant to cetuximab, whilst they remain sensitive to treatment with panitumumab. This is a clear example of how basic research results derive into benefits for the society, in this case by allowing better and personalised therapy for colon cancer according to each patient’s characteristics. Often it is perceived that basic research results have scarce or none practical applicability. And sometimes this is true, as basic research seeks knowledge as an objective itself, independently from market parameters. But fundamental research also leads to innovative and applicable new ideas. In biomedical research, for example, better knowledge of molecular mechanisms involved in pathologies enables finding new and more efficient therapeutic alternatives.

Catalan researchers publish at a comparable level to other European countries of similar size, such as the Netherlands or Denmark. However, transfer is one of the debilities of our research system, and when we compare Catalonia with these countries on patents per million of inhabitants or the ratio publications/patents, our results are not so good. Therefore, we should not forget basic research, it is necessary to foster it and provide stability and continuity to research projects, but at the same time knowledge transference has to be one of our priority objectives

27-10-2013

A bibliometric study of research in Catalonia

Online resources of “Fundació Catalana per a la Recerca i la Innovació” provides links to two indicators produced by the “Research Group of Biometrics” and the institution CERCA (http://fundaciorecerca.cat/ca/butlletins.asp?accio=carrega&id_butlleti=79).

One of them “Bibliometric analysis of the publications in the journals Science and Nature Between 1998 and 2012″, authors (R.I. Méndez – Vásquez, E. Suñén – Piyol, L. Rovira, Oct 2nd, 2013) has carried out a study about publications in Nature and Science (according to the web of Science of Thomson Reuters) and arranged all results in an online application, which enables selecting the publications from one journal or both of them, as well as selecting two different periods of time: one comprising 15 years from 1998 to 2012, and the other the most recent 5 years (2008-2012). In order to restrict the analysis to original research papers only articles, reviews and proceeding papers published in this period  have been selected for the study. For every period and subset of data countries of host organizations, production profiles using the JCR categories are available.

The authors have included and highlighted data about Catalonia. This has allowed them to position research in Catalonia in the international rankings, according to six different indicators: number of citable documents, number of citable documents per millions of people and RCA (Relative Citation Average: ratio between the average citations per citable document of the country and the global average citations per citable document of the journal for the same period of time). Additionally, these same indicators were analysed specifically for the different Autonomous Communities of Spain.
So, if you visit the web site:

http://bac.fundaciorecerca.cat/nature_science/reports?journal=SCIENCE

We can confirm the good situation of Catalonia. Taking into account the indicator number of citable documents per million, Catalonia is in the position 12 versus a total 135, and Spain (including Catalonia) does not appear until position 26. By far our small nation ranks first in the Autonomous Communities of Spain, and although the economic crisis and their subsequent grant reductions, the evolution of the published documents in this country keeps growing.

It is also interesting to see the wide profile of our research (JCR categories) as compared with those of other autonomous regions. This gives us the idea of ​​a plurality of different research centres and scientific areas where our researchers focus their work.
Catalonia:

 

G_CATALUNYA

 

The Autonomous Community of Madrid, where the paper published in these journals have clearly declined in the last two years:

 

G_Madrid

Or the Basque Country and Andalusia where the tendency in number of publications continues to grow.

 The Basque Country:

G_PaisBasc

Andalucia :

 

G_Andalusia

Or in Castilla – La Mancha, a community which has undergone a scientific standhill:

G_Castella-LaManxa

Finally, as a curiosity, the authors offer the possibility to check the trend of the publication output of Catalonia, comparing  the evolution of the number of citable documents attributed to two different countries. Here clearly, following the always universal trend of Catalan character, Catalonia leads this indicator.

G_CAT_out_Spain

G_CAT_out_EEUU