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"Promotion of multidisciplinary European research must be improved"

2012-01-11 - Informação à Imprensa

Today in the European Parliament, Maria da Graça Carvalho co-hosted a seminar on multidisciplinarity within European research with Britta Thomsen MEP, and creoDK, Capital Region Denmark EU Office.

"From theory to practice to policy" tried to explore the structural barriers that limit successful multidisciplinary research and the methods to overcome these barriers. For Ms Carvalho the main purpose was to gather information from the experts "in order to improve the quality of our response to the Commission's proposal with regard to Horizon 2020 as it now begins to go through the European Parliament".

The seminar marked the beginning of a process towards achieving policy recommendations applicable to the EU with the aim to unlock the full potential of multidisciplinarity in European research.

In the capacity as a member of the ITRE committee Ms Carvalho made the opening remarks and said that the proposal of the European Commission represents "a real step forward and Horizon 2020 is obviously the fruit of considerable commitment on the part of the Commission. It represents an excellent basis on which we can now build".

However, Ms Carvalho added that there are some details that "still have to be filled in and some aspects that could, undoubtedly, be improved. These include the promotion of multidisciplinary research"The most obvious difficulties here, added Ms Carvalho, are bridging different scientific cultures and overcoming the feeling that we - I mean natural and social scientists, engineers and so on - are all speaking in different tongues

Ms Carvalho added that another difficulty is that whilst most research programmes are conceived vertically, "multidisciplinary research requires horizontal cooperation".  The result is a clash of perspectives and of intentions. "Horizon 2020 has made a real effort to deal with this problem - especially in the societal challenges pillar - but much can still be done in this respect"

The background for the seminar was the lack of true multidisciplinary research within European research projects. A lot of researchers complain about the fact that even though multidisciplinarity is something that is strongly encouraged in the research work-programmes as well as from the political side, there are several structural barriers that hinder or inhibit multidisciplinary research in practice. 

In light of this, the seminar gathered stakeholders from the European community along with European experts on the field in order to discuss these structural challenges and put forward some clear policy recommendations for future funding programmes such as Horizon 2020. Speakers included Philip Campbell, Editor-in-Chief, Nature publishing group; Professor Paul Boyle, Science Europe; Maja Horst, Head of Department, University of Copenhagen; Marion Dewar, member of cabinet Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner of Research and Innovation and Professor Mariano Gago, Technical University of Lisbon They offered their insights and advice on the issue, reflecting the increasing demand from both public and private research funding agencies for multidisciplinary research.