Letter from the Editor

bridges vol. 29, April 2011 / Letter from the Editor

By Caroline Adenberger

Dear Reader,

After months of political wrestling on Capitol Hill and coming dangerously close to a government shutdown only one week ago, President Obama last Friday finally signed into law a budget bill for Fiscal Year 2011. The continuing resolution cuts more than $38 billion from the 2011 budget.

Federal R&D investment – almost exclusively contained in the discretionary budget – had to take it on the chin, as did all other areas of government spending. However, as budget expert Pat Clemins explains in a commentary for bridges, R&D was spared from the worst of the spending cuts. Altogether, funding for basic research fared much better in the final bill than did applied research programs. Programs at the Department of Energy, especially, have to deal with larger budget cuts, reflecting the current policy debates in the US on how much, if at all, government should invest in applied research.

Funding for basic science is high on the European agenda as well. The European Research Council (ERC), set up by the European Commission in 2007, is the EU’s first pan-European funding organization for investor-driven frontier research. Its goal is to stimulate scientific excellence in Europe by encouraging funding competition between the best researchers of any nationality and age. ERC’s president, Austrian Helga Nowotny, visited Washington, DC, in February on the occasion of the AAAS annual meeting. She met with bridges to discuss in an interview ERC’s achievements during its first five years and its plans for the future.

Two more articles in this issue investigate what is happening in the European research landscape. Sabine Herlitschka’s feature article United Europe of Research and Innovation analyzes three decades of Framework Programs for Research, Technological Development, and Demonstration within the European Union. While the Framework Programs were originally designed with the objective of strengthening European competitiveness, they also nurtured a culture of cooperation between the best universities, companies, and research organizations in Europe and beyond. This capacity for intercultural cooperation is a tremendous asset for the EU, says Herlitschka, when dealing with the grand challenges such as climate change, global health, et al.

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In his Letter from Brussels, Martin Schmid dares to take a look into the future of European research: The current 7th Framework Program will expire by the end of 2013, and a new research program will succeed it beginning in 2014. Little is known so far about the program, provisionally called Common Strategic Framework for Research and Innovation, except for its stronger focus on innovation. Schmid provides us with some insights on what other topics are currently being debated behind the curtains in Brussels.

Innovation as key for economic development is not discussed only in Washington and Brussels. bridges columnist Norm Neureiter just returned from a weeklong workshop on innovation in Islamabad, Pakistan. The workshop was organized by COMSTECH, the Ministerial Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, which was created by the Organization of the Islamic Conference back in 1981. At the Islamabad workshop, 45 attendees from Pakistan and 11 other Muslim countries came together to discuss issues in innovation, intellectual property, and entrepreneurship, as Neureiter reports in his column.

Last but not least, every issue of bridges features several portraits of successful Austrian scientists and scholars working in the United States in its News from the Network: Austrian Researchers Abroad section. This issue also features an in-depth portrait of behavioral biologist Kurt Kotrschal, elected Austrian Scientist of the Year 2010, who accepted our invitation to present his Work with Wolves in May to US audiences in Washington, DC, and in New York City; in addition, our regular columnist Roger Pielke, Jr. and bridgesguest commentators provide you with their latest insights into the world of S&T policies in the US and Europe.

I wish you a pleasant reading experience.

Caroline Adenberger
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