In today’s knowledge-driven society, science and research play a more important role than ever before. Paradoxically, the public image of science and scientists has suffered in recent years and fewer young people are being attracted to careers in science. The 2005 Researchers in Europe initiative aims to address this communication gap through a Europe-wide public awareness-raising campaign. From June to November 2005, events of all shapes and sizes will be held throughout the European Union and the Associated States to inject a sense of creativity and ‘cool’ into young people’s perception of science. All will aim, in one way or another, to demonstrate why scientific research is the career of the future and why Europe is the place to pursue it!
Researchers, in all fields of scientific endeavour, are creators and innovators – their ideas are the dynamos that keep the wheels of the economy turning. Europe’s capacity to innovate has been identified as an essential factor in becoming a competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy . This explains why Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik has floated the idea of a ‘Knowledge for growth pact’ to help the EU better create, diffuse and apply knowledge in the service of Europe’s economic prosperity and quality of life.
It also explains why the European Union is devoting considerable resources to supporting research and development activities and improving the conditions for researchers working in Europe. Research budgets are increasing across the Community, with Member States committing themselves to investing an average of 3% of their GDP in R&D. There are also numerous schemes and grants available to support the ongoing training of researchers and to promote their mobility – not just within the EU, but throughout the world. So, it is quite clear that there has never been a better time – or place – to pursue a career in science!
Putting research back on centre stage
Unfortunately, the public perception of science and scientists has not kept up with reality. With the growth of the media, internet and high-profile careers in the arts (music stars, sports personalities, actors, etc.), the appeal of the sciences and their vital importance to society have been overshadowed. The result is that fewer young people are being drawn to careers in science and research. It is estimated that we will need to attract and train between 600 000 and 700 000 new researchers by 2010 to meet our research needs. And this does not take account of the expected retirement of many senior researchers over the next ten years. The situation has become urgent.
By concentrating a large number of awareness-raising events and activities over a period of six months, the 2005 Researchers in Europe initiative hopes to focus media and public attention on the essential role of science and research in our society and on the many reasons why pursuing a career in the field may be for you – or someone close to you.