Important legal notice
Contact   |   Search   
RTD info logoMagazine on European Research Special Issue - August 2003   
 'Let’s be proud of our researchers'
 Research: a vocation
 Choosing a mentor
 Momentum to move
 Drawn to the USA
 Everyday life in Japan
 Balancing the gender equation
 A boost for science
 University challenge
 Migrating to the private sphere
 The incorruptible Marie
 National associations of students, PhDs and researchers

Download pdf de en fr
EDITORIAL Printable version

A European awakening?

Increasing investment in research from 1.9% to 3% of GDP by 2010, as decided by the Member States in Barcelona last year, will mean the creation of around 500 000  research posts a year. 

But, apart from the financial aspects, does Europe have sufficient human resources to meet this challenge? In other words, does the Union have the means to realise its ambitions? It is time to take a closer look at the facts. 

First of all, let us take a look at higher education. The Union 'produces' proportionally more science and engineering PhDs than the United States – in 2000, 5.6 per 10 000 people aged between 25 and 34, compared with 4.1 in the United States. However, because of a lack of jobs and attractive career prospects, many of them choose to emigrate, either to other countries or other professions. In terms of researchers, the proportions are reversed: 5.4 per 1 000 active members of the population in the Union and 8.7 in the United States. If Europe were able to manage its science and technology graduates as efficiently as the United States, it could double its present total of 920 000 researchers. 

Then there is the matter of young people. It is often said that they are giving scientific studies and careers the cold shoulder. Statistically, this is undeniable. However, recent Eurobarometer surveys carried out by the Commission also show that this is not because young people are not interested in science and technology. Their level of interest in these subjects remains above the European average. The sticking point is the teaching – science lessons are seen as unattractive and difficult. 

The final positive sign is the presence of women. Taking the EU as a whole, during the period 1990-2000, the number of women students studying science and engineering subjects in higher education increased from 25% to 30%. In 2001, 34% of university researchers were women. However, their absolute numbers have increased by 8% since 1998, compared with a 3% increase in male researchers.

In addition, a number of foreign scientists – especially Asians – opt for Europe when deciding to train outside their country of origin, attracted by the quality of its science as well as its cultural and social environment.

If Europe really wants to give substance to its research policy ambitions, it certainly has the brainpower to meet present challenges, alongside It also has some valuable assets – quantitative and qualitative – to meet those of the future.