New white paper on research in the works:
Clear priorities and adjusted thematic priority areas
The Norwegian Government has begun work on a new white paper on research, to be presented to the Storting (Norwegian national assembly) in spring 2013. The Research Council of Norway has provided a number of recommendations in its input to the report.
The Research Council’s submission identifies the most important challenges and proposes more targeted thematic priority areas.
Enough resources to the right areas
“In our input to the white paper on research, we emphasise the need to focus on the right areas and to invest adequate resources. We also point out that the resources must be used effectively and that we need to make optimal use of the research results,” says Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council of Norway.
The Research Council’s submission affirms that the Norwegian research and innovation system functions well overall. Budget allocations have grown relatively steadily over the years, the number of publications and international co-authorships has risen, and the number of completed doctoral degrees continues to climb. In addition, Norway is taking an increasingly active role in international cooperation, and more and more women are pursuing research as a career.
This positive picture is confirmed by international subject-specific evaluations, which show that Norwegian research is in the forefront in many areas.
Proper use of resources
“Access to resources for research is a crucial issue. More resources are needed to achieve our high aspirations. But it is equally important to assess whether the resources are being used effectively enough and whether we are able to attract and retain the most talented researchers,” says Mr Hallén.
“Other important issues are whether the resources are being used in a sufficiently targeted manner and whether tasks are distributed expediently between the research institutions.”
Essential for society as a whole
The Research Council is concerned that the new white paper on research conveys that knowledge and research policy is essential to many areas of society and that the Government must therefore regard research as a key policy area.
A country with a high level of welfare and cost of living needs to increase its capacity to innovate. The special features of the Norwegian industrial structure make Norway especially dependent on rapid-paced innovation. In turn, this means that Norway must draw on the global knowledge front. On the other hand, as a wealthy nation, Norway has a responsibility to do its part in developing the knowledge needed to cope with common, global challenges.
“The thematic priority areas we single out send an important signal about society’s expectations of research as a tool for societal development,” says Mr Hallén.
“We state in our recommendations that the thematic priority areas must be adjusted in relation to the current white paper on research so that they better reflect especially critical challenges for society and industry. They should also be more clearly aligned with international focus areas.”
A total of five areas stand out. According to Mr Hallén, all of these have their basis in the overall societal challenges (global challenges, value creation, and challenges to the welfare society).
“We need to promote more research and more research-based innovation in Norwegian industry. This requires a broad, high-quality knowledge base and open channels of communication between the research institutions and the rest of the innovation system. One of the measures we propose for increasing research-based innovation in industry is expansion of the SkatteFUNN tax deduction scheme,” explains Mr Hallén.
Good working conditions needed
The Research Council sees a need for new measures to retain the best researchers in the university and university college sector. This means it is important to offer career paths that are better suited to individual needs and provide more attractive workplaces.
“Here we are talking about factors such as salary terms, prospects for permanent employment, research conditions with regard to equipment and day-to-day operations, and the working environment,” says Mr Hallén.
“In particular, it is crucial to implement measures that can improve people’s prospects for permanent employment. These may range from using temporary external financing to fund permanent positions to increasing mobility in and out of the higher education sector and working to change the culture surrounding appointments to positions. The Research Council also thinks it would be interesting to test out measures such as career grants and career counselling, based on the experience of countries it is natural to compare ourselves with,” says Mr Hallén.
Challenging sector principle
The sectoral principle is fundamental to Norwegian research. In keeping with this principle, each of the 17 ministries in Norway has an overall responsibility for research in and for its specific sector.
“The sectoral principle presents some challenges related to the coordination and magnitude of research activities in Norway, but the principle is correct and important,” says Mr Hallén.
The Research Council input goes on to state that coordination must be based in a strengthening of the cross-sectoral financing mechanism, which from 2012 will replace the Fund for Research and Innovation. The new budget item, called “cross-sectoral research priorities”, must be increased, and all the ministries must be invited to take part in a dialogue on the use of the allocations.
Research-based public service provision
In many cases, there are not sufficient incentives to invest in research and innovation that will have an impact on the Norwegian public sector. By identifying research-based innovation in the public sector as a separate target area in research policy, more attention will be focused on the need for innovation in this sector.
According to the Research Council, more attention must be directed towards the public sector’s needs and challenges, and how these should serve a guideline for research policy, so as to better incorporate this line of thinking into research policy priorities.
Specific growth targets
The white paper on research should contain specific, quantifiable growth targets for research in general. It is important to build confidence that the authorities are committed to investing in research. The Research Council proposes that the state increases allocations to research by at least NOK 1 billion annually during the time-frame of the white paper until the target of national investments of one percent of GDP is reached. It is also recommended that the target of a total investment in research of three percent of GDP should be retained as a long-term goal.
“Public expenditures for research in Norway are already high in relation to the population, but only moderate in relation to the country’s value creation. It is the Research Council’s view that Norway’s challenges and financial strength indicate that an increase in investment is in order. There are many good reasons for investing in research and knowledge. Such investments cannot go wrong,” Mr Hallén concludes.
|The Research Council’s input to the new white paper on research|
The Research Council is about to submit its input to the new report to the Storting on research. According to the Council, the white paper must focus special attention on the following six areas:
The Research Council has proposed the following new thematic priority areas:
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