Mid-term evaluation of the Large-scale Programme initiative:
Strategically important - requires better coordination
The Large-scale Programme initiative needs to be further enhanced as a strategic funding instrument that supports the national research-policy thematic and technology priority areas. This is the main conclusion of the Scandinavian panel of experts that conducted a mid-term evaluation of the initiative.
The Large-scale Programmes have produced significant results in their respective priority areas," says Dr. Ragnhild Sohlberg, the panel chair. "They have not, however, become the key funding instrument as originally intended. In 2008, the Large-scale Programme initiative as a whole accounted for only 38 per cent of the Research Council's investment in the national research-policy priority areas."
The report of the mid-term evaluation was presented on 11 March 2009.
Individual programmes not evaluated
The expert panel evaluated the Large-scale Programme initiative as a special funding instrument in relation to its original intent. The scientific quality and outcomes of the seven current programmes - the FUGE, HAVBRUK, PETROMAKS, RENERGI, NANOMAT, VERDIKT and NORKLIMA programmes - were not systematically evaluated. The conclusions and recommendations presented in the evaluation were reached on the basis of the experience thus far of the seven existing programmes, the extensive documentation compiled as well as interviews with stakeholders.
Needs better coordination
According to the evaluation, the Large-scale Programme initiative has not become the key instrument as initially anticipated, partly due to a lack of effective coordination of the activities across the nationally prioritised thematic and technology areas.
"There is insufficient coordination between the eight ministries that allocate funding to the Large-scale Programmes. Additionally, the activities of the Large-scale Programmes have not been adequately coordinated with other funding instruments and activities within the Research Council that also contribute to the national priority areas," Dr. Sohlberg explains.
"Moreover, the degree to which the social sciences and humanities are under-represented in these socially significant areas also gives cause for concern," she continues.
In competition with other funding instruments
According to the report, other funding instruments have been established in recent years that have achieved high status and contributed significantly to several of the national research-policy priority areas. Among these are the schemes for the Norwegian Centres of Excellence (CoE), the Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI) and the Centres for Environment-friendly Energy Research (CEER). The report states that "because the relationship between the Large-scale Programme initiative and the centre schemes has not been adequately clarified, these newer funding instruments compete with the Large-scale Programme initiative for funding as well as for attention within both the Research Council and the ministries."
Clarification of roles
"This type of systematic review is very important," states Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council. "We will now use the report to address a number of key questions: How can the Large-scale Programme initiative be improved? What role should the initiative play in relation to national research priority areas? And how can it help to shape, refine and draw attention to these priorities?" he continues.
Mr Hallén states that the seven established Large-scale Programmes will be upheld for the duration of their programme periods, but that their activities and framework conditions may be modified based on the recommendations in the mid-term evaluation. The name of the initiative may also be changed, in keeping with the panel's recommendation, to distinguish it more clearly from other Research Council programmes that also are large in scale.
Clear conclusions and recommendations
The expert panel has submitted clear conclusions and recommendations to the Research Council:
The Large-scale Programme initiative is a key strategic funding instrument that should be maintained, but its role in the context of the national priorities areas must be clarified. First and foremost, though, the Research Council should establish a coordinating body for the national research priorities areas across sectors and divisions, and endow it with adequate authority. In the view of the expert panel, this role should be assigned to the Division for Strategic Priorities.
The Research Council should also work to achieve increased allocations to the Fund for Research and Innovation as a means of counteracting deficiencies in the funding for national research priorities, including the Large-scale Programme initiative. This will enable the Council to compensate in part for the lack of coordination across ministries and to help ensure that the Large-scale Programmes maintain the required flexibility and latitude for action over time.
Efforts must also be strengthened to incorporate social science and humanities research into the activities funded under the Large-scale Programme initiative.
The seven Large-scale ProgrammesCore Competence and Growth in ICT - VERDIKT
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