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Needs to blaze more trails

The evaluation report was presented to the Ministry of Education and Research on 10 September.

Arvid Hallén  Photo: Jan Christian Sørlie (Photo: Jan Christian Sørlie) “We are very pleased with the conclusions of the report that confirm that the research we fund is generating benefits and results for society, and that describe a positive development in the Research Council’s activities. At the same time, the report pinpoints several challenges that we need to work to surmount,” says Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council.

See evaluation on the Ministry of Education and Research website.

Pushing the quality envelope

While the quality of Norwegian research is generally good, the evaluation makes it clear that there is still much to be done to enhance it even further. The report recommends that the Research Council establishes a better framework for interdisciplinary, pioneering research. “I take this to mean that we have to be more active in identifying new knowledge needs and willing to take more risks when we select which research projects to fund,” Mr Hallén explains.

Strategic funding

In the interim since the last evaluation in 2002, the Research Council has established the schemes for Centres of Excellence, Centres for Research-based Innovation and Centres for Environment-friendly Energy Research; built up and renewed research infrastructure and developed large-scale research programmes that follow up national priority areas. According to the evaluation report, these efforts have helped to enhance quality, expand task-sharing and cooperation, increase long-term thinking and encourage industrial development.

“Much of this was made possible by the Fund for Research and Innovation. Now that the fund has been terminated and replaced by a separate item on the national budget, it is important to ensure that we still have the freedom to introduce initiatives spanning a range of different spheres of society. This is also pointed out in the evaluation report,” the Director General states.

Active driver

He sees is as especially important that the evaluation encourages the Research Council to take on a stronger role as a driver for change: “Technopolis, which was commissioned to carry out the evaluation, believes that our future success depends on out ability to promote innovative thinking, help to restructure the research system and further expand research across traditional dividing lines.”

The Director General is anxious to see what the Ministry chooses to do in the next steps of this process, and makes it clear that the Research Council is highly motivated to work for the further development of Norwegian research, to enable it to meet the needs of society for knowledge today and in the future.

Recommendations

The key recommendations of the evaluation are that the Research Council must

  • strengthen the knowledge base for developing research policy;
  • give greater focus to thematically independent, interdisciplinary research activities as well as those that entail higher risks;
  • design funding instruments that target the needs of industries in general and industrial clusters in particular;
  • further refine policy relating to independent research institutes, e.g. by implementing regular evaluation processes;
  • incorporate more overall perspectives into the steering dialogue with the ministries;
  • implement more targeted internationalisation activities;

This will require

  • an appropriate funding replacement for the Fund for Research and Innovation (terminated starting with the national budget for 2012), which can ensure adequate latitude for action and access to resources for strategic activities.
  • a better coordinated and more integrated research policy.
 

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