Press Release No. 20 | May 28, 2014

Global Research Council in Beijing: Working Towards Common Standards in Research and Research Funding

Three-Day Meeting of the Heads of More Than 60 Organisations / Focus on More Support for Early Career Researchers and Open Access

Three-Day Meeting of the Heads of More Than 60 Organisations / Focus on More Support for Early Career Researchers and Open Access

Discussions at the third annual meeting of the Global Research Council (GRC) in Beijing, which ended on 28 May 2014, focussed on issues of global interest in research and research funding. At the three-day meeting, top-level representatives of more than 60 research and research funding organisations discussed measures with which to find a common basis for the funding of early career researchers and for free access to scientific publications (open access). Germany was represented at the meeting by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and its President, Professor Dr. Peter Strohschneider.

The GRC is a voluntary, informal union of the heads of research councils from all over the world. It was set up in 2012 in Washington D.C. as part of the "Global Summit on Merit Review" which was organised by the U.S. organisation, the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Subra Suresh, the former Director of the NSF, and Professor Dr. Ing Matthias Kleiner, who was President of the DFG at the time, were instrumental in the GRC's foundation. It represents the majority of public research and research funding bodies which do not receive direct governmental funding and acts to strengthen international collaboration on research and between research funding organisations. Through regular preparatory conferences in different parts of the world and its annual meeting, it offers a forum in which current issues arising from the globalisation and internationalisation of science and research and their funding can be discussed. The outcomes of these discussions are then used to formulate joint recommendations.

The organisation of this year's meeting of the GRC was shared by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). At a formal opening ceremony in the Great Hall of the People, Minister-President Li Keqiang gave a highly regarded speech in which he emphasised the importance of open opportunities for development, of intellectual property and of knowledge-driven research to an effective research system. Plenary sessions took place on the second day in the Sino-German Center for Research Promotion (SGC). This was opened in 2000 by the DFG and the NSFC, a partner organisation of the DFG, and since then has played a significant part in establishing collaborative research ventures between the two countries.

In a speech given at the closing session DFG President Strohschneider emphasised the importance of science and research for social development and business innovation. "In order to achieve their full potential, science and research need space and scope in addition to as much funding as possible. The GRC can make a significant contribution in this respect. On important overarching themes such as the principles of multilateral collaboration in research, good scientific practice, early career support and open access, it facilitates processes through which international agreement can be achieved and make a considerable contribution to such principles," said Strohschneider.

The delegates in Beijing agreed on a plan of action to provide more support for early career researchers which emphasises the crucial importance of principles such as early independence, equal opportunity and interdisciplinary collaboration in attracting future generations to science and research. At the same time, the GRC is calling for much broader funding and training concepts in order to prepare young researchers for an increasingly globalised scientific order.

The second theme was the implementation of a plan of action which would provide a common basis for free access to scientific publications. The plan was agreed at the second GRC meeting last year which was organised by the DFG and the Brazilian National Research Council (CNPQ) in Berlin. "Open access will be a defining feature of scientific communication in the coming years and can improve the free exchange of research data and results considerably and therefore also the quality of research," said DFG President Strohschneider. A survey of over 100 research and research funding organisations conducted before the Beijing meeting has revealed that many of them have already included open access in their funding guidelines and initiated a host of supporting measures. At the same time, the organisations expressed the wish to bring the guidelines on the availability of research results in open access into closer agreement; the GRC offers an excellent forum in which to do this.

The Governing Board of the GRC convened before the meeting. The President of CAS, Professor Dr. Bai Chunli, was elected chair, replacing DFG President Strohschneider who will continue to be a member in his capacity as deputy chair. The DFG President also had talks with the President of the NSFC, Professor Dr. Yang Wei, and the chair of the Academic Board of the Israel Science Foundation, Professor Dr. Benjamin Geiger. Professor Strohschneider and the new Director of the NSF, Dr. France A. Córdova, signed a Letter of Intent on a joint venture between the DFG and the NSF whereby exchange visits of postdoctoral students will be funded under the NSF's CAREER programme. Following the GRC meeting, Professor Strohschneider will meet the German ambassador to China, Michael Clauss.

The next meeting of the GRC will be held in Tokyo in May 2015 and organised jointly by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences (JSPS), the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and the South African National Research Foundation (NRF). Key topics will be the funding of basic research and the role of research funding organisations in developing research capacity in order to create a strong long-term basis for collaboration on research with emerging and developing countries.