The report delivers the outcomes of a survey of researchers from around the world on the state of our research system, specifically regarding funding for fundamental, use-inspired, and applied science.
Following a brief introduction of the GYA’s vision and mission, and the general goal of the report by alumna Anina Rich (Macquarie University, Australia), alumnus Binyam S. Mendisu (The Africa Institute, United Arab Emirates) and alumnus Oded Hod (Tel Aviv University, Isreal) presented the main results, conclusions, and recommendations of the report, highlights of which follow:
- Research focus: Researchers are increasingly shying away from fundamental research, citing changes to research funding.
- Funding priorities: There is a perceived shift of government priorities towards applied research.
- Grant success rates: Researchers report it has become harder to obtain fundamental research grants and easier to get applied research grants. This is reflected in a greater emphasis on practical applications and external partnerships.
- Predictions: Researchers predict future reductions in funding for fundamental research in the context of increases for applied research.
- Impact: Researchers believe this will reduce innovation & discourage new researchers from engaging in basic science, negatively affecting science capacity.
- Increase awareness of the importance of fundamental research for future innovation, e.g.:
- UNESCO International Year of Basic Science for Sustainable Development
- Capacity building for Science Communication
- Ensure science advice to policymakers and governments includes input from early- to mid-career researchers
- GYA and NYAs are available for consultation
- Reflect the value of fundamental science in policy and funding decisions
- Specific funding programmes to support fundamental research collaborations between researchers from High-Income and Low- Middle-Income countries
- Recognition that investment in fundamental science ‘pays off’ in the long run but is expensive
- Ensuring open equitable access to the outcomes, and ethical collaborations
Screenshots from the Back to Basics launch
Following Oded, GYA founding member and Co-Chair Gregory Weiss (University of California, Irving, United States) delivered an inspiring talk titled “Why Curiosity Driven Research Matters: Unboiling an Egg”, which brilliantly demonstrated how basic science can deliver tangible applicable outcomes even without an initial intention.
Greg was followed by past Co-Chair Anindita Bahdra (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, India) presenting UNESCO’s International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD), which highlighted the perception of the younger generation regarding basic science and why is it important.
After a short Q&A session, the audience split into a breakout room workshop session discussing future GYA FUN working group directions, UNESCO’s initiatives for the IYBSSD, and how can we best communicate the importance of basic science. The event ended with a short discussion and reflections session.
While the Back to Basics report is now launched, the work is not done! We need to use these outcomes to promote the importance of fundamental science with decision makers both in academia and in the political realm. We also need to continue monitoring the global status of blue sky science funding and raise red flags early enough to allow for appropriate corrections.
Stay tuned for future FUN group outcomes and events, and feel free to contact the Importance of fundamental research WG lead Syed Abas (Indian Institute of Technology Mandi
School of Basic Sciences, India) to share thoughts and suggestions on the subject!
The group also published “Restoring Canada’s Competitiveness in Fundamental Research: The View from the Bench” in June 2017.