Georg Röggla: on the new European Research Council president

Georg RögglaThe European Research Council (ERC) unanimously elected Prof. Helga Nowotny, an eminent social scientist, as the new ERC President on February 19th, 2010. Helga Nowotny is currently the ERC’s vice-President. She is Professor emeritus of Social Studies of Science, ETH Zurich, and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of Vienna University. She is also a former research fellow of King’s College in Cambridge. She will take office on March 1st, 2010.

The ERC is the first European funding body set up to support investigator-driven frontier research. Its main aim is to stimulate scientific excellence by supporting and encouraging the very best, truly creative scientists. The ERC has supported up to now more than 900 research projects, led either by top senior scientists (“ERC Advanced Grants”) or by younger, emerging research leaders (“ERC Starting Grants”). Clinical research projects are underrepresented in ERC activities.

I have therefore asked Helga Nowotny about the position of the ERC towards medical and especially clinical research. She told me ’the high importance of clinical research is unquestioned and clinical research is highly welcome at the ERC’. She said that ‘the ERC would not set priorities but was ‘investigator-driven’, or ‘bottom-up’, in nature, because this approach allows researchers to identify new opportunities and directions in any field of research.’ She concluded that she ‘encourages clinical scientists to apply for grants at the ERC and guarantees a fair and transparent competition.’

From a medical scientists point of view this looks like a promising start.

Georg Röggla is an associate editor with the BMJ.