Big data such as employment statistics should be used in combination with other indicators to reveal the real impact of research projects, Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, told an event on how to show the results of EU investment.
From 2014, the EU has set aside EUR 80 billion for research and innovation, under Horizon 2020.
‘We are at the tipping point of getting information systems and big data to work with each other.’
Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation
However, when working out how successful that investment has been, Commissioner Moedas said that looking at inputs while at the same time measuring outputs was a bit like the Heisenberg principle in quantum physics, which states that you cannot measure the speed and location of a particle at the same time.
‘We talk about measuring outputs, but then sometimes these outputs, they are in conflict with each other,’ he said during the event on 22 September, called EU Budget Focused on Results.
The problem is that if the incentive for researchers is to author a high number of academic papers, then there is a risk that the papers might not be very good, and if the incentive is for patents, then there is a risk that the patents won’t have any impact.
However, Commissioner Moedas said that we have reached a tipping point in the way we can measure outputs.
‘We are at the tipping point of getting information systems and big data to work with each other,’ he said. ‘With the information that we have today we can do a much better job, because it is not about one indicator, it is about a meta-analysis of a lot of indicators.
‘For instance you can say, “Look, is this person doing a lot of publications but not a lot of patents … is he actually getting a product to the market?”.’
He said that this type of analysis had already demonstrated that small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) funded under the EU’s Eurostars programme, which specialises in supporting research-based SMEs, created more jobs. That’s when they were compared with successful SMEs which had not been funded.
‘There you are linking employment growth with funding, you are linking two variables that before were separated, and then you can link other variables, that’s the idea,’ he said.
During the conference, EU Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva launched a web app which enables people to discover EU-funded projects around the world.
She said the app covers projects ranging from improving education for children in Syria to the SOLAR-JET project, which showed how to make jet fuel from sunlight, CO2 and water and a waste management system in Bulgaria.
The app is accessible here: http://ec.europa.eu/budget/euprojects/
The EU has outlined its plans for a European Open Science Cloud that will bring together existing infrastructures and open up scientific data across disciplines and across Member States.
The EU’s new Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) panel will deliver its first official advice to the European Commission – on how to close the gap between vehicle CO2 emission levels in the real world and those detected under test conditions – within six months, according to Dr Henrik C. Wegener, Chief Academic Officer at the Technical University of Denmark, and chair of the SAM High Level Group.
People don’t know that hydrogen-fuelled vehicles and home heating systems are already on the market, and that is the biggest obstacle to their uptake, according to Bart Biebuyck, the recently appointed executive director of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, a public-private partnership between the EU and the fuel cell and hydrogen industries.
It can be used for transport and energy.
Hypersonic jets could go eight times the speed of sound.
Communities should provide critical input into the next global climate report in order to help capture local experiences, says Dr Roberts.