Building an ERA that Fosters Freedom and Excellence

In a new statement, ALLEA sets priorities for building a new European Research Area (ERA) and for implementing the Policy Action Points developed in the ERA Transition Forum.

In 2021, ALLEA was invited by the European Commission to be part of developing a new European Research Area (ERA) that supports the free circulation of researchers and knowledge, joint and more efficient use of research infrastructure, excellence, attractive careers, equal opportunities, and cooperation between research and innovation actors across Europe. With the ALLEA Statement for an ERA of Freedom and Excellence published today, the European Academies of Sciences and Humanities reflect on the 20 ERA Policy Agenda Action Points developed in the consultations of the ERA Transition Forum, which brings together delegates from the European Commission, Member States, Associated Countries, and Stakeholder Organisations.

The statement has been prepared by the ALLEA Working Group on the ERA, and it welcomes this initiative for a new ERA that reflects the European Academies’ vision for borderless and universal science as a global public good that transcends national and disciplinary boundaries. The statement strongly emphasises the need to enable scientific cooperation, particularly in times of multiple crises. This cooperation should take place in a robust and empowering institutional setting and should be based on good research practices. Accordingly, a strong ERA should be built on the principles of academic freedom, integrity and ethics, excellence, trustworthiness, inclusiveness, openness, sustainability, collaboration, mobility, equality, diversity, equity, as well as thinking and acting globally.

Highlighting these priorities and thereby commenting on various ERA Policy Agenda Action Points, the authors specifically stress the need for safeguarding academic freedom: “This includes advocating clear and unanimous support for Higher Education Institutions and Research Performing Organisations facing threats to academic freedom through political circumstances, such as internal or external oppression, or war.”

Other priorities for the ERA Policy Agenda highlighted in the statement are:

  • A continuous focus on scientific excellence as a guiding principle for research assessment as well as funding.
  • A need for fundamental research to sustain a genuinely world class science base in Europe in the long term.
  • An emphasis on establishing truly interdisciplinary partnerships and a recognition of the importance of interdisciplinary and international research collaborations.
  • An awareness of the growing importance and complexity of science-society and science-policy relations and how science relies on trust and trustworthiness.
  • Capacity building and improved accessibility to existing research infrastructure in the EU-13 countries.

Read the full statement for more information on how to implement an effective ERA beneficial for all Europeans.

European Science Organisations Reach Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment

Following a six-month collaborative process involving more than 350 European organisations from over 40 countries, an Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment has been reached and made public today. ALLEA has contributed to the Agreement as part of a core group of 20 research organisations that supported the drafting team throughout the process.

The Agreement summarises a shared vision on how to reform assessment practices for researchers, research projects and research performing organisations, with overarching principles founded on quality, impact, diversity, inclusiveness, and collaboration.

The envisioned reforms are centred around the following four core commitments:

  1. Recognise the diversity of contributions to, and careers in, research in accordance with the needs and nature of the research
  2. Base research assessment primarily on qualitative evaluation for which peer review is central, supported by responsible use of quantitative indicators
  3. Abandon inappropriate uses in research assessment of journal- and publication-based metrics, in particular inappropriate uses of Journal Impact Factor (JIF) and h-index
  4. Avoid the use of rankings of research organisations in research assessment

Several additional supporting commitments aim to enable the move towards new research assessment criteria, tools and processes, and to facilitate mutual learning, communicate progress and ensure that new approaches are evidence informed. The Agreement further includes anticipated timeframes for implementing the reforms and evaluating progress and describes the operational structures for a coalition of organisations devoted to working together to implement the changes.

Next Steps

The collection of signatures to join the Coalition supporting the Agreement will be launched on 28 September 2022 at the EU Research and Innovation Days. A General Assembly of Coalition members will further decide on the governance of the Coalition, the strategy guiding the operations and activities of the Coalition as a whole, its annual work-plan and budget. The first General Assembly is expected to take place towards the end of this year.

As a European umbrella organisation of academies of sciences and humanities, ALLEA was able to provide an interdisciplinary perspective based on shared European academic values. ALLEA contributed to the Agreement through its Permanent Working Group on Science & Ethics and the Working Group European Research Area. Previously, ALLEA had also worked with the Global Young Academy on recommendations on the topic.

In a parallel endeavour, the Council of the European Union has recently adopted its Conclusions on Research Assessment and Implementation of Open Science. ALLEA welcomes the principles set out in the Conclusions for designing novel approaches to research assessment and emphasises that there is no “one-size-fits-all” format: any reforms should be driven by researchers taking responsibility for improving research assessment in their communities, following the core concept of self-regulation set out in the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. (Read ALLEA’s full response here)

More information

  • The complete Agreement for Reforming Research Assessment can be found here, as well as an overview of frequently asked questions regarding the Agreement and the Coalition.
  • Further information on the drafting process and the actors involved can be found here.

International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD) Opening Ceremony

The International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD), celebrated in 2022, recognises that basic sciences are vital to attain sustainable development and to improve the quality of life for people all over the world.

At the Opening Ceremony, which will take place at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, and will be streamed online, Ministers in charge of Scientific Research, Higher Education and Innovation will debate with scientists about the importance of basic sciences in addressing the challenges set up by the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

ALLEA Welcomes Council Conclusions on Research Assessment and Open Science

ALLEA welcomes the adoption of the Conclusions on Research Assessment and Implementation of Open Science by the Council of the European Union on 10 June. See ALLEA’s full response here.

The Conclusions are in agreement with points that ALLEA has made over the years, in particular on the necessity of appropriately implementing and rewarding open science practices and the development of research assessment criteria that follow principles of excellence, research integrity and trustworthy science.

At the same time, ALLEA continues to stress that it matters how we open knowledge, as the push for Open Access publishing has also paved the way for various unethical publishing practices. The inappropriate use of journal- and publication-based metrics in funding, hiring and promotion decisions has been one of the obstacles in the transition to a more open science, and furthermore fails to recognize and reward the diverse set of competencies, activities, and outputs needed for our research ecosystem to flourish.

ALLEA therefore welcomes the principles set out in the Conclusion for designing novel approaches to research assessment, with particular weight on recognizing (1) the critical role for peer review in research assessment and (2) the importance of integrity and ethics in developing criteria focused on quality and impact. 

ALLEA underscores that the described reforms are urgently needed and require concerted efforts from the international academic community, supported by infrastructures for exchanging best practices as well as the necessary financial resources to implement these. 

Read ALLEA’s full response

ALLEA Working Group European Research Area meets in Stockholm

On Wednesday 6 April, the ALLEA Working Group European Research Area (ERA) met in Stockholm for its first in-person meeting. Representatives of European Academies gathered at the premises of the Royal Swedish Academy as well as remotely to discuss the most pressing issues regarding a new ERA for Research and Innovation”.

The meeting was opened with a warm welcome and introduction by the Working Group Chair, Professor Kerstin Sahlin (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences & Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities). This was followed by a statement from Professor Volodymyr Radchenko, member of the Working Group who joined the meeting remotely from Kiev on behalf of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. In his statement, Professor Radchenko thanked the European Academies for their ongoing support to Ukrainian researchers fleeing the war and lauded them for taking a clear stance in condemning the Russian invasion, while also calling for more support of researchers and research infrastructures within Ukraine*.

After Professor Radchenko’s moving intervention, ALLEA Board Member Maarten Prak (KNAW) stressed how academic cooperation has always been crucial in the creation of a shared (European) culture and identity, yet he also highlighted that the current war clearly shows that there is still a long way to go in overcoming major obstacles and challenges. This proves how important it is to further build and strengthen a European Research Area which works to promote peace, research integrity, academic freedom, and equal opportunities for all.

ALLEA participates in the ongoing ERA Forum Experts Group meetings as a stakeholder representing the European Academies of Sciences and Humanities. The ERA Forum is co-chaired by the European Commission and EU Member States. Associated countries and representatives of seven types of stakeholders are invited to join the meetings. The Forum has been established to implement and coordinate the objectives of the ERA, particularly by implementing the jointly developed ERA Policy Agenda.

The group generally welcomed the initiative for a stronger ERA and expressed their appreciation that the research community is actively involved in the process of drafting and commenting new policies. Among others, they stressed the importance to focus on excellence, young researchersmobility and career development, stopping the brain drain in some central and eastern European countries, international cooperation beyond Europe, research assessment and evaluation, and the opportunities for open science and its potentially dangerous impact on young researchers, the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, as well as research integrity.

In the months to come, the outcomes of this meeting will further inform ALLEA’s feedback to the European Commission. The results of this process are expected towards the end of the year.

Members of the ALLEA Working Group European Research Area gathered in Stockholm on 6 April 2022.

ALLEA is very grateful to the Working Group members for their active participation, and we also wish to thank the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy for Letters, History and Antiquities for hosting this meeting and the following dinner. Everyone expressed their excitement of meeting in person again and look forward to shaping the development of a new ERA for Research and Innovation on behalf of the European Academies.  

For more information visit the webpage of ALLEA’s Working Group European Research Area (ERA)


*See ALLEA’s European Fund for Displaced Scientists and the response by the scientific community in support of Ukraine for more information on how Ukrainian research and researchers are being supported in and outside Ukraine.


The Race against Time for Smarter Development – A European Perspective

What is the current state of global research? How has the scientific community evolved over the past five years? What are the emerging trends in national and regional policy agendas for science, innovation and technology? These and many related issues are addressed every five years in a systematic and data-driven analysis by UNESCO.

The latest 758-page UNESCO Science Report The race against time for smarter development” provides an inventory of global efforts to move towards a digital and sustainable society. On 9 February 2022, UNESCO and the European Commission hosted an online event that discussed key conclusions of the report and its implications for the European Research and Innovation agenda.

Global Trends 

Between 2014 and 2018, global research spending has increased by 19.2% (compared to 14.8% growth in GDP) and the number of researchers has grown by 13.7%.  In spite of these promising figures, however, large inequalities can be found around the globe: four out of five countries are still only investing less than 1% of their GDP on research and the G20 continues to account for more than 90% of the global research spendingpublications and patents.

Source: global and regional estimates based on country-level data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, August 2020, without extrapolation

A striking trend identified in the report is that countries of all income levels are prioritizing their research efforts to support the transition to digital and green economies. This can be partially explained by the countries’ commitment to reaching the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. At the same time, there seems to be a strong realisation that rapid transition to a digital society is key to maintaining global economic competitiveness in the future.  

“science is at the heart of our future and should form the basis for public policies that support the entire continuum from society to economy”

Importantly, the UNESCO report urges all countries to further increase their spending on science in order to address global issues such as climate change, food security and pandemics more effectively.  During the event, Jean-Eric Paquet, Director-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission, emphasized that “science is at the heart of our future and should form the basis for public policies that support the entire continuum from society to economy.”

The European Perspective

Although the EU remains one of the main players when it comes to producing knowledge, lower and middle-income countries are showing the strongest growth in research investments and output. The playing fields for fundamental research and commercialisation of knowledge are rapidly changing and the pandemic has exposed both strengths and weaknesses of European research and innovation. 

Luc Soete, Dean of the Brussels School of Governance at the Free University of Brussels, commented that the global pandemic had a strong influence on how we perform and communicate science in Europe: “The crisis has fostered the green and digital transition across the globe, and promoted further involvement, investment and implementation of science.” On the other hand, Sylvia Schwaag Serger, Professor of Research Policy at Lund University, noted “there is still much uncertainty on how Europe’s massive investments [as part of the European Green Deal and NextGenerationEU stimulus package] will be able to make far-reaching change”, and warned against the effects of a possible economic backlash of the pandemic.

“we need to invest in changing our research culture and start approaching science as a global endeavour, rather than approaching it from the national level”

European and global collaboration will be instrumental in our race against time for a sustainable and digital transition and to fight current and future crises. A truly collaborative international research community can only be accomplished when global equity and solidarity are at the essence of our research policy agendas.  As stated by Lidia Borrell-Damián, Secretary General of Science Europe, “[w]e need to invest in changing our research culture and start approaching science as a global endeavour, rather than approaching it from the national level.”

Gender Equality

Source: WEF (2018) The Global Gender Gap Report 2018. World Economic Forum: Geneva.

Strikingly absent from the discussion organised by the European Commission were the report’s alarming conclusions on gender imbalance as one of the major obstacles in realising Europe’s ambitious sustainability and digitalisation goals. Also in Europe, women still accounted for only one in three researchers in 2018, occupied only 24% of the highest positions, and make up a mere 12% of the national science academies’ memberships.

Particularly in areas relevant to the digital revolution (such as digital information technology, computing, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, physics, mathematics and engineering) women remain underrepresented, meaning that they risk missing out on jobs in a future that becomes increasingly digital. “[…] progress towards righting the gender imbalance could be compromised, unless strenuous efforts are made at the government, academic and corporate levels not only to attract girls and women to these fields but, above all, to retain them”, the report urges.  

The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionally affected women in science and engineering. Women in the USA and Europe have reported a 5% larger decline in research time compared to their male peers (and even 17% for women with at least one child five years old or younger), resulting in the publication of fewer preprints and peer-reviewed articles, starting fewer research projects, etc. 

The report concludes that “[s]ome of the radical changes to the work–family balance induced by the pandemic may be here to stay. It will be important for these changes to be converted into policies which ensure that women do not spend a disproportionate amount of time as unpaid carers, homemakers and educators but, rather, have the time and the energy to make their mark on the science and innovation of tomorrow.”

Watch video summary of the report


Useful Links

Report website

Read complete report

Read executive summary

European Commission Event


ALLEA Joins the European Commission Coalition on Research Assessment Reform

ALLEA has joined the European Commission’s core group working on reforming research assessment. The group will support the drafting of an agreement led by the European University Association, Science Europe and the European Commission on key issues and timelines for implementing changes.

The coalition is composed by funding organisations, research performing organisations, national/regional assessment authorities or agencies, associations of research funders, of research performers, of researchers, as well as learned societies and other relevant organisations.

ALLEA is represented by Deborah Oughton, member of the ALLEA Permanent Group Science and Ethics and representative of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. She is a Professor at the Environmental Sciences and Natural Resource Management Faculty of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

Towards a Research Assessment Reform

In 2021, the European Commission published the scoping report ‘Towards a reform of the research assessment system’. The publication presents the findings from a consultation with European research stakeholders and identifies the goals that should be pursued with a reform of research assessment. The report proposes a coordinated approach based on principles and actions that could be agreed upon by a coalition of research funding and research performing organisations committed to implement changes.

Research assessment reform is one of the topics ALLEA has worked jointly with its Member Academies and partners in recent years. In July 2021, ALLEA and the Global Young Academy (GYA) published a report covering the key takeaways of their webinar ‘Research Assessments that Promote Scholarly Progress and Reinforce the Contract with Society’. The event brought together science and policy stakeholders to rethink current research assessment models.

The key areas for research assessment identified by the stakeholders were how to strike a balance between funding of research to advance scientific progress and public accountability, how to assess the societal relevance of research and who defines the criteria, and how research assessment should be done.

In 2020, ALLEA, the Global Young Academy and STM (International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers) organised a series of workshops about the future of peer review in scholarly communications. A short summary report is available here.

ALLEA Signs Open Letter Calling for Finalising UK Association to Horizon Europe

An open letter to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signed by 25 European umbrella research and innovation organisations – including ALLEA – urges the European Commission and UK Government to work towards a successful UK association to Horizon Europe, “to safeguard this valuable and mutually beneficial R&I cooperation”.

The signatories call for moving forward the UK association to Horizon Europe “without further delay”:

“The EU knowledge community collectively welcomed the provision in Protocol I of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement for the UK to associate to Horizon Europe. The subsequent Q&A document from the European Commission provided us with the reassurance that UK entities could apply with EU partners for the first multi-beneficiary calls.

Based on the Protocol and those reassurances, for the past 10 months our universities, businesses and research institutions have been working with UK partners with a shared vision and in good faith that the UK would soon be a full associate member.

But the absence of a clear timeline for finalising UK association is now causing increasing concern. This lingering uncertainty risks endangering current and future plans for collaboration.

We are rapidly approaching a crunch point. With the first Horizon Europe grant agreements approaching and new calls soon to be launched, UK association must be finalised without further delay.”

The joint letter brings together over 1,000 universities and universities of applied sciences, 56 academies of science, 38 research performing and funding organisations, 33 rectors’ conferences, as well as 120 regional organisations.

The signatories underline that the EU research programme Horizon Europe’s success will hinge on its commitment to excellence and global outlook. “The only way to move forward from the Covid-19 pandemic is as a global community working together to drive research and innovation through collaboration.”

Read the letter