How has fundamental research enriched Europe?#

An invitation to Senior Academia Europaea members - submit your answers for "The big question" to the Young Academy 2015#

New Years Question 2015:#

“How has fundamental research enriched Europe?”#

Why this question?#

Currently, funding for fundamental, curiosity driven, blue-sky, basic research is under pressure. At the European Level, European Commission President Juncker’s plan on how to save the economy will divert billions from the H2020 budget where it would have funded fundamental research. The new Commission is more generally shifting the emphasis away from scientific excellence as a goal by itself, to scientific impact, paving the way for economic returns and technological applications to weigh in increasingly against fundamental research. At member state level, things look similarly dark, with funding increasingly tied to applications.

While we fully recognize the importance of applied science, we trust it is vital to have a healthy balance between fundamental research and applied science. Europe cannot renounce, even in times of economic crises, its leading role in pushing forward the boundaries of what we know about the world, and in shaping our understanding of our place in it.

In these times, as an Academy (YAE), we strongly feel that it is particularly urgent to raise public awareness of the essential value of fundamental research. We are planning a number of actions in early 2015 to contribute towards that goal. One of these is to collect intriguing and powerful examples of how fundamental, curiosity-driven, blue-sky, basic research has enriched life, culture and economy of Europe.

What we look for? Our aim is to publish a list of statements from scientists and scholars from around Europe that show from diverse perspectives how fundamental research has enriched Europe in the recent past (approximately the past 30 years). Enriching is meant in the most inclusive and deepest sense. This includes breakthrough discoveries that have had tremendous economic returns, but also includes discoveries that have improved quality of life through medical applications for instance. Finally, and importantly, enriching is also meant to include the way knowledge and discovery triggers the curiosity of people, inspires them to be better humans, changes their way of life and improves society.

Each of you is thus invited to email us a mini-essay describing a specific example close to your heart, on how fundamental science has enriched Europe. A good target length is half an A4 sheet, but do use more or less, if you think it is appropriate.

Please write for an educated non-specialist audience, much as you would if a journalist would invite you to write a column in a newspaper. The idea is then to publish and widely disseminate a large selection of these mini-essays without further editing, together with a general introduction. Please provide as much evidence as possible for how fundamental science enriched Europe. So, if you know of specific applications that emerged from fundamental research, be as specific as you can.

Practicalities: please email your entry before February 15th, 2015, to

This email address can also be used for questions.

What we will do with it: we will collect the entries on a website of the YAE together with a general introduction. A week before making the page public, we will send an embargoed press release with the content to professional journalists around the globe. This will be done in a way similar to the annual question on that traditionally gets covered in the very best news outlet (e.g. New York Times). In addition, we will use a digest of the entries to more directly address decision makers in Europe and encourage them to maintain investments in fundamental research.

Distribution: YAE and AE members and please distribute onwards to National Learned Societies.#

Prepared by the Young Academy of Europe Fundamental Science Task Force
Alban Kellerbaum, Christian Keysers (Chair), Andre Mischke, Daniele Oriti, Marco Paggi and Nikolaus Weiskopf on behalf of the Young Academy of Europe

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