In Europe, governments are attempting to prop up their countries' declining economies by instituting austerity measures and sharply cutting budgets. While some economists have bemoaned such cuts, the European Research Council's president, Helga Nowotny, is also criticizing the measures, reports Leigh Phillips at the Nature News blog. At a press conference at the 2012 Euroscience Open Forum in Dublin, Nowotny said that austerity programs in countries like Spain and Ireland threaten the quality of science being done there, and that researchers of all kinds may soon abandon those countries in search of better funding.
"Nowotny was responding to the fears voiced by high-profile Irish grantee and immunologist Luke O'Neill, who is also chair of the Immunity and Infection panel of the European Research Council," Phillips says. "Unprompted, he told reporters that austerity is hitting Irish research hard: 'Ireland is in real danger of slipping back. I worry about it a lot.'" Nowotny also decried cuts to research funding in Italy, saying that the scientists there who helped discover the Higgs boson will have their funding reduced by 3.8 percent this year and 10 percent in each of the following two years, Phillips adds.
The one bright spot, according to Nowotny, is Poland. She praised the country for its emphasis on math and physics in school, and its development of a funding structure for research excellence.