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Relation between funding and research fields

The differences in funding per year across disciplines are presented in Table 3.5. CoEs focused on technical sciences receive on average USD 3.1 million (for the whole sample of CoEs) and USD 3.4 million (for the sample of CoEsLB). This is double the amount received by CoEs undertaking research in the social sciences and humanities (around USD 1 million for the whole sample and USD 1.6 million for the sample of CoEsLB). The differences in funding across disciplines are small when CoEsSB are analysed. CoEsSB in technical sciences and in social sciences and humanities receive, similar funding per year (USD 457 000 and 480 000 respectively).

Table 3.5. Primary research fields and funding per year, USD PPP (2011 or latest available year)

Technical sciences

Social sciences and humanities

All CoEs

3 106 860

1 049 449

CoEsLB

3 495 038

1 618 737

CoEsSB

457 127

480 161

Source: OECD/RIHR Survey to Centres of Excellence, 2012.

Centres participating in the survey were also asked to report the type of activities mostly supported by REI funds. Figure 3.5 shows the main activities for which the funding is said to be primarily used.10

Figure 3.5. Most frequent types of activities supported by REI funding

Source: OECD/RIHR Survey to Centres of Excellence, 2012.

The majority of respondents indicated that the funding was mainly used for research. Interestingly, doctoral and post-doctoral training are also among the main activities funded by REIs. Post-doctoral training is slightly more important for CoEsSB than for the average sample of CoEs (43% and 33%, respectively), while doctoral programmes are more important for CoEsLB than for CoEsSB (72% and 67%, respectively). This may be related to the financial effort needed to run a doctoral programme.

As noted earlier, the OECD/RIHR survey to CoEs included a field for comments for many of the questions, and respondents described a number of additional activities supported by the REIs. As shown in Figure 3.5, “other activities” ranks fourth on the chart. The open responses were grouped into five main categories:11

  • • Training including leadership training in general and specific leadership training for women and junior group leaders; lab management training; gender aware- ness/equality; professional skills/career development; mentoring programmes; research project administration; and human resource management.
  • • Public awareness of science including science communication; public outreach, engagement and communication; collaboration with civil society; hosting citizen lectures; collaboration with museums, science centres etc.; and increasing scientific literacy.
  • • Staff mobility including international exchange of scholars; mobility programmes; internships; international collaboration; and globalisation training (i.e. sending graduate students to academic institutions abroad and accepting graduate students from abroad).
  • • Industry and innovation including industry engagement; innovation management; industry outreach; and industrial clusters.
  • • Other including: capacity building in developing countries; collaboration with non-government organisations (NGOs); and workshops and conferences.

As Figure 3.5 shows, doctoral and post-doctoral training are two of the main activities funded through REIs, and other types of training activities frequently cited in the comments concern generic or transferable skills. While researchers acquire skills in the course of their studies and daily work, increasing attention is being paid to the formal development of transferable skills, particularly in higher education programmes (OECD, 2012). CoEs can provide an environment for the development of transferable skills training.

Another important element of science policy is boosting the participation of women in scientific careers. In higher education and research, female scientific participation levels drop steadily at higher seniority levels (European Commission, 2013). REI and CoE programmes can also be used to address gender issues in science (Box 3.1).

Box 3.1. Austria’s Laura Bassi centres of expertise

In 2005, the Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth commissioned a survey of the Austrian Society for Environment and Technology to identify the obstacles for women’s careers in co-operative research. Obstacles included ambiguous awarding procedures, a male alliance structure that impeded women’s advancement, and few opportunities to network with industry. Based on these results, the Laura Bassi centres of expertise REI was established. The two-stage selection process included new types of evaluation criteria to make the competences of excellent female researchers more visible.

The Laura Bassi centres of expertise are consortia in the field of applied basic research with at least one research institution (scientific partner) and at least one company partner. The eight centres are headed by highly qualified females at universities or public research institutions. Starting in 2009, they have a lifespan of seven years. In the fourth year, an interim evaluation was carried out to decide on the extension of funding for another three years. The Laura Bassi centres of expertise were established as a one-off initiative. They will not be institutionalised in the Austrian research landscape, but are used to create opportunities and to achieve gender equality in collaborative research within existing REIs.

The initiative has a budget of EUR 16.1 million (USD 19.02 million) from 2009 to 2017. The maximum funding for each centre is EUR 0.53 million (USD 0.63 million) a year. As discussed in Chapter 2 (Table 2A.1.1 Annex 2.A1) the Laura Bassi centres of expertise were excluded from this study as the funding per CoE was less than USD 1 million a year. However, they demonstrate that REIs can be designed to target specific national needs.

Source: OECD/RIHR questionnaire to government ministries and CoEs.

 
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