European Science Foundation

The European Science Foundation (ESF) is an association of 72 member organizations devoted to scientific research in 30 European countries. It is an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation that facilitates cooperation and collaboration in European research and development, European science policy and science strategy. It was established in 1974. The ESF offices are in Strasbourg, France (headquarters), and in Brussels and Ostend, Belgium.

The ESF Member Organisations are research-performing and research-funding organisations, academies and learned societies across Europe. Together they represent an annual funding of about €25 billion.

The European Science Foundation awards the annual European Latsis Prize.

Science strategy

Science strategy activities seek to foresight and advice on science, research infrastructure and science policy issues. They include:

Forward Looks are medium to long-term authoritative studies on science perspectives in broad areas of research and development. Forward Look reports assists policy makers and researchers in defining optimal research agendas and in setting priorities. Examples of completed Forward Look exercises include Investigator clinical trials, European food systems in a changing world, and Nanosciences and the Long Term Evolution of Information Technology.

Exploratory Workshops are small group sessions aimed at opening up new directions of research and exploring emerging frontier areas with potential impact on new developments in science. The workshops have wide participation from across Europe and involve leading scientists as well as young and independent researchers. In 2008 ESF organised 54 Exploratory Workshops across all fields of science and humanities.

Members Organisations Fora are issue-related venues for the ESF Member Organisations (and others as appropriate) to develop joint actions on topics of broad relevance. These actions may lead to establishing common procedures, cooperative activities or best practices and benchmarks. Currently, there are 7 ongoing MO Fora, 2 Fora have been completed:

  • Research Integrity
  • Peer Review
  • Research Careers
  • Medium-Sized Research Infrastructures
  • Science in Society Relationship
  • Evaluation of Publicly Funded Research

Evaluation: Indicators of Internalisation

Evaluation of Funding Schemes and Research Programmes(Completed)

Promoting Internalisation of Social Sciences in Central and Eastern Europe(Completed)

Science Policy Briefings deliver position statements and recommendations on various science policy issues (e.g. ethical use of animals in research, the use of human cells). The reports are intended to target the ESF stakeholders, governments, European Commission, other international agencies, industry and academia. Recent SPBs include Impacts of Ocean Acidification, and Advancing Systems Biology for Medical Applications

The EUROHORCs and ESF Vision on a Globally Competitive ERA and their Road Map for Actions to Help Build it, which set out joint EUROHORCs and the ESF vision for future globally competitive European Research Area (ERA) and the essential requirements to be fulfilled within the next 5–10 years.

Science synergy

Science synergy instruments aim to stipulate dialogue and cooperation between researchers, and to implement European-level research: EUROCORES (European Collaborative Research scheme) enable researchers in different European countries to develop collaboration in areas where European scale and scope are required. For national research funding and research performing agencies EUROCORES makes it possible to support transnational research project involving several partners by synchronising funding decisions at national level. It also enables to develop collaborative research in areas of common strategic priority. EUROCORES programmes consist of around six collaborative research projects working on subtopics of the main theme. It is a bottom-up programme where research topics and other issues are identified by scientists. The programmes have so far generated hundreds of peer reviewed publications including articles in high-impact journals such as Science and Nature. Recent research achievements include: William Patterson, from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, and his colleagues have shown that switching off the North Atlantic circulation can force the Northern hemisphere into a mini ‘ice age’ in a matter of months. Previous work has indicated that this process would take tens of years.(BOREAS (Histories from the North - environments, movements, narratives)

Research findings of researchers involved in OMLL (Origin of Man, Language and Languages) programme confirmed that early humans were consistently wearing and potentially trading symbolic jewellery as early as 80,000 years ago. The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

Research Networking Programmes (RNP) are 4-5 year network projects, accompanied by exchange grants and short term visits for scientists. They allow networking and international collaboration between nationally funded research groups. Research achievements include that RNP European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica(EPICA), received in 2008 the Descartes Prize for Research. The project showed that the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are higher now than at any time in the past 650,000 years

ESF Research Conferences are a conference series on selected topics together with a European partner as co-funder. The instrument activities also include world conferences (ESF-JSPS Frontier Science Conferences for Young Researchers) and series of summer and winter schools providing advanced scientific training in physics. The ESF Research Conferences currently cover: biomedicine, chemistry, environmental sciences, humanities, interdisciplinary natural and social sciences, mathematics, molecular biology at the interface with other disciplines, physics/biophysics, social sciences. In 2008 there were 26 conferences organised by the ESF. The ESF conferences unit is located in Brussels with a liaison base in Strasbourg.

Science management

Science management activities include management of the EU Framework Programme ERA-NETs scheme and provision of the management structure and administration for the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST). The ESF managed ERA-NETs involve (among others) also European Research Icebreaker Consortium –AURORA BOREALIS (ERICON-AB), a project to build the most advanced research vessel in the world, with year-round operational capability and state-of-the-art technology and laboratory equipment. The ESF European Polar Board is managing and coordinating authority of the project.