The shaping of regional identities through research funding policies

Session T8 at the March meeting

Chaired and reported by Giulia Pancheri

Fundamental research funding is a powerful agent towards building regional identity. With its transnational basis, scientific research has long fostered the building of contacts and collaborations extending beyond national boundaries. On the other hand, only after World War II, research funding has acquired the modern day transnational extension. One case at hand is the funding of fundamental research by the European Union. Modern science has always been international, and Europe did not lack in intra-European collaborations and programs, but the so-called mobility programs, requiring young researchers to move from one European Union (EU) country to the other, created the identity of a European young researcher and contributed to the building of a European identity in the post-Berlin wall generation.

To explore the extension of large regions research programs and the impact of research funding on building transnational identities, a session was organized by the FIP, at the Dallas March Meeting on March 23rd, entitled “Shaping Regional Identities through Research Funding Policies.” This session provided an overview of major research projects and funding agencies in Europe, India, Brazil, the Middle East and the U.S., with the following program:

Europe and research: a multispeed scenario by Luisa Cifarelli-U. Bologna, Italy and European Physical Society (President-Elect)

Technology and innovation in Brazil  by Carlos Aragao de Carvalho, Vale Technological Institute, CNPq and UFRI, Brazil

Mega physics projects: National and International Initiatives: the Indian Experience  by Rohini Godbole, IIST, Bangalore, India

Building bridges by Herman Winick, Stanford National Accelerator Center, U.S.

Science for Energy by Harriet Kung, Basic Energy Science, DOE, U.S.

Luisa Cifarelli, President-Elect of the European Physical Society (EPS) opened the session and presented an overview of physics research in Europe. She discussed the role of the funding agencies, outlining the differences and similarities between the European and the U.S. scenarios. In Europe, funding of fundamental research is based on regional, national and intra-European agencies, with the funding by the European Union (EU) playing an increasing role through a number of programs, such as the Seventh Framework Program (FP7), the European Research Council (ERC), the European Science Foundation (ESF), and the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures. Cifarelli described the role of EPS in fostering research through its scientific activities, and the strategy plan. This presentation of the European scenarios underlined the strength and vitality of European research and the strong commitment by both national and international agencies to excellence and innovation.

Following Cifarelli, Carlos Aragao de Carvalho, former President of the Brazil Research Council, presented the status of technology and innovation in Brazil. With a population of 194 million (the fifth largest) and a GDP, which is the eighth in the world, Brazil has a growing economy coupled with social progress. Until World War II, Brazil had a very small number of scientists and little institutional base for research. Between the 1950's and the 70's, federal agencies were created, together with university graduate programs and full-time faculty positions. As the GDP grew by a factor of 6 between 1994 and 2009, the new federal agencies also increased their share of research funding. And while Science and Technology had not in the past been a decisive driver of development in Brazil, since 2003 there has been a large increase in funds for Science Technology and Innovation.

The new Action Plan for Science, Technology and Innovation, PACTI, 2007-2010, is integral part of Brazil's growth in this field. Many and positive are the Science and Technology (S&T) indicators, among them the fast rise of scientific publications. In 2010 Brazil's scientists produced 2.7% of the world scientific papers, increasing at the rate of 11.3% per year. Carlos Aragao concluded his presentation by listing Brazil's challenges for the future, namely quality education at all levels, internationalization of Brazilian S&T, globalization of Brazilian companies, with a final goal of reaching a sustainable development, as a lead to economic, environmental and social progress.

Rohini Godbole, Professor of Physics from the Indian Institute for Science and Technology in Bangalore, and a member of the Indian Academy of Science, described the Indian experience on mega physics projects. Mega Science Projects by their very nature have to be international, not just in the funding, but also concerning logistics, scientific resources, etc.

At present there are three major areas where research requires mega facilities: experimental high energy and nuclear physics, astrophysics and astronomy, material research and intense light sources. India is participating meaningfully in all of them, both as a partner and as provider of large-scale facilities. In mega science facilities outside India, such as the CERN LHC, India is presently holding observer status in the CERN Council, while associate partnership is under consideration. Prof. Godbole described how India is also building its own mega science projects, such as the project Chandrayaan, India's space mission, indigenously designed and fabricated. INO, the India based Neutrino Observatory is soon to take off and International participation is encouraged.

Herman Winick, from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, described an initiative by Helmut Dosch, the Director of the DESY Laboratory in Hamburg. The DESY program uses scientific partnerships with institutions in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region to promote the development of a long-term reliable, sustainable and economic energy supply. An agreement is being developed between DESY and SESAME, the facility for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, to promote concentrated solar power plants in MENA, initially to power SESAME and the local region, with larger future plants transmitting power to DESY and elsewhere in Europe.

The session was closed by Dr. Harriet Kung, Director of Basic Energy Science (BES), from the Office of Science of US Department of Energy. Dr. Kung's presentation on “Science for Energy” illustrated DOE's strategies to meet the nation's challenges of today and into the 21st century. The strategic planning activities of BES focus on science for discovery, science for national needs and on national scientific user facilities, which are the basic 21st century tools of science. DOE provides 45% of federal support of basic research in the physical sciences and key components of the nation's basic research in biology and computing. Supporting over 27,000 PhD's, graduate students, engineers and support staff at over 300 institutions, DOE provides also the world's largest collection of scientific users facilities to over 26,000 users each year. In the past decade alone, DOE has supported research which has led to 22 Nobel prizes.

The photograph below shows the session participants.

Invited speakers and session chair at the APS FIP session T8
Photograph courtesy Noémie Koller

Invited speakers and session chair at the APS FIP session on “Shaping Regional Identities through Research Funding Policies”, Dallas, Texas, March 23rd, 2011. From left: Harriet Kung, US DOE, Giulia Pancheri, INFN Frascati, Rohini Godbole, IIST India, Herman Winick, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Luisa Cifarelli, EPS President-Elect, Carlos Alberto Aragão de Carvalho, Brazil Research Council.

Professor Giulia Pancheri is a theoretical physicist at the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Italy and is a member of the FIP Executive Committee.

Disclaimer - The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on International Physics Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of the APS.