SNOWMAN's proposal for an ERA-Net future
The ERA-Net SNOWMAN seen as a funder for research can be picturised by an
The ongoing discussion on the EU level about the future of the ERA-Nets as an instrument for European research funding,
uses the word "umbrella" from time to time, too. And it is being described differently according the context the word is being used.
It would cost some time and Internet pages' space to describe what is behind the different meanings of such umbrella ideas.
Nevertheless, the SNOWMAN Core Group discussed in 2007 the future of this specific ERA-Net in detail and also came across thinking about the
European instrument ERA-Net as a whole. Jon Greaves from the Environment Agency of England and Wales, one of the SNOWMAN partner organisations,
described a possible structure of the ERA-Nets in the future that became SNOWMAN's future proposal for the ERA-Nets.
He used the idea of an umbrella, again, but gave several details to it, shaping this construct more clearly:
The ERA-Net umbrella. An alternative structure for the ERA-Nets as proposed by SNOWMAN - creating flexibility in funding.
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Different Working Groups (= Funding platforms) will gather under 1 umbrella defining the rules and procedures for the different platforms.
The platforms will be created on basis of topics and research areas.
Different numbers of countries and also different partner organisations could join the Working Groups and also step back,
if some topic is not on their national research agenda at the time, the Working Group is gathering. This means: flexibility.
The umbrella under which the Working Groups are operating will be the Support System for them. It will define not only the Procedures (Management).
It will also provide a Secretariat, become an Incubator for research and taking the responsibility for the Networking, and it will define rules
for common Dissemination. This means: continuity and dependability - for funders as well as researchers.
Finally, it is clear that the umbrella will be the ERA-Net - not the Working Groups. This proposal implies less money necessary to maintain the ERA-Net.
But the Working Group model will guarantee a flexible clustering of research interest groups.
The ERA-Net idea is not that old. So far, the networks needed (financial) support from the European Commisssion.
With the start of the Framework Programme 7 for Research and Technological Development, the Commission already
encouraged the exisiting ERA-Nets to become self-funded networks.
This is being supported by SNOWMAN future proposal for the ERA-Nets. Once, the Support System has become stable and is accepted by the EU Member States,
the members of one Working Group could commit themselves for spending money to the Support System from which they benefit: "Saving money - by sharing it!"
The SNOWMAN proposal does not mean, the future would present only 1 ERA-Net to the research community.
So many different variations have been explored by the existing ERA-Nets.
And the networks do work in so many different areas and circumstances.
Only 15 of more than 70 networks from the Framework Programme 6 for Research and Technological Development are belonging to the Environment topic.
Different Support Systems could exist presenting different rules and procedures. But their number as ERA-Nets would be downsized -
which means less money spent for structures and management by keeping the aim to cooperate trans-nationally.
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