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The future of science in Europe

Credit: Scott Reinhard

The European Union is facing a pivotal political moment. Populist, anti-EU sentiment is rising in some countries, and the bloc is preparing to lose one of its most powerful member states: the United Kingdom. Whereas positive economic forecasts suggest that Europe as a whole is on the upturn, research spending in some countries hasn’t recovered since the global financial crisis of 2008. But researchers hope that these tensions won’t dent the region’s reputation for world-class, open and collaborative science — and they are planning for what the next decade will bring.

An infographic explores the research investment and scientific output of the disparate countries that make up Europe. A News Feature examines how the EU is developing its next giant research programme, called Horizon Europe, a roughly €100-billion (US$112-billion) funding stream that will run from 2021 to 2027 and is a linchpin for collaborations across the bloc. And another News Feature looks at the EU’s controversial plans to boost its spending on defence research, a programme that many academics oppose. In a Comment, research-policy specialists James Wilsdon and Sarah de Rijcke portray the EU as filling a void in international scientific leadership. They highlight the potential for its model of science policy and governance to become more influential around the world in the decade ahead.

Not everyone is as optimistic: Nature presents the views of nine leading Europeans on the future priorities for science. They rail against nationalism and short-term planning, appeal to make climate change the main focus of all research programmes and call for more openness, cooperation and spending.

Amid all the uncertainty, early-career scientists still flock to the region, and a Careers feature discusses what they encounter when they join the European research community. And an Editorial urges Europe’s scientists to continue celebrating the strengths that make the EU great.

Science in Europe

Articles in this special issue:

What Europe is getting right about research

The European Union’s cross-border collaborative programmes offer lessons for the rest of the world. (Editorial)

Science in Europe: by the numbers

The region already hosts some of the world’s leading scientific countries, and some of its smaller states are quickly catching up. (News Feature)

How European scientists will spend €100 billion

The European Union has partially approved the shape of its next giant research-spending programme, but it faces political tensions. (News Feature)

Europe’s controversial plans to expand defence research

Smart drones and artificial intelligence are part of the European Union’s plans for defensive research, but many academics oppose the programme. (News Feature)

Europe the rule-maker

Proactive, cosmopolitan and open, the European Union is filling a leadership void on the global stage, argue James Wilsdon and Sarah de Rijcke. (Comment)

Views from a continent in flux

Nature asked nine leading Europeans to pick their top priority for science at this pivotal point. Love, money, and trust got most votes. (Comment)

Europe is a top destination for many researchers

Language, cultural differences and expense are common downsides, but there are opportunities to learn new techniques, work in diverse settings and polish confidence. (Careers)

Nature 569, 469 (2019)



Nature Careers


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