23 May 2023
EU Research Ministers discuss knowledge security and responsible internationalisation
At the Competitiveness Council on Tuesday 23 May 2023 in Brussels, the ministers responsible for research focused on knowledge security and responsible internationalisation in their exchange of views. The ministers also approved Council Conclusions on high-quality, transparent, open, trustworthy and equitable scholarly publishing. Another item on the agenda was information from the Commission on the Seal of Excellence, and the Italian delegation provided information on the planned candidature of Rome to host EXPO 2030. Finally, the Spanish delegation gave an outlook on the Spanish EU Council Presidency during the second half of 2023. The meeting was chaired by Swedish Minister for Research Mats Persson. The European Commission was represented by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, due to the recent resignation of Commissioner Mariya Gabriel as Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.
The background document for the exchange of views on knowledge security and responsible internationalisation mentions maintaining the balance between open and restricted international research collaboration as the aim of the discussion. Knowledge security is about how to ensure that open research environments can be protected from any form of malicious activity. Due to new geopolitical tensions and challenges, this issue has become more significant than ever. Responsible internationalisation implies a structured process for identifying, assessing, managing, and monitoring opportunities and risks in research collaborations. Such an approach leads to better preparedness and awareness as well as increased knowledge of foreign interference, while also safeguarding fundamental rights and values of academic freedom, integrity and autonomy, as stated by the Presidency in the background document. The topic has been in the focus of attention of the European Commission for some time now. The European Commission had released a Staff Working Document on “Tackling R&I Foreign Interference” in January 2022 (Commission publishes a toolkit to help mitigate foreign interference in research and innovation (europa.eu)). Mats Persson, Swedish Minister for Education, said 'the ambition of these conclusions is to accelerate the transition to open access which does not benefit only the research community but society as whole'.
At the Competitiveness Council meeting, EU Research Ministers approved Council Conclusions on high-quality, transparent, open, trustworthy and equitable scholarly publishing. Access to scientific publications is one of the key elements of an open science system. These Council Conclusions are a top priority of the Swedish Council Presidency, and the discussions of the ministers responsible for research at their informal meeting in February in Stockholm fed into them. The Conclusions focus on the following aspects: (1) Towards an open, equitable and sustainable scholarly publishing system, (2) supporting diversity and ensuring equity in scholarly publishing, and (3) enhancing trust and ensuring high quality, transparency and integrity in scholarly publishing. As regards the way forward, the Conclusions address framework conditions as well as infrastructures and skills.
Under Any Other Business, the European Commission informed the Council about the Seal of Excellence: First introduced under Horizon 2020, it is awarded to project proposals which are evaluated above the quality thresholds but not funded due to lack of budget available. The Seal of Excellence facilitates the build-up of synergies between funding programmes at EU and national level, including potential alternative funding. Supporting the Seal of Excellence is a voluntary choice for each Member State. The Commission focused its presentation on the Seal of Excellence within the European Innovation Council (EIC) and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).
The Italian delegation provided information about the planned candidature of Rome to host EXPO 2030. Rome will be the only candidate for 2030 from an EU Member State, and the theme of Italy’s candidature is “People and Territories: Regeneration, Inclusion and Innovation”, which is strongly linked to the endeavours to tap the full potential of the social and economic value of innovation for Europe.
As a final AOB point, the Spanish delegation informed the Council about the work programme of the Spanish EU Presidency, which begins on 1 July 2023.
Over lunch, research ministers discussed the topic "Science denial as a threat to democracy".
The informal meeting of EU ministers responsible for research will be held in Santander on 27-28 July 2023, and the next formal Competitiveness Council meeting is scheduled for 8 December 2023 in Brussels.
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