Petition Closed

The current distribution of science funding in Ireland marginalises the fundamental sciences, which are part of a knowledge ecosystem linking universities to industry and to Irish society as a whole.

Letter to
The Deparment of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation Minister Sean Sherlock
The Deparment of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation Minister Richard Bruton
Main Department (DJEI)
I, the undersigned, petition the Government to recognise that science is vital to Ireland and to not reduce the support for both fundamental and applied scientific research.

Firstly, I would like to note appreciation for the continuing government efforts to fund scientific research and see this as essential to Ireland’s economic recovery.

However, the current distribution of funding marginalises the fundamental sciences (e.g., pure maths, evolutionary biology, astronomy, particle physics, geophysics, etc.). Fundamental research is part of a knowledge ecosystem that links universities to industry and to Irish society as a whole. Fundamental research underpins applied research, which leads to industry links – these areas are all connected and cannot produce results alone.

The Forfás National Research Prioritisation Exercise (NRPE) report recommends funding research in 14 commercially-focused areas. In addition, it recommends support for Ireland’s growing reputation in fundamental research. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has excluded important areas of fundamental research from its remit since the publication of the NRPE. The majority of Irish Research Council (IRC) science funding (a fraction of SFI’s budget) is open to fundamental research, but there is fear that the IRC could eventually follow suit.

Lastly, since the Office of the Chief Science Adviser was recently abolished, Ireland has lost its primary independent voice on scientific matters. The duties of the CSA have been transferred to the Director General of SFI, who already has a significant workload and will not be in a position to devote the required time to high-level science policy matters. This change also gives the potential for a major conflict of interest.

I, the undersigned, request of the Irish government:

1. Not to cut the science budget, which is already well below the European Union's goals, relative to GDP and GNP.

2. Restore fundamental research to Ireland's priorities by amending the 14 priority areas that are specified in the NRPE document to include fundamental research as one of the areas.

3. Maintain the IRC as a source of funding for fundamental research, and increase its budget, allowing it to fund continuing postdoctoral research and collaborative research projects.

4. Restore the Chief Science Adviser post as an independent adviser to the government on issues related to public science policy.

I believe this will provide a more balanced and unbiased approach to research and the acquisition of new knowledge for the benefit of our nation.