For the first time, a Norwegian researcher becomes Vice President of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission

For the first time, a Norwegian researcher becomes Vice President of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission

European Research Council

Climate researcher Estin Jansen has been elected Vice-President of the European Research Council (ERC).

– It’s a great honor. The job is pretty extensive and not quite easy either, so I have a bit of a dread, says Eastin Jansen, who was sitting at Brussels Airport on his way to Bergen when he was called by Chrono.

Now there will be quite a few of these trips in the future. The European Research Council is based in Brussels. As of January 1, 2023, Janssen will be one of the two Vice-Chairs of the IER. The other is Danish researcher Jesper Svejstrup.

Climate scientist Eystein Jansen knows the European Research Council well before. He has been a member of the ERC Scientific Council since 2019 in addition to his work at the University of Bergen (UiB).

– The Equity and Reconciliation Commission is superbly managed and is a capable organization. Collaboration on the Scientific Council is good, Jansen is proud of the organization he will soon be joining and leading.

In the first place, it is very important that he finds a good assistant. As Vice-President, he will be the scientific leader of the EU’s commitment to basic research in the natural sciences and technology. He says that what takes longer is finding good candidates on all the evaluation committees within these two areas.

Poor understanding of basic research

What would you be particularly interested in as Vice President?

One is to ensure stability at ERC and the other is to promote examples from the organization about the importance of basic research and pioneering research to society. This does not have a high enough value in many countries, including Norway.

Jansen was one of the signatories to an event log in Klassecampen this week, where several prominent researchers have issued warnings about the state of the underlying research. He is critical of research cutbacks implemented by the government and believes that there is a lack of understanding of basic research.

This understanding is clearly very weak in Norwegian society. There are very few, except for researchers, who would defend the importance of such research.

He believes that the MRC is an example of how important basic research is to solving problems, and that we would not reach our goal without it.

– This is precisely not well understood in Norway. There is very little confidence that the insights the researchers have are the most important. We should leave it to the researchers and make use of their creativity.

ERC has conducted a survey, he says, that shows that many projects from the European Research Council contribute directly to supporting three of the most important policy challenges: green transformation, digital transformation, and health issues.

– It happened without political control.

The Council of the European Union will cut the budget

Another important function of Eystein Jansen as Vice-President is to enhance the role of the European Research Council in the Next Framework programme, after Horizon Europe today.

ERC can give many researchers the stars in their eyes. They award various scholarships with funding up to five years. The budget is more than 16 billion euros for the years 2021-2027.

Starting Grant, Consolidator Grant, and Advanced Grant are some of the grants. These scholarships are highly outstanding and mean a lot to researchers or research groups who have received several million kroner. Nobel laureates May-Britt Moser and Edward Moser have both received advanced grants from the IER.

– What do you think of the future: Will there be strict conditions for research in the future?

There are chances for that. The IER’s main budget has been set, but there is already discussion about it Downsizing and reprioritizing in next year’s budget.

Jansen says there is a tug of war between the European Parliament and the EU finance ministers. The former will keep the grant while the EU Council will cut it. He says it’s not about dramatic cuts, but just enough so that there are fewer projects to fund.

The European Parliament has proven to be an important supporter of research, not least the Equity and Reconciliation Commission.

Pushing young researchers forward

– Now you will soon be the Vice President. Why exactly did you climb to the top?

The simplest answer is that it is a coincidence. I have been involved in international research and basic research for a long time. As a participant in the United Nations Climate Committee, I have gained international attention.

Other points Jansen highlighted are that he led the Norwegian SFF (Center for Excellence in Research) and is the head of the Bjerknes Center for Climate Research. Now ERC was looking for someone with a background in Earth sciences to reflect the breadth of the scope. That was why it was suggested and described humbly as the good fortune that he was in the place they requested. Meanwhile, two of the Vice-Presidents had finished their duties and new Vice-Presidents had to be appointed.

– It is a great honor for my colleagues in the Equity and Reconciliation Commission to believe that I can do a good job.

Despite his new position as Vice President of ERC, Eystein Jansen will live in Bergen. The position of trust will take some time, but it is not a full-time position. He is paid in proportion to the number of meetings, but no salary. At Bergen, he will continue to work at the University of Bergen.

The most important thing for me as Vice President is to make sure the reviews are of high quality.

– Do you find time to be a climate scientist?

– Yes, a little, but not as a project manager, but that’s how it has been in recent years. I’m no longer young, I mostly take part in projects and pay young researchers who have better ideas than me. I’m part of the SFF and have exciting things to do, but I don’t want to sit in management.

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