European Guild of Research Intensive Universities formally launches

Published: 21 November 2016

The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities will be officially launched at an opening symposium on Monday 21st of November 2016 in the Bibliothèque Solvay in Brussels.

The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities officially launched at an opening symposium on Monday 21st of November 2016 in the Bibliothèque Solvay in Brussels. The University of Glasgow is a founding member of this new group of eighteen of Europe’s leading universities from across thirteen countries and the Principal, Professor Anton Muscatelli, is the Guild’s vice-chair.

The Guild aims to bring together universities that have demonstrable excellence in teaching, research and policy formation from across Europe to collaborate on the creation of innovative solutions to some of Europe’s most intractable scientific and social challenges.Anton Muscatelli portrait 2015

The Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Professor Anton Muscatelli, attended the official launch event. He said: “Now more than ever it is important that major research intensive universities have a united voice that can impact on both national and international policy in higher education. I am delighted that the University of Glasgow is a founder member of the Guild and look forward to working with partner institutions in promoting excellence in research, teaching and learning.”

At the launch concern was expressed that despite new instruments in Horizon 2020 to support low-performing countries in research and innovation, the research and innovation gap between European universities has widened in recent years. The Guild is now calling for an urgent and critical evaluation of excellence is supported in Europe. Affirming the importance of excellence as a criterion for funding decisions, the Guild notes that every country, and every global ranking, has framed research excellence in different ways.

Professor Jan Palmowski, General Secretary of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities said: “Outstanding research and innovation depends on collaboration and exchange. It cannot be in anyone’s interest if current funding mechanisms enhance, rather than reduce, the science and innovation divide in Europe. Current Horizon 2020 funding is reflective neither of national differences in R&D spend, nor of the science divide as measured by international citations. As a result, it is important to evaluate how funding is currently framed, to see what effects this has on fostering excellent science and innovation in the most effective ways.”

The Guild also stands for enhanced support for basic collaborative research throughout Europe. It is concerned that currently, Horizon 2020 encourages applied collaborative research in relation to Europe’s Societal Challenges – and yet, the most radical innovation comes from unexpected findings through basic research. Strengthening basic collaborative research across European borders speaks to a core added value of European research funding.

Research excellence, and the question of how universities can spearhead new forms of open innovation and science so that they are at the heart of economic, cultural and social change, will be considered at the launch Symposium which will:

•    Discuss how Open Science involves a change of culture towards the sharing of information: if science is to be based on openness and collaborative participation, it means that scientists, institutions and funders will have to moving away from the standard metrics that govern appointments, careers, and – in some countries – research funding, towards different ways of evaluating excellence in science.

•    Consider new types of training and skills which universities need to provide, to enable students and the wider public to engage in open science and open innovation; for instance skills around data analytics and text mining will become much more important for future scientists, irrespective of discipline.

•    Explore how citizen participation in science and innovation can help bridge a gap between ‘experts’ in universities, and society.

•    Examine the critical role of universities in pioneering new ideas for the benefit of society, as they can facilitate the co-creation of applied knowledge with users and the providers of technology in often unexpected ways.

The Guild has also spoken out on the importance of universities in addressing social and cultural divisions and disaffection in Europe.  It is now calling for fresh dialogue between policy makers and those involved in higher education, and as a priority the Guild intends to  consider how universities can better engage with society.

Guild Chair Ole Petter Ottersen – Rector of the University of Oslo said: “The Guild has been created because at this time, the voice of European Universities is more important than ever, and it needs to be strengthened. The Guild will add to current social and cultural debates through the engagement of its scientists and students. It will add to debates about European research and innovation through the unique history and expertise of its members. And it will lead by example, improving the research, education and governance of its members through exchange and collaboration. In this way we seek to challenge ourselves as we learn from each other how we can become more inclusive in our universities, and in how we engage.”

First published: 21 November 2016