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Research Council introduces a new policy for basic research

The Research Council of Norway will promote more pioneering basic research of high international calibre and enhance career opportunities for younger researchers across the entire range of funding instruments. High-quality basic research will be a mainstay of the Council’s thematically oriented initiatives. 

These are the primary objectives of the Research Council’s new policy for basic research. The policy expands on the Council’s main strategy (to be approved at the beginning of 2015) in this area.


“The point of departure for the policy is that there is an important dynamic between scientific relevance and relevance to society. Society is evolving at a rapid pace, and basic research provides us with the knowledge we need to adapt to and tackle new challenges. It brings forth new understanding that enables us to solve problems – both those we know about and those we haven’t encountered yet,” says Director General of the Research Council, Arvid Hallén.

The Research Council uses open competitive arenas such as the FRIPRO funding scheme for independent projects and the Centres of Excellence (SFF) scheme to fund basic research in which scientific relevance for the research front is a key award criterion. Additionally, thematic initiatives in fields such as climate, energy, health and ICT research serve to provide funding for basic research where relevance to society and to science are assessed together.

More basic research in thematically oriented initiatives
“The Research Council will promote basic research that expands research frontiers and contributes to scientific renewal, but we consider it crucial to include basic research in contexts involving issues of benefit to society as well,” points out Mr Hallén.

One of the primary objectives of the new policy is therefore to ensure that basic research is a mainstay of thematically oriented initiatives as well.

“Basic research drives long-term knowledge development. It can generate new insights that change ways of thinking about the world and that other research can use to build on in turn. The capacity of the research communities involved in basic research needs to be better exploited to support research in areas involving central challenges to society. We will therefore work to establish adequate financial frameworks for basic research both within and outside the thematic priority areas,” says the Director General.

The award of the Nobel Prize in Physiology to May-Britt and Edvard Moser at NTNU illustrates the potential of joint investment in basic research on the part of the research institutions and the Research Council. (Photo: NTNU Info)

Will strengthen pioneering research
The policy emphasises that the Research Council will work to promote pioneering basic research.

In order to succeed, it is essential to increase the internationalisation of Norwegian research. The Council will work to bolster the best researchers and to build up scientific groups that are international leaders in their fields. At the same time, instruments for identifying innovative projects will be refined. 

Will ensure good career opportunities
Another objective of the policy is to recruit the best and the brightest and to ensure that the researchers of the future enjoy good career opportunities.

“The ability to provide talented young researchers of today with a chance to develop their skills is critical to building a good foundation for the future knowledge society,” asserts Mr Hallén.

Research Council to join forces with the institutions
The universities, university colleges and research institutes have the main responsibility for advancing basic research. The Research Council will join forces with these institutions to further promote research of high calibre and relevance for scientific renewal and societal challenges.

“The Research Council will work to strengthen the best basic research being carried out at the institutions. We will help to build up research groups around top researchers. The most outstanding example of the value of collaboration between the institutions and the Council is the Nobel Prize in Physiology awarded this year to May-Britt and Edvard Moser at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU),” concludes the Director General.

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