By Alexia Hereford, International Policy Manager, RCUK International
RCUK works hard to identify flexible mechanisms to support collaborative international research. Last year we renewed our Lead Agency agreement with the State of São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) in Brazil, and earlier this year our International Champion, Professor Paul Boyle, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the US National Science Foundation (NSF).
Yesterday, Paul was a little closer to home, signing a Statement of Intent with Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR) in Luxembourg.
As part of the Statement, RCUK and FNR have committed to operating what’s known as a ‘Lead Agency’ agreement. Currently, UK and Luxembourg-based researchers who want to work together each have to submit a proposal to their own funding agency. Under the new agreement, they can write a single collaborative proposal that goes through a single peer review process. This approach helps avoid ‘double jeopardy’ – the risk that a proposed joint project will be approved in one country but not in the other. It also means that each funding agency can maintain budgetary control over their awards, reducing unnecessary financial and administrative burden.
As well as addressing a number of operational and ethical issues, the RCUK-FNR agreement helps remove barriers within Europe. Through Science Europe – an organisation set up to promote the collective interests of the Research Funding and Research Performing Organisations of Europe – we have developed a ‘toolkit’ for cross-border collaboration. The toolkit consists of a number of mechanisms intended to facilitate cross-border research collaboration within Europe – and Lead Agency is one of these.
So how does ‘Lead Agency’ work? The funding agencies from two or more countries agree which of the agencies will take the leading function, known as the ‘Lead Agency’. In this case RCUK will be the lead. The Lead Agency is responsible for carrying out the review process and makes a recommendation on whether or not to approve an application. With final sign-off at the national agency level, the different project parts are then funded by the respective agencies, so that no money needs to be transferred across borders.
RCUK is committed to an open and inclusive European Research Area. According to the International Benchmarking Study of UK Research Performance 2011, the UK’s global influence and reputation for research is “related to its wide – and widening – collaboration with diverse parts of the world.” When Paul signed the agreement with FNR yesterday, we took another step towards creating a collaborative environment in which UK research can continue to flourish.
You can read the FNR press release here: http://fnr.lu/en/Press/Press-Releases