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Many Wallenberg alumni now work at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, which implemented radical reforms in the 1990s as its direct state subsidy shrank from two-thirds to one-third of its budget. Vice Chancellor Hans Wigzell describes the changes as "U.S.-like": councils were set up so extra resources could be funneled to promising research; tenured professors are now guaranteed three months' salary, with the rest covered by outside grants; private-sector funding is aggressively sought, with foundations contributing 22% of the budget and industry chipping in 11%; and two investment funds and a holding company were created to exploit discoveries commercially. "People thought our ideas were weird," Wigzell says. "But we made a classical European university into a competitive institution."
A group of like-minded institutions including the Karolinska, K.U.L., Cambridge and the University of Leiden have also formed the League of European Research Universities (leru), in the hopes that such reforms will prove contagious. They are pooling their resources and lobbying to improve the outlook for research. They want increased funding, more promotion of science in society and better incentives for businesses to invest in research. Leiden rector magnificus Douwe Breimer, who thought up leru, says that governments have to act if they want Europe to become more prominent as a scientific force: "We're still behind [the U.S.] in facilities and career opportunities."
Another step in the right direction would be the formation of a European Research Council (ERC). An expert group convened by the Commission concluded last month that "new European approaches to strengthening research are urgently needed," including a publicly funded, science-driven body to support research. "There's a need for a competitive funding scheme independent of national interests," says Danish scientist [an error occurred while processing this directive]Mogens Flensted-Jensen, who served as vice chair of the panel. "To define excellence, you need competition on a European level that is supporting basic research."
The panel called on member states to commit by the end of 2004 to the establishment of the erc, which has heavy support from across the scientific spectrum. "The E.U. needs a COMMON research policy if it is going to play an important role in the future global development," says Bengt Samuelsson, chairman of the Nobel Foundation board, who offered his backing at last month's Nobel Prize presentations. By creating the ERC and endowing it with the €2 billion-plus per year that it would need to make a difference, member states would better equip the E.U. to match the U.S., which enjoys the strength of well-funded bodies such as the National Science Foundation.
At Lisbon in 2000, the E.U. set its own challenge: to compete. What this means, says Breimer of leru, who backs the ERC, is that "brain drain should work in both directions we should make ourselves attractive to the U.S., too." If Europe follows the lead of its most innovative institutions, it can do just that, and it will have a ready audience: Europeans who have moved abroad would love to come home. "I would prefer to live in Europe," says Tangney. "I think about moving back every other day," says astronomer Savaglio. "I love my country," says N.Y.U.'s Dorrello. "My dream is to have the lab from New York with the American organization and technology in Naples." If Europe is serious about its science, perhaps that dream could come true. Home really is where the heart is for these researchers, but they need Europe to be a place where the scientific mind can flourish, too.