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If you have a suggestion for something that should be covered or someone who should be invited to contribute, please contact the DARMA Secretariat.

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  • 05 Feb 2016 15:11 | Olaf Svenningsen (Administrator)

    My second blog post is an abbreviated version of a piece in EARMA's newsletter about the EUFORI Study:

    Did you know that private foundations in Europe spend a minimum of EUR 5 billion on R&I annually? This is a conservative estimate, and the real number is most certainly larger. Over a period of 7 years, private foundations will thus spend at least EUR 35 billion, i.e. more than half of the Horizon 2020 R&I expenditure.

    The EUFORI Study is the first report to give an overview over research activities of private foundations in 29 European countries: 27 EU countries as well as Norway and Switzerland. Out of almost 13,000 foundations that were approached, 1,591 were included the study. The report—that can be downloaded for free from this web page—consists of one main synthesis report, and 29 accompanying country reports, altogether 1,277 information-rich pages guaranteed to keep you occupied for a very long time, if you endeavor to read them all.

    The EUFORI report is a unique source of insight for anyone working with—or interested in—research funding and research policy.

    Private foundations are interesting for research managers and administrators because, unlike public funders, foundations are often free to set their own rules, and tend to be less bureaucratic than e.g. the EU Commission or many national funders—or at least that is often the intention. 

    Large private foundations can also play important roles as drivers of change in research policy. For example, the Knut & Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW), Sweden’s biggest private research-funding foundation, initiated and funded the process to adopt a full-cost model for the recovery of indirect costs in Sweden. Without the support of KAW, the full-cost reform would have been much more difficult—or impossible—to realize. As the EUFORI Study points out, one of the characteristics of private research funding is that foundations prefer to only fund “direct support of research”, and tend to be reluctant to cover indirect costs (overhead).

    The EUFORI study report is a cornucopia of interesting facts that can be useful, important, or just interesting. There are plenty of facts for the statistics enthusiast, and these facts tell a story, which has never before been supported by facts and data. It may not come as a surprise that Europe has developed a large, heterogeneous and also fragmented private foundation sector, but did you know that:

    • The number of public benefit foundations in Europe is unknown, but estimated at c. 110,000.
    • The estimated assets of 1,052 of the biggest foundation amounts to EUR 127 billion in 2012.
    • 90% of the foundations expenditure is at a national or regional level, mostly due to limitations in their statutes; the European or international dimension is still subordinate.
    • Medical and health sciences are by far the most popular research area amongst European foundations. 44% of the foundations, and 63% of the expenditure of the EUFORI foundations are directed towards the health sciences.
    • 61% of the EUFORI foundations support research only and a surprisingly low 6% supports innovation only, the remaining foundations supporting both. Other purposes than R&I are quite common.
    • 83% of the foundations focus on applied research, while 61% support basic research (there is obviously some overlap here). Interestingly, the distribution of expenditure is evenly distributed between basic and applied research.
    • 47% of the foundations reported to be grant making only, while 41% claimed to only carry out operating activities. Curiously, this appears to be geographically determined: 85% of Scandinavian foundations are grant making, while 80% of the foundations in the Mediterranean are of the operating type.
    • The biggest of them all is the British Wellcome Trust, responsible for 44% of the research expenditure in the UK. If Wellcome had been a country, it would rank as the second biggest in Europe in terms of research funding(!).
    • Similarly, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Portugal is responsible for 50% of the country’s foundation expenditure on research, and is both grant making, and operating its own research.
    • In contrast with most public funders, but maybe not surprising, private foundations primarily support individuals, not institutions.

    The list could be made very much longer than this, and the themes are clearly relevant also for those not primarily working with private foundations. Four countries top the list of highest expenditure on research by private foundations: the UK, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, followed closely by Belgium, Norway, and Spain. These are also countries with comparatively old, and well-established foundations. Denmark tops the list in terms of private research expenditure per capita.

    Something that attracted my particular interest is the UK’s Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), representing charities working in research, development and patient information. Although membership is voluntary, the AMRC plays a fundamental role by setting the standards for the infrastructure regarding e.g. best practice in proposal review, ethics clearance, clinical trials, access to open data, and other issues that we recognize from the public sector. In fact, AMRC also operates at a European level and reading the UK EUFORI country report made me curious to know more about this organization—maybe they should be invited to a DARMA event?

    In this short review, it is not possible to give more than a small sample of all the interesting material that makes the EUFORI Study so interesting for research managers and administrators. As pointed out in the EUFORI Synthesis Report, the importance of private research funding is growing, and can expected to become increasingly more relevant. This might be particularly true for Denmark, considering the bleak financial future facing higher education and research in this country.

    Link to the EUFORI Study portal: http://euforistudy.eu

    Link to the EUFORI Study download page: http://euforistudy.eu/results/

  • 28 Jan 2016 16:30 | Olaf Svenningsen (Administrator)

    The Chair’s Corner – introducing DARMA's blog and my recap of 2015

    2016 is already well on its way, but I still extend my best wishes for the new year to all of DARMA's members and friends! DARMA’s board decided to launch a blog in the autumn of 2015, and now I finally managed to pull myself together and do it. To read the entire text, click "Read more" below! 

    One purpose of this blog is to share the activities of the Chair, the Board and other members with the DARMA community. Another important purpose is to encourage discussion, so please feel free to comment, either by using the "Add comment" link below, or by sending me mail.

    In this blog, DARMA will post contributions from interested members, and we will also invite guests to write on relevant topics. If you wish to write, or have a suggestion for something you would like to read, please contact me.

    The language of the blog is either English or Danish. I am writing in English now to be able to share with our international friends, but also because having grown up in Sweden, I actually have no formal training in the Danish language at all. Since Danish and Swedish are dangerously similar, I am constantly at risk of being unintentionally entertaining. The so called "false friends" tend to occur mainly below the belt, so for example, using the common Swedish expression for brainstorming (“bolla idéer”) in a Danish context could lead to all kinds of interesting situations. So I will stick to English for the blog.

    After this long introduction, let me briefly recapitulate 2015 from the Chair’s point of view:

    DARMA’s Annual Meeting 2015 (AM) was held in Odense, attended by c. 70 members + presenters. For the first time, a lunch-to-lunch format was tested, and another new feature was to have the General Assembly before the AM, not after. According to the evaluation, the participants were happy with these changes. Among things to improve are to announce the AM earlier—which we have not been able to do for DARMA 2016, but for 2017, we have already decided that the DARMA Annual Meeting will be 4-5 May. My next blog post will be about the annual meetings, so enough for now.

    I attended our British sister association, ARMA's Annual Meeting in Brighton because the INORMS Steering Group held a meeting there. There is so much going on with INORMS that I will write a separate blog post on that topic, too. At the ARMA meeting, I was inspired by some session formats, which DARMA will steal… I mean borrow, of course. The first is the Funders’ Forum, where leading representatives from the major research funders in the country participate in a panel discussion about the current and future state of research funding. The second “loan” is the “hot topic roundtable discussion” format, which is a great and relaxed way to encourage discussion, follow up on Special Interest Group (erfa-gruppe) activities, and maybe spark new ideas for activities. Both the Funders’ Forum and Hot Topic Discussion Roundtables will be features of the 2016 DARMA Annual Meeting.

    The next conference was EARMA’s Annual Conference in Leiden, which DARMA members also attended. The highlights from Leiden included me stepping down from EARMA’s board (to be honest, that was not so much of a highlight as it was a necessity; being on two boards simultaneously is too difficult to reconcile with having a daytime job, family and an undecided number of cats). I attended many interesting sessions, and was part of starting a new Cultures and Diversity Working Group within EARMA. One important result of the Leiden conference was that the heads of all the European research management associations (RMA) met as a group for the first time. The RMA’s from Denmark, the UK, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Germany, Poland and Austria, EARMA of course, as well as the BestPrac network were present at this meeting. This was my idea, it was positively received and we have formed an informal network of RM chairs, the Leiden Group. This group is currently discussing, among other topics, whether or not to establish a European research management and administration professional magazine or journal. I will of course keep the DARMA membership posted on the progress of this project.

    The next INORMS meeting was in Washington DC in August, at the NCURA Annual Meeting, so I went on a quick trip to a desperately hot US capital. Temperatures outside reached 39°C in the shade, which was very different from the Danish summer. I presented at a few sessions, and the most interesting was also the one that attracted the smallest number of participants. It was a discussion group on the experiences of setting up and managing RMA’s. In spite of the few attendants, the discussion was spirited and interesting, and together with the experience from Leiden, I learned that RMA’s in some countries are seen has highly controversial . This will surely be a theme at the INORMS conference in Melbourne in September.

    Then there was just one more conference; the SRA International Annual Conference 2015, which was held at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, this epicentre of good taste and elegance—or not. SRA International has special connections with DARMA, since both the president of the association, John Westensee, and the International President, Annedorte Vad, should be familiar to DARMA members. The conference was spectacular and a success. I “only” gave one presentation, an exploration of responsible conduct in research administration, which started a really interesting discussion. The outcome of this session was brought to the INORMS steering group meeting already the next day (!), and ended up in a decision to explore the possibilities of an international code of conduct for research administrators. I will certainly get back to this topic in the future. In the slightly less serious end of the spectrum, the Las Vegas conference was rich in Elvis impersonators and everywhere one walked on The Strip, there was people dressed as Olaf, which was a little disturbing.

    This is a quick and extremely brief summary of the activities of the chair in 2015. In 2016, I will keep the members updated continuously through this blog. Through this blog, I look forward to sharing my—and hopefully other’s—thoughts and experiences with the members, ultimately leading to an even better association.

    Please feel free to comment (use "Add comment")below or by mailing me. 

    Det går selvfølgelig fint at skrive på dansk... :-)

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