By the new year, the Research Council had pledged NOK 27 billion. They can no longer afford it without cutting future research allocations.
On October 27, Aftenposten announced that the projects of the best researchers had been suspended. The Research Council expected 500 million crowns from the state budget in the next few years, but the money is currently lacking.
Future allocations to Norwegian research may also be affected by lack of funds.
Last Thursday, the Research Council board decided that cuts to future appropriations should be considered. The reason is that the Research Council, which has a near monopoly on the allocation of funds for research in Norway, does not have between 1.5 and 2 billion NOK for the next four years.
The Board of the Research Council decided in late October that several measures should now be considered:
- An overall cut of up to 20 percent in allocations to various types of research.
- Delayed start-up of prominent research centers. These are centers that carry out research of high international level.
- Postpone assignments to the so-called research infrastructure. These are, for example, computer equipment or systems that must collect new research data.
The Director of the Research Council, Mari Sundli Tveit, participates in the climate negotiations in Glasgow. In an email to Aftenposten, he explains the lack of money as follows:
– Over the past five years, the Research Council has seen cuts totaling NOK 1.7 billion, along with guidelines to maintain the level of activity in ads. This means that the level of provisions has now been reduced so much that we cannot maintain the same level of activity. Therefore, we must take corrective action from 2022.
How can the Research Council be missing so much money?
Has promised 27 billion
The Research Council has a budget of around NOK 10 billion a year. It is funded by various ministries.
The previous government wanted the Research Council to reduce the money they have in their accounts. Therefore, a large part of the Research Council’s appropriations has been used to fund research.
Therefore, the Research Council has received several one-time cuts to its appropriations. In total, the cuts will be nearly NOK 1.7 billion.
The cuts are distributed between different ministries and several years.
When the Research Council distributes money, it does so for the long term. Research projects last between four and ten years. Therefore, the Research Council commits funds several years in advance, and not just from budget to budget.
As of December 31, 2020, the Research Council had committed to paying NOK 27 billion over the next few years.
After the cuts, the Research Council does not have enough money to pay what they have already promised and at the same time provide money for new research as planned. Therefore, they should consider cutting back on upcoming assignments.
Health research, innovation and basic research can be affected. There is also a lack of money to help Norwegian research communities raise more money from the EU. The EU is an important source of income for Norwegian research communities.
Many believe that the cuts can have dramatic consequences and that they are in direct conflict with what Norway needs now.
– Could this be described as a liquidity crisis?
– Liquidity in the Research Council has changed dramatically through one-time cuts and reallocation of provisions. This means that we are now in a demanding situation and we must reduce the level of ads, writes Mari Sundli Tveit.
The best researchers are ready. But suddenly 500 million crowns are missing: – Extremely demotivating
– Dramatic cuts
The University and College Council (UHR) is a body that brings together Norwegian universities and colleges. Rector of the University of Agder, Sunniva Whittaker, Director of UHR.
– Norway is undergoing a major restructuring. We will carry out the green change, we will lay the foundations for the emergence of new industries and we will contribute to solving the great social challenges. So it’s strange that it reduces the research that is crucial for us to achieve our goals, says Whittaker.
Among the cuts the Research Council is considering are cuts in research projects funded by the Ministry of Education and Research.
These can be the so-called free projects (Fripro) to which all researchers can apply. Here the competition is very fierce. In recent years, the Research Council has received criticism, among other things, that so few good Fripro apps get paid. Only about 10 percent of the researchers’ projects have received funding.
Now there may be even less.
– If we have to reduce these ads in the next few years, we may end up funding only 5 to 7 percent of applications. So, sadly, we will have to say no to more very good and important projects that Norway needs, writes Mari Sundli Tveit at the Research Council.
– These are dramatic cuts if they turn into something, says the director of the Academy for Young Researchers, Jonas Stein. He hopes that the young talents of the investigation are not affected.
– There is a risk that fewer researchers will apply for research funding. Researchers must do a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it is worth spending time writing research requests when so little funding is allocated. The cuts in the research are long-term like peeing in your pants to stay warm, Stein says.
SV: Flaut for the Ministry of Education
On Monday, the new government presented its proposals for changes to the state budget. No new money came to the Research Council.
– You can’t go on like this on such important issues. It is shameful for the Ministry of Education and Research to put itself in this situation, says Freddy André Øvstegård.
He is a member of the SV education and research committee at the Storting. Øvstegård is surprised that the Research Council did not receive 500 million in the Solberg government’s proposal for the state budget, even though they had expected it.
That further cuts are now being announced, he believes it bodes ill for the next restructuring that Norway must go through.
– We will work to increase allocations to the Research Council in general, Øvstegaard tells Aftenposten.
Ministry of Education and Research: naturally with fewer ads in the future
The Secretary of State of the Ministry of Education, Oddmund Løkensgard Hoel (Sp), writes to Aftenposten that the allocations of the Research Council have been very high. That is why politicians have cut them.
– At the beginning of 2021, it was approx. 4000000000. In addition, approx. NOK 2 billion in debt to suppliers. This is money that will benefit Norwegian research and businesses. In other words, the Research Council had a large backlog of activities and programs, Hoel writes.
Henrik Asheim was Minister of Research and Higher Education in the previous government.
– It was seen for many years that sales increased. It happened despite the fact that there were meetings about it again and again and the Research Council promised to reduce them, Asheim tells Aftenposten.
Also in the budget proposal for 2022, the Solberg government wanted to cut allocations.
– If they have so much left, how can the Research Council say they should move on?
– It’s not clear to me either. The Research Council does a good job of reducing its allocations, but I also find it difficult to understand why it should cut projects every time it has allocations, Asheim says.
Secretary of State Hoel recently went from being a history teacher at Høgskulen på Vestlandet to becoming part of the ruling apparatus of the Center Party. He writes that it is natural for the Research Council to reduce research allocations in the future.
The money in the book will also be drastically reduced next year.
– The Ministry of Education and Research has maintained and has maintained a close dialogue with the Research Council on these challenges, including liquidity management. We have been assured that the Research Council will be able to fulfill its obligations, writes Hoel.
How the Research Council will use its assignments is a matter for ministry going forward.
– Our estimates show that next year we will also be well above 1% of GDP in public allocations for R&D. The government will monitor the Hurdal platform and the ambitions we have for research, innovation and business development. . The Research Council receives almost NOK 11 billion a year. We assume that they are used in accordance with the objectives that we and the Storting have set for ourselves, writes Hoel.