European Science Foundation

European Science Foundation
Abbreviation ESF
Motto Setting Science Agendas for Europe
Formation 1974
Type NGO
Headquarters Strasbourg, France
Professor Pär Omling (Sweden)
Chief executive
Martin Hynes (Ireland)
€52.8 million (2008)
ESF headquarters in Strasbourg.

The European Science Foundation (ESF) is an association of 72 member organizations devoted to scientific research in 30 European countries. It is an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation that facilitates cooperation and collaboration in European research and development, European science policy and science strategy. It was established in 1974. The ESF offices are in Strasbourg, France (headquarters), and in Brussels and Ostend, Belgium.

The ESF Member Organisations are research-performing and research-funding organisations, academies and learned societies across Europe. Together they represent an annual funding of about €25 billion.

The European Science Foundation awards the annual European Latsis Prize.


The ESF provides a platform for foresighting and research networking on a European and global scale to the ESF member organisations. The ESF activities are organised around three operational bases: strategy, synergy and management. According to its mission and strategic plan, the European Science Foundation runs foresighting programmes in science; programmes to enhance science synergy such as research networking programmes and collaborative research projects for European scientists; and activities dedicated to science management, such as providing administrative services to independent scientific committees and other organisations.

Science strategy

Science strategy activities seek to foresight and advice on science, research infrastructure and science policy issues. They include:

Science synergy

Science synergy instruments aim to stipulate dialogue and cooperation between researchers, and to implement European-level research:

The ESF conferences unit is located in Brussels with a liaison base in Strasbourg.

Science management

Science management activities include management of the EU Framework Programme ERA-NETs scheme and provision of the management structure and administration for the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST). The ESF managed ERA-NETs involve (among others) also European Research Icebreaker Consortium –AURORA BOREALIS (ERICON-AB), a project to build the most advanced research vessel in the world, with year-round operational capability and state-of-the-art technology and laboratory equipment. The ESF European Polar Board is managing and coordinating authority of the project.

Position paper on climate change

In 2007, the Marine Board-ESF issued a position paper on climate change in which they stated, "There is now convincing evidence that since the industrial revolution, human activities, resulting in increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases have become a major agent of climate change. These greenhouse gases affect the global climate by retaining heat in the troposphere, thus raising the average temperature of the planet and altering global atmospheric circulation and precipitation patterns." The paper concluded, "While on-going national and international actions to curtail and reduce greenhouse gas emissions are essential, the levels of greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere, and their impact, are likely to persist for several decades. On-going and increased efforts to mitigate climate change through reduction in greenhouse gases are therefore crucial."[21]

ESF-EUROHORCs vision on European Research Area

In June 2008, ESF in collaboration with EUROHORCs (European Heads of Research Councils) published a policy briefing ‘The EUROHORCs and ESF Vision on a Globally Competitive ERA and their Road Map for Actions to Help Build it’,[22] detailing essential requirements to build a globally competitive European Research Area within the next five to ten years. These requirements are complemented by a Road Map which outlines concrete actions for EUROHORCs, ESF member organisations and partners.

The plan would merge the informal EUROHORCS organization of national research council chiefs with the ESF to create a high-profile lobbying organization called Science Europe. The plan was intended to remedy the situation that, while the national research councils that EUROHORCS represents 85% of Europe's research funding, science policy is being made mainly by the European Union rather than the national councils. The plan would also end the direct granting program of the ESF, which has a modest annual budget of around €50 million to fund cross-border, curiosity-driven research projects. The plan was criticized for ending the grating program and for excluding some current member organizations from the new, merged organization. On 4 May 2011, two proposed merger plans failed in a set of votes of the ESF general assembly; one proposal missed a needed two-thirds supermajority by a few votes, while the other which needed a simple majority failed by a wider margin.[23][24]


The ESF networking, foresighting and managing activities are carried through 5 scientific standing committees and 6 expert boards and committees:

The ESF science units provide executive, managerial and secretarial functions for the standing committees and expert boards and committees:

The activities of ESF science units are coordinated by ESF director of science and strategy development. Under his remit fall also science policy and science strategy issues. Since February 2009 the ESF director of science and strategy development is Marc Heppener.

Governing bodies

The annual assembly is the highest level decision making body of the ESF. It elects the ESF president, vice-presidents and the chief executive, ratifies the budget and accounts and admits new members. The assembly delegates are appointed by ESF member organisations.

The Governing Council sets and direct the overall strategy of the ESF. It establishes standing and expert committees and coordinates the relations with EU and other institutions. The council consists of the ESF president, two vice-presidents and a representative from each 'national group' of member organisations. The council meets twice a year.

The president officially represents the ESF to the public and in relations with other national or international organisations. Currently the ESF president is Ian Halliday, serving his second term in the office (2009–2011).

The chief executive is responsible for the implementation of the strategy and policy set by the Governing Council, for administration of the ESF office and its finance and for ensuring the execution of the decision of the assembly and the Governing Council. At present the ESF chief executive is Martin Hynes (ex-Irish Research Council, IRCSET).

The Science Advisory Board provides advices to the chief executive on strategic science issues and on key ESF instruments (EUROCORES, Forward Looks). It is composed of chairs of the ESF five standing committees and six independent members, who are chosen from nominations by member organisations.

ESF Member Organisations






Czech Republic


The secretarial functions for all five Danish research councils are assumed by:

















Slovak Republic






United Kingdom

ESF Chief Executives

See also

Notes and references

  1. Strengthen clinical trials driven by investigators, Europe research councils say, BMJ 2009;338:b1111
  2. Better Health and Prosperity in Europe via Improved Clinical Research, ESF press release
  3. Change advocated for the European food system, 23 September 2009
  4. Change advocated for the European food system, CORDIS 22 September 2009
  5. Leading Scientists Call For a New Approach to Food Security, ESF press release
  6. European Science Foundation's Forward Look reaches out beyond the endless frontiers, 15 December 2009
  7. European Science Foundation (ESF) Science Policy Briefing #37 on the “Impacts of Ocean Acidification”, POGO Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans
  8. Key to future medical breakthroughs is systems biology Innovations report, 6 January 2009
  9. Key to future medical breakthroughs is systems biology, say leading European scientists ESF press release
  10. EUROHORCs-ESF Commit to Play Key Role in Shaping a Competitive ERA ESF press release
  11. ESF and EUROHORCs set out joint vision for European Research Area CORDIS 27 June 2008
  12. Climate change catastrophe took just months, Times Online, 15 November 2009
  13. Climate change: Gulf stream collapse could be like a disaster movie,, 29 November 2009
  14. Last Ice Age took just SIX months to arrive, Mail Online, 16 November 2009
  15. Mini ice age took hold of Europe in months, New Scientists, 11 November 2009
  16. 80,000 year old shells point to earliest cultural trend, ESF press release
  17. Additional evidence on the use of personal ornaments in the Middle Paleolithic of North Africa, PNAS, 22 September 2009, vol. 106, no. 38, 16051-16056
  18. EC press release
  19. Ice cores unlock climate secrets, BBC News, 9 June 2004
  20. CO2 'highest for 650,000 years' BBC News, 24 November 2005
  21. Marine Board Position Paper Impacts of Climate Change on the European Marine and Coastal Environment - Ecosystems Approach pp. 7-10
  22. EUROHORCs, ESF commit to play key role in shaping a competitive ERA ESF press release, 25. June 2008
  23. Clery, Daniel (1 April 2011). "European Researchers Want Granting Agency to Stay a Granting Agency". ScienceInsider. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  24. Clery, Daniel (5 May 2011). "European Science Foundation Members Fumble Merger Plans". ScienceInsider. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  25. "Professor Marja Makarow becomes new CEO for the European Science Foundation". ESF. 3 January 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2008.
  26. Marja Makarow, chief executive, European Science Foundation, Strasbourg, France, Nature 452, 1030 (23 April 2008)
  27. "The European Science Foundation elects Pär Omling as new President at its Assembly, Martin Hynes appointed as new Chief Executive". ESF. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011.

External links

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