Why should scientists care about the European elections? Vicky Ford MEP explains


Over the coming days voters across Europe will decide who will be members of the next European Parliament.  In an article originally published in the April edition of the EPSO Newsletter Vicky Ford MEP explains why scientists should care about the elections.

The European elections will be held on the 22-25 of May 2014 and will determine the composition of the European Parliament for the next five years. Sadly, turnout in the elections is usually low which means that a small number of votes can make a big difference. The elections are an opportunity for the scientific community to have their say about who is going to make the big decisions that will affect the research landscape for years to come.

In the lab, at the heart of scientific research, it may be difficult to see why eurocrats in Brussels are significant. In fact, the EU Parliament has power to legislate in many different ways. All too often MEPs jump on the “ban-wagon”, limiting science instead of standing up for investment in research.

I was one of the 7 MEPs negotiating the Horizon 2020 research package worth €80bn. Despite an overall cut in the EU budget, science and research is the one area to have seen an increase in funding. We worked hard to simplify the application process, reduce time to grant and time to contract, and ensure that public money would be used to address societal challenges and to leverage in private funding, as well as get through to the best bids.

Researchers need MEPs who are prepared to listen carefully to the science and to act accordingly. Take GM for example. In the same way that medical drugs are assessed individually using risk-based decision making, GM research projects need to be evaluated individually. Golden Rice and blight-free potatoes are just two hugely exciting examples of where this science could take us and the research community needs strong politicians who can stand up for innovation like this.

Scientists shouldn’t sit back at election time. They need to elect MEPs who understand the value research brings to the economy and to society as a whole; who aren’t afraid to make decisions based on scientific evidence; and who will support international collaboration and investment in ground-breaking science. So use your vote wisely!


 By Vicky Ford MEP