Ossinovski proposes changes to Estonian research funding system

Jevgeni Ossinovski (Postimees/Scanpix)
1/7/2015 3:08 PM
Category: Education

Ministry of Education and Research working group recently submitted a set of proposals for the reorganization of the research financing system that would make it simpler and more stable.

Minister of Education and Research Jevgeni Ossinovski said that those in academic circles have almost consensually agreed that the financing of research is out of balance and overly project based.

“In the present model of financing, the share of competition-based funding is approximately 80 percent. Overly fierce competition complicates the setting of longer-term development objectives in research institutions and jeopardizes the diversity of research domains. This compromises the development of the domains that are essential for Estonia and may negatively affect the quality of higher education," he said, adding that this is why the state has to provide a greater sense of security to researchers and research institutions by increasing stable financing.

The issues regarding research funding came into stronger focus in the second half of 2014, when it was announced that constant underfunding and the failure to secure enough project-based funding, forced the Institute of the Estonian Language to lay off some of its staff. The statements issued by the Institutes director Urmas Sutrop were followed by public outcries from other academics, who draw attention to the problems with the current research funding system. Hence, a number of institutions and research-related organizations submitted their proposals for the reorganization of the financing of research. According to the ministry, the working group, that was set up by Minister Ossinovski last autumn, has taken all those into account and formulated their own proposals for an improved funding system.

The proposals of the working group suggest that the current ‘triple breakdown’ into institutional and personal research grants and basic financing should be replaced by a ‘dual breakdown’, which consists of stable operating subsidies to research institutions and competition-based research grants. Their proportion should shift from the existing ratio of 20:80 to 50:50.

The transition to the new financing system presumes that the financing of research from the state budget will increase. In order to implement the change, the annual scope of financing research from the state budget has to be increased by approximately 30 million euros. Without additional funds, the objective of increasing the state financing of research to one percent of the GDP from 2015 onward, as set in the Estonian Research and Development and Innovation Strategy, will not be achievable either.

M. Oll

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