Scientific breakthroughs and building capacity at the Global Research Council

Last month I attended the 2015 meeting of the Global Research Council, an informal organization made up of the heads of science and engineering funding agencies from around the world. At the meeting, we adopted two statements: one on building research and education capacity, and another on funding scientific breakthroughs.


Kellina Craig-Henderson, head of NSF’s Tokyo Regional Office, with me and Graham Harrison, interim head of NSF’s Europe Office, at the start of the GRC meeting. 

The first lists key approaches to share with the research community worldwide as ways to boost research capacity – an active process involving the development of national systems that can identify the need for research, communicate the results of research and ensure that research results have an impact, at both local and national levels.

The statement includes various recommendations, such as sharing good research management practices, developing partnerships, and funding across the entire research pipeline to ensure research and education are sustainable.

The second statement details key principles for promoting scientific breakthroughs. This kind of research often involves entering unknown territory – at the intersection of existing topics and disciplines – where unexpected results may occur. The principles include:

  • Ensuring the freedom of researchers to define their research, encouraging risk-taking and supporting interdisciplinary research.
  • Adopting a diverse, balanced research portfolio.
  • Working together to explore novel review processes and track research outputs and outcomes.
  • Actively interacting with stakeholders – such as governments, industry, the academic community and the public – to promote breakthrough sciences, disseminate research outcomes and be attentive to national priorities and global challenges.
  • Seek opportunities to cooperate globally

These statements will help guide the policies and priorities of GRC member institutions, as we work towards more open cooperation and collaboration to enhance scientific research worldwide.