Data gathering and information for the 2018 European Research Area progress report

The ongoing European Research Area (ERA) Monitoring Mechanism aims to document and assess the recent progress in the ERA implementation process, while taking into account changes both in the key ERA priorities and in the corresponding responsibilities and actions of the ERA Partnership actors: the European Commission, the Member States and the Associated Countries, research funding and research performing organisations, and ERA stakeholder organisations. As such, the overarching objective of this study was to assist the European Commission in implementing the 2018 ERA Monitoring Mechanism to assess the recent progress made towards achieving six ERA priorities.

Building on the monitoring approach suggested by the ERA Progress Report 2016 and using multiple lines of evidence to triangulate the findings, the study team gathered, coded, structured and analysed internationally comparable data and indicators to monitor progress in the implementation of the six ERA priorities. The primary focus of this study was on the quantitative headline and complementary ERA Monitoring Mechanism indicators adopted by the European Research Area and Innovation Committee (ERAC). The quantitative findings have been enriched by substantial qualitative data collected through document review and interviews with key stakeholders. The study team has:

  • Compiled and analysed data on 24 ERA Monitoring Mechanism quantitative indicators;
  • Carried out 64 interviews with representatives of research funding and research performing organisations from all EU Member States and Associated Countries, and 9 interviews with representatives of member or observer organisations in the ERA Stakeholder Platform;
  • Implemented a large-scale software-supported desk research and documentary review, which was based on a rigorous coding framework developed on the basis of ERA Communication and Roadmap;
  • Prepared 34 in-depth ERA country profiles for 28 EU Member States and 6 Associated Countries;
  • For the first time, implemented an assessment of the ERA implementation progress on the basis of the National Action Plans developed by ERA countries.

Our study served as the main evidence-base for the Commission's official ERA Progress Report 2018. The main conclusion of the report was that while progress in achieving ERA's goals, as measured against a core set of 24 indicators covering all six ERA priorities, is real, the pace seems to be slowing down and large disparities between countries persist. There is not only considerable room for further improvement on most priorities, the slowing down of progress overall also calls for a reflection on how to accelerate, strengthen and further encourage implementation of ERA priorities. The premise and promise of ERA is to better align national and European research and innovation agendas, reaching critical mass and true value added at European level. As new challenges arise, European and national authorities need to increasingly adapt their policy response in order to seize new opportunities and remove old obstacles. On the positive side, the National Action Plans that most countries have published in 2016 in line with the ERA roadmap show an ambition to make further progress on ERA.

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