Over 1,400 sign open letter calling for “balanced and progressive research ecosystem” in new legislation

“This legislation will shape the research landscape for generations and so it is critical that we get it right”

Over 1,400 people have signed an open letter calling on Minister Simon Harris to consult with researchers on proposed legislation regarding the future of research and innovation in Ireland.

The open letter, posted to change.org by Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, former chair of the Irish Research Council (IRC), calls on government “to create a balanced and progressive research ecosystem in Ireland” through the Research and Innovation Bill 2023.

The Bill proposes an amalgamation of the IRC and Science Foundation Ireland, Ireland’s two largest research funding organisations.

The letter calls for a meaningful definition of research to be cemented in the legislation, as well as “principles of parity of esteem and of academic freedom”.

Additionally, it demands the inclusion of “strong, accountable, and independent governance arrangements”, “European standards of good practice that support appropriate governance in research and the fair allocation of funding”, and “a commitment to fund research at a level equal to or greater than the EU average based on percentage of GDP”.

Speaking to Trinity News, Ohlmeyer, who is Erasmus Smith’s Chair of Modern History in Trinity, said that the authors of the letter hope to secure over 2,000 signatures before the letter is delivered to Harris on Tuesday.

“This legislation will shape the research landscape for generations and so it is critical that we get it right,” Ohlmeyer said.

Despite this, “there has been no consultation with stakeholders prior to drawing up the Heads of Bill and it appears that the hearings on the Bill at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science will not be inclusive of researchers,” she added.

“It’s so very disappointing.”

The letter, published on April 24, was initially signed by over 40 of Ireland’s leading academics from a broad range of disciplines across the humanities and sciences.

A general scheme of the Research and Innovation Bill 2023 was published earlier this month, outlining the establishment of a new research body superseding and taking over the roles of SFI and the IRC.

The signatories of the open letter note that “central to success in this endeavour is how we organise to support frontier research from the bottom up, alongside research and scholarship that might be more challenge orientated, how we invest in research infrastructure, and how we support researchers across all disciplines and at all stages in their career”.

The letter continues to say that “it is critical that the legislation supports researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, with different theoretical and conceptual approaches, techniques, methodologies and instrumentation, perhaps even different goals and motivations”.

Aoibhinn Clancy

Aoibhínn Clancy is the Deputy News Editor of Trinity News and is currently in her Junior Sophister Year studying History and Political Science.

David Wolfe

David Wolfe is a Junior Sophister student of History and Political Science. He is the current Social Media and Managing Editor of Trinity News, having previously served as News Editor, Assistant News Editor and copyeditor.