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The dynamics of science in a small country luxembourg

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  • 1. Science and Public Policy, 35(5), June 2008, pages 361–371 DOI: 10.3152/030234208X317133; http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/beech/spp The dynamics of science in a small country: the case of Luxembourg Morgan B Meyer This paper examines the scientific landscape in Luxembourg, one of the smallest countries in Europe. Three themes are analysed: the professionalisation of research; diversification and cooperation between the actors; and the Luxembourg Foresight Exercise. The paper argues that in small countries cooperation and collaboration is not necessarily better than in larger countries. It further suggests that, compared to larger countries, small countries seem to share three characteristics: a less mature research infrastructure and science policy; a shorter distance between researchers and science policy; and a need to import expertise.I n the social sciences, studies on science usually focus on ‘big science’. Large projects such as the CERN or the Human Genome project and largecountries such as the USA, the UK, Germany orFrance have received most attention. ‘Small sci- their knowledge base. Small countries further have the advantage that their national innovation system can be more holistically and more rapidly analysed. The need for a thorough understanding of national contexts is also paramount for policy makers. Scienceence’, in contrast, has so far been given scant atten- policy cannot simply be ‘translated’ from one countrytion. The smaller the country, the research to another, let alone from large to small countries,institution, or the discipline, the smaller is the num- since each country’s scientific infrastructure is shapedber of academic works devoted to it, so it seems. by historical, political, cultural and geographical con- There are, however, good reasons to try to redress tingencies (see Collins and Pontikakis, 2006: 757–this situation. From a practical, empirical perspective, 758). Indeed, “size does matter”, as Thorsteinsdóttirthere is much insight to be gained from studying small (2000) has argued in her discussion about science incountries1 and comparing them to larger ones. In do- small countries. Furthermore, theoretically, manying so, a more fine-grained understanding of differ- authors have argued that science and space are inher-ences in national science can thus be achieved. In the ently interrelated (see Livingstone, 2003; Shapin,‘national systems of innovation’ tradition, for in- 1998). In sum, for empirical, policy-related and theo-stance, it is argued that nation states can differ in retical reasons, a situated (yet not essentialising) un-terms of the relationship between their economy and derstanding of science is useful, including science in small countries. This paper is intended to contribute to the bur- geoning literature on science in small countries, byMorgan Meyer is a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the focusing on Luxembourg, one of the smallestDepartment of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield, countries in Europe. The methods I use are based onElmfield, Northumberland Road, Sheffield S10 2TU, UK;Email: M.Meyer@sheffield.ac.uk. document analysis, ethnographic work and my per- The author wishes to thank Sonja Kmec, Susan Molyneux- sonal experience. Key documents on Luxembourg’sHodgson, Pit Péporté, Kate Woodthorpe as well as three research system (published by various ministries, theanonymous referees for their helpful comments. He is grateful Luxembourg National Research Fund, and theto the National Research Fund of Luxembourg and the Luxem- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Devel-bourg Ministry of Research for all the information they haveprovided. Special thanks are due to Josée Hansen and Peter opment (OECD)) were selected and analysed. MyFeist. Parts of this paper are adaptations from popular articles personal experience stemmed from a traineeship atpreviously published in d’Lëtzebuerger Land. the Ministry of Research (in 2001), from actingScience and Public Policy June 2008 0302-3427/08/050361-11 US$08.00 © Beech Tree Publishing 2008 361
  • 2. Dynamics of science in Luxembourg always been, essentially, tributary on exterior factors Morgan Meyer is a sociologist of science whose primary research interests include boundaries and boundary-work, and influences”. Thus, there are many material and actor-network theory, epistemic communities, museum stud- social flows across Luxembourg’s national borders: ies, science policy and culture and science in Luxembourg. workers, money, languages, products, services, poli- He joined the University of Sheffield, Department of Socio- cies etc. logical Studies in 2007, having previously been a PhD stu- dent and a graduate teaching assistant in this same In the last few decades, Luxembourg has devel- department. He currently works as a post-doctoral research oped from an industry-based economy towards a associate on the EU FP6 project ‘Knowledge, Institutions service-based economy. To sum up its socio- and Gender’ which examines the contexts and cultures of knowledge production from an ‘East–West’ perspective. He economic evolution, Luxembourg was known for its occasionally works as an expert consultant for the National steel industry (one of the largest steel producers in Research Fund of Luxembourg. the world, Arcelor-Mittal, still has its headquarters in Luxembourg), yet it is now best known for its financial sector and it aims to be better known for itsregularly as an expert consultant for the National science and multiculturalism. Today, LuxembourgResearch Fund (since 2006), and from having done explicitly wants to play its part in worldwide re-an in-depth ethnographical study on the Luxem- search: it takes part in the Lisbon Agenda andbourg Museum of Natural History (2002–2006, see thereby aims to contribute to the objective of turningMeyer, 2006). I will explore three interrelated is- Europe into the most dynamic and competitivesues. First, I will present a brief history of science in knowledge economy in the world. Such a EuropeanLuxembourg and discuss the professionalisation of and global context can conflict with Luxembourg’sits scientific infrastructure. Secondly, I will discuss smallness. This because the research capacity ofone of the chief challenges within the current re- Luxembourg is limited. On a governmental level, forsearch landscape: the problem of cooperation be- instance, few employees are dealing with research:tween research actors. Finally, I will analyse the 15 people work at Luxembourg’s National ResearchLuxembourg Foresight Exercise, a key governance Fund; six people at the Ministry of Research; andinstrument that has recently been put in place, and in five people at the Direction of Research and Innova-which I have participated. tion of the Ministry of Economy.2 Luxembourg’s Before Malta joined the European Union in 2004, public research community comprises around 600Luxembourg was the smallest country in the Union individuals, most of whom either work at one of thein terms of geographic size (2.586 km2), population four public research centres or the University of(around 450,000 inhabitants) and gross domestic Luxembourg (the only university in the country).product (GDP) (Fontagné, 2004: 59). At the same One of the government’s stated objectives is to in-time, however, Luxembourgers earn twice as much crease the proportion of researchers from six re-as the European average (Fontagné, 2004: 41). Lux- searchers per thousand persons employed (in 2005)embourg has been heavily dependent on external to ten researchers per thousand persons employed (ininvestments to develop into such a prosperous 2010).country, which leads economists to describe the Nonetheless, small size is not solely unfavourablecountry as a small space open economy (Schuller, for research. The complexity of organisations and1999). The most significant characteristic of Lux- information pathways is less important in smallembourg’s economy, they argue, is an obligatory countries than in larger countries. Small countriesopening up and integration into a larger space. This allegedly have several advantages: a transparent andon the level of commodities and services and on the flexible institutional system, easy contacts betweenlevel of the factors of production: capital, technol- people and good internal communication, a homo-ogy and work (Schuller, 1999: 79). As a social histo- geneous population rendering social consensus andrian (Kieffer, 1997: 176) has written “The economic stability easier, increased know-who, informal rela-and social evolution of small Luxembourg has tionships, openness to world markets, rapid deci- sion-making etc. (see De Biasio, 2001: 66–68). Some suggest that “small countries may have an in- herent advantage because of a greater density and frequency of interaction between people and be-Before Malta joined in 2004, tween institutions” (Cogan and McDevitt, 2003).Luxembourg was the smallest country Furthermore, in small countries, policy networks are usually characterised by short communication lines,in the EU in terms of geographic size informality, and interpersonal relations based upon(2.586 km2), population (around personal trust (Bruyninckx, 2005: 389; Freeman and450,000 inhabitants) and GDP. Lundvall, 1998). Size has contradictory effects on innovation and research, both positive and negativeHowever, Luxembourgers earn twice (De Biasio, 2001; Allegrezza, 1992: 198, 219).as much as the European average One way, through which Luxembourg tries to overcome some of its limitations (in terms of human and material resources), is to collaborate with362 Science and Public Policy June 2008
  • 3. Dynamics of science in Luxembourgforeign researchers and research institutions. Thus Professionnelle (MENFP), 1997: 17). As a result, de-Luxembourg is not so different from other small spite these initial efforts, by the 1980s research wascountries, which have a relatively high level of inter- still not well organised in Luxembourg. “Scientificnational research collaboration, due to a lack of local research [...] is hardly coordinated and remains scat-colleagues, material and resources (Thorsteinsdottir, tered” noted a booklet on research issued by the2000: 438; Schøtt, 1987). For Luxembourg there is a government in 1980 (Ministère des Affaires Cul-strong propensity to collaborate with its three turelles (MAC), 1980: 3). The activities of researchersneighbours: Belgium, France and Germany (Frenken, remained restrained, isolated and limited in scope.2001). While in the past the drive to join forces with Most research being done was one-man researchforeign researchers stemmed from individual re- (Fayot, 1980a: 5). Research was allegedly deficientsearchers, in recent years, the Luxembourg govern- in terms of: the recruitment, training and careers ofment has started to actively encourage international personnel; the organisation of research teams; andresearch cooperation and a rather institutional open- the absence of a system for decision and orientationing up and internationalisation of Luxembourg’s of research (Christophory et al., 1984: 11). That theresearch has taken place.3 government itself had difficulties issuing budget fig- ures is telling: “It is practically impossible to tell the part of the GDP of Luxembourg devoted to scientificThe late professionalisation of Luxembourg research” (MAC, 1980: 18). Budgets and human research resources dedicated to research were limited and ap- parently only one professional researcher officially Institutional and policy background existed in 1980 (Fayot, 1980b: 4). In the early 1980s there seems to have been an in-In the 1960s, an OECD report stated that Luxem- creasing recognition of the importance of researchbourg had a deficient scientific milieu: “There and innovation for the growth of the economyexists, on the governmental level, no organised (STATEC, 2003: 97). The OECD (2006: 9) wroteresearch nor scientific program” (OECD, 1963). In- “In a historical perspective on science, technologystitutions and individuals who carried out scientific and innovation policy making in Luxembourg, mod-research were a rarity. However, the creation of the ern times began in the 1980s”. A first step in relationCentre Universitaire in 1974 seems to have served as to innovation policy was the creation in 1984 ofan impetus for research in Luxembourg. Luxinnovation, an agency for supporting innovation, Created in 1977, the Luxembourg Council for in particular in the sector of small and medium-sizedScientific Research was the first structure dedicated enterprises. This agency acts as a “bridging institu-to science policy ever implemented in the country (to tion” (Musyck and Hadjimanolis, 2005: 72–73) be-contrast: in most industrial nations the creation of tween public sector research and private enterprises.science councils occurred in the immediate post- In 1987 a law was passed in parliament which set upWorld War II period (Elzinga and Jamison, 1995: the legal framework for the organisation of research.582)). This council aimed to better coordinate the The remit of this law was to organise research andmultiform and wide-ranging research activities that development (R&D) in the public sector and to en-existed in Luxembourg at that time and to promote sure technology transfer as well as scientific andpublications and international cooperation (Ternes, technical cooperation between enterprises and the1985: 2). Yet, it seems to have had little impact, public sector. Three public research centres subse-lacked means and so was abandoned in 1983 (Minis- quently emerged and governmental research grantstère de l’Education Nationale et de la Formation for doctoral and post-doctoral students were intro- duced (see Figure 1 for the main institutional devel- opments in Luxembourg research). Another law was• 1974: Centre Universitaire• 1977: Luxembourg Council for Scientific Research passed in 1993 in order to provide a legal framework• 1979: Institut Supérieur de Technologie for research in the private sector.• 1983: Institut Supérieur d’Etudes et de Recherches Further developments occurred towards the end of• Pédagogiques the 20th century. Especially from 1999 onwards• 1984: Luxinnovation• 1987: • Law on research and technology transfer power and decision structures have been reconfig- • CRP Henri Tudor ured. Prior to this, a “bottom-up” approach was the • CRP Centre Universitaire (renamed CRP Gabriel norm; science policy was characterised by a “posi- Lippmann)• 1988: CRP Santé tive non-intervention” (Sharif, 2006: 508). In fact,• 1989: CEPS/INSTEAD 4 the Luxembourg Council for Scientific Research did• 1990: Institut d’Etudes Educatives et Sociales “not impose a determined direction to research”• 1993: Law on private sector research (MAC, 1980: 21). Consequently, research in Lux-• 1999: National Research Fund embourg was marked by “wild growth, born out of• 2003: University of Luxembourg• 2012: Cité des Sciences, de la recherche et de idealism and individualistic engagements” (Hansen, l’innovation (planned opening) 2002). Over the years, the “bottom-up” approachFigure 1. Key institutional developments in Luxembourg was gradually complemented by a “top-down” ap- research proach (Harpes, 2002: 22, 37).Science and Public Policy June 2008 363
  • 4. Dynamics of science in Luxembourg The reorganisation of governmental structures is to be finished by 2012. This large-scale developmentevidence of this change. Before 1999 there was no will become the home of some of the Public Re-proper department of research within the Ministry of search Centres, at least two of the three faculties ofCultural Affairs, which was in charge of research the University of Luxembourg, some start-ups, aspolicy. But in 1999, a department of research was well as cultural and social infrastructures.created at the (renamed) Ministry of Culture, Higher Research budgets have significantly increased. InEducation and Research. These reconfigurations of the period 2000–2003, for instance, they increasedgovernmental structures put the state into a more three-fold and they are due to double again by 2009.powerful position to implement science policies and In 2008, with 1.7% of the GDP, Luxembourg’sto lead scientific research in specific directions. In R&D intensity is below the EU average, and eventhe same year, the creation of the National Research further below the OECD average of 2.2% (OECD,Fund indicated an even more proactive strategy by 2006: 68). This figure puts Luxembourg above otherthe state. small European countries, such as Cyprus, Estonia, The National Research Fund was created in order Latvia, Lithuania, or Slovakia; relatively close toto provide an additional impetus for research in Ireland or Slovenia; and far below Iceland (MusyckLuxembourg by elaborating research programs, de- and Hadjimanolis, 2005: 67). Luxembourg has onefining a priority axis, promoting national and inter- of the lowest ratios of government spending on pub-national cooperation: thus aiming to create a more lic research to GDP in the OECD: currently nearlypropitious environment for research. It allocates re- 0.4% of the GDP. Yet, with major increases in re-search grants through a procedure based on inde- cent years, and further planned increases in the nearpendent peer-review and emphasises that scientific future, the ratio of public expenditure on R&D toquality is the main criterion for assessing proposals. GDP may move Luxembourg to the first quartile ofIn 2007 its annual budget was 18 million Euros. A the EU, and above the OECD average (OECD,number of schemes were launched by the National 2006: 68). In terms of scientific publications, Lux-Research Fund in the period 2005–2007 in order to embourg does not perform well, with only theimprove the state of research.5 And, it was only in equivalent of 196 publications per million inhabi-2006/2007 that the National Research Fund under- tants in 2002. While this puts the country far belowtook its first foresight exercise in order to set, for the the EU average and, for example, the productivity offirst time, priorities for future research in Luxem- its neighbours (France, Germany and Belgium,bourg (this will be discussed in more detail later in count 712, 731 and 929 publications, respectively)this paper). Finally, the creation of the University of Luxembourg is nevertheless described as “catchingLuxembourg in 2003 was the most recent, important, up rapidly” in terms of publications (OECD, 2006:structural development in research. 70). Concerning patents, however, Luxembourg Until the early 21st century, four disconnected in- scores remarkably well, ranking sixth in the EU-15stitutions were involved in both research and higher (the 15 countries in the EU before the expansion oneducation in Luxembourg (the Centre Universitaire, 1 May 2004). This favourable position is in part duethe Institut Supérieur de Technologie, the Institut to the many firms that have their official headquar-Supérieur d’Etudes et de Recherches Pédagogiques, ters in Luxembourg (mainly for fiscal reasons) andand the Institut d’Etudes Educatives et Sociales).6 who register patents in Luxembourg, while carryingThis ‘emerging’ university was a rather ‘loosely- out research activities elsewhere.coupled system’, a system characterised by a relativelack of coordination; differences in methods, aims The professionalisation of researchand missions; infrequent inspection; a relative ab-sence of regulations; little lateral interdependence; Although during the 19th century and most of theand the ‘invisibility’ of much that happens (Weick, 20th century there were very few scientists in Lux-1976). State support, international recognition, and embourg, there still was a certain kind of scientificsocietal acceptance were low. In 2003, these four tradition: “In the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, re-institutions were merged into the University of search, far from being inexistent, has developedLuxembourg. Two years after the creation of the University ofLuxembourg, the Luxembourg government pub-lished its National Plan for Innovation and Full Em-ployment 2005–2008. The following objectives were In 2008, with 1.7% of the GDP,agreed upon: increasing public spending to 220 mil- Luxembourg’s R&D intensity is belowlion Euros in 2009; raising investments in R&D to3% of the GDP; promoting entrepreneurship and the EU average, and even furtherreinforcing innovation (particularly in small and below the OECD average of 2.2%medium-sized enterprises); increasing the number of (OECD, 2006: 68)graduates in science and engineering. Currently,large investments are being made to create the Cityof Sciences, Innovation and Research, which is due364 Science and Public Policy June 2008
  • 5. Dynamics of science in Luxembourgsince a long time in the scope of restricted structures These shifts have been accompanied by a changing[…]” (MENFP, 1997: 32). For a long time science status for scientists. In the past, “‘researchers’ ha[d]was embryonic and done by ‘amateurs’ (see Meyer, other functions besides their research activity”2006). But although Luxembourg science certainly (MAC, 1980: 18, note that the word researchers is inappeared ‘amateur-esque’ when compared to science quotation marks). Those who did research often bene-in neighbouring countries, to state, as some do, that fited from the secondment (décharge) system, a sys-there is no scientific tradition at all, is to miss all the tem instituted in 1979 through which high schoolindividual and enthusiastic efforts to practice science teachers, for example, could be seconded to anotherwith sparse resources and low governmental support institution to carry out research activities. Yet, thisand in a difficult environment. It is to miss the scien- system is in decline today. In 2002, the governmenttific activities happening at the Centre Universitaire, decided to end those secondments for research activi-at the Centre Hospitalier, in museums, as well as at ties and reallocated remunerated working hours tothe learned societies in Luxembourg, the characteris- teaching activities alone. In other words, the perme-tic locus of science in the second half of the 20th ability that existed between university and secondarycentury. Unfortunately, in most accounts on the his- education institutions has been suppressed.tory of science in Luxembourg, this ‘older’ history is Also, until 1999, a systematic evaluation of re-forgotten and a quite distorted picture is given of an search projects was not common in Luxembourg; for‘emergence’ of research in the 1980s. some the country has no ‘evaluation culture’. In- Furthermore, due to the scarcity of scientific insti- creasingly, however, the National Research Fund istutions and a relatively unattractive academic envi- asking foreign scientists to evaluate research pro-ronment, researchers seem to have left Luxembourg jects. Apart from increasing evaluations, there areor never have come back after obtaining their uni- other qualitative changes worth noting. Luxem-versity degree: “our present and future professionals, bourgish journals are putting together editorial[…] some say they do not exist or are already gone boards for scientific peer-review and there is a fur-off to the bigger countries”, a commentator wrote in ther trend towards meeting international standards1985 (Ternes, 1985: 2). Until the mid-1980s, Lux- by increasing the quality of published works and byembourg research was barely visible. Before that publishing articles (or at least abstracts) in Englishtime, scientific research was carried out by “a small instead of French or German.number of researchers who, in the institutions of the Until recently, science in Luxembourg wasstate and in the industry, assumed research works relatively weakly structured due to the late institu-beyond their professional task” (MAC, 1980: 3, tionalisation and professionalisation of research, theemphasis added). drawing upon amateurs to produce scientific knowl- Consequently, science was hardly a ‘profession’. edge and the recent creation of the University ofIt has been argued that biological research, for ex- Luxembourg. Regarding Luxembourg’s innovationample, “was tainted by amateurism in the sense that system, the OECD (2006: 7) wroteresearch was considered to be a leisure occupation.This amateurism has prevented the establishment of Science, technology, and innovation policy,a structured tradition of biological research in Lux- involving specialised institutions, specific regu-embourg” (Christophory et al., 1984: 10, emphasis lations, dedicated budgets, etc., and public sec-added). However, many more factors also hampered tor research in particular, is a fairly recentthe establishment of professional research. Political phenomenon in Luxembourg. The country haswill, funding, legal frameworks, libraries: these fac- long been missing a number of constitutionaltors too have been relatively ‘amateur-esque’ in the elements of what is commonly conceived as apast. The whole epistemic infrastructure of Luxem- fully fledged innovation system, such as a uni-bourg’s science (its museums, libraries, and ar- versity sector, public research organisations,chives, but also the buildings in which research was and government programmes to promote bothundertaken) was rather unprofessional. private and public research. In addition, the use of the above term ‘leisure occu-pation’ is problematic. Although for some people re- As I have shown, over the last two decades theresearch might have been a leisure occupation, for have been significant changes. Research institutionsothers it was what has been called “serious leisure” have been created, the government has implemented(an activity of enthusiasts who are more systematic, a more informed science policy, funding has risen,substantial and engaged in their activities than just and words like ‘university’, ‘knowledge economy’,doing casual leisure (Stebbins, 1992)). In fact, science and ‘innovation’ are increasingly common in politi-could only be practised as serious leisure since, until cal discourse. There is a clear intention ‘to put Lux-the mid-1980s, there simply was no ‘professional’ embourg on the map’ of international research, toscientific field in Luxembourg, which makes the use use a phrase commonly used by policy makers. Ef-of terms such as ‘amateurism’ or ‘professionalism’ forts are being made to move Luxembourg researchinappropriate. It would be more accurate to say that from a rather uncoordinated space towards a morein the last 20 years a professional space for science prescribed, rigid and predictable space to meet cur-has gradually emerged (Meyer, 2005a). rent international standards.Science and Public Policy June 2008 365
  • 6. Dynamics of science in Luxembourg Entangled in the diversification trend technology transfer, but, on the other, this multiplic- ity impedes the coherence of research efforts andIn current debates about research in Luxembourg, it collaborations between teams whose competencesis often argued that Luxembourg is too small and are too far apart (MENFP, 1997: 25). Likewise, thethat there is no critical mass of scientists. It has been research activities of another research centre werestated that, in general, small countries often lack suf- also assessed as being too heterogeneous, and theficient critical mass or breadth of high-level techni- dispersion of laboratories on various sites impededcal skills (Davenport and Bibby, 1999: 441). consultation between different groups, making a co-However, for Luxembourg at least, I would argue herent image of the centre difficult (MENFP, 1997:that the real problem seems to be situated elsewhere. 35, 38). As a general conclusion, the report assertedNot only is there only a small pool of researchers, that research was uncoordinated and that the linksbut research activities are thematically, spatially and between the public research centres and other insti-institutionally dispersed. Research seems to be en- tutions have to be reinforced. A re-centring on atangled in the diversification trend in Luxembourg, more limited number of research axes was recom-an omnipresent force in governmental politics mended, in order to develop multidisciplinary poles(Meyer, 2005b). (MENFP, 1997: 57). First, let us situate this diversification trend in its What was missing, according to the report, is theeconomic context. Diversification was emphasised coherence of research efforts as well as collaboration.by opposition to something: political economy Similarly, it has been stressed that concerning Lux-strove to rebalance the vulnerability of the mono- embourg’s national innovation, the interactionslithic industrial structure due to Luxembourg’s within the public sector, as well as within the overalldominant steel industry (STATEC, 2003: 13–15, system, are low in number and quality and that there is95–96). A first law to create a more balanced econ- a lack of trust (De Biasio, 2001: 112–113). But how,omy and improve its structure was passed in 1962. we might ask, can a critical mass be obtained underAnother important milestone in the politics of diver- such conditions? What if the components needed tosification came with the 1977 law which enabled the form a critical mass are already present, but the ‘ce-creation of the National Society for Credit and ment’ is missing, in other words the interconnected-Investment. ness of the various actors in Luxembourg research? The deliberate policies thus implemented by the Over the years, the situation does not seem topublic authorities were designed to encourage diver- have improved much. In 2004, Luxembourg’ssification. While regarding the economy this seems Chamber of Commerce wrote:reasonable, in matters of research there can be a con-flict between efforts at diversification and the aim to The high number of actors of Luxembourgconstruct the so-called critical mass. Too great a public research is largely disproportionatediversity conflicts with the establishment of poles compared to the size of the country. The multi-of competence through the gathering of various ac- plication of administrative structures and thetors into one domain. How far should research double use of available resources don’t make itbe diversified? Or, in opposition to what should it possible to reach the critical mass necessary tobe diversified? While there is not a monopoly follow a research policy under optimal condi-regarding research in Luxembourg, research seems tions .... (Chambre de Commerce, 2004: 41)to be caught up in the momentum of the trend todiversification. In a similar vein, Luxinnovation recently wrote: Already in the early 1990s, pleas were made for anon-dispersion of research efforts and resources, Public research in Luxembourg can be regardeddeploring a natural tendency in Luxembourg to dis- as relatively little structured; it thus appearsperse efforts too much (see Anon., 1992: 289). The appropriate to reconsider the structuring of theactual situation at the university and at the three pub- various bodies which carry out research in thelic research centres reveals these conflicting issues. public sector. (Luxinnovation, 2005: 156)The research and teaching facilities of the university,for instance, are still dispersed on numerous sites, Coordination both at the working level as well asdespite an improvement being in sight. Some see at the management and governance level are todaythis as a serious constraint upon developing key issues for Luxembourg’s National Plan ofinterdisciplinary research (Harpes, 2002: 42). Innovation (OECD, 2006: 50). According to the The same problem has been reported by a team of OECD, there is “insufficient collaboration and co-experts who evaluated research at the three public ordination” between the Ministry of the Economy andresearch centres in the mid-1990s. In their report Foreign Trade and the Ministry of Culture, Higher(MENFP, 1997), the experts stated that the diversifi- Education and Research (OECD, 2006: 52). Thecation of research can be a dilemma as well as a “weak relationships” between these two ministriesblessing. Concerning one of the research centres, tend to create “policy gaps” (OECD, 2006: 54). Onthey emphasised that, on the one hand, the multiplic- the working level, there are, for example, overlapsity of competences ensures the centre’s mission of between the CRP Henri Tudor and Luxinnovation366 Science and Public Policy June 2008
  • 7. Dynamics of science in Luxembourgthat have resulted in a certain number of tensions. A time, science policy seems to have been understoodnumber of turf battles are being fought over some as only a small part of a wider industrial and innova-scientific areas. One of the challenges for the next tion policy: a policy rather centred on the develop-few years will thus be to improve collaboration be- ment of technologies. There seems to have been atween the different researchers. ‘pensée unique’ concerning research, that is, that These assessments are quite similar to the situa- research must be economically profitable, utilitarian,tion observed in other small countries. In Slovenia, applied. Small countries often focus on applied re-for instance, it has been argued that the small size of search and try to foster research that contributes tothe country “does not necessarily lead to a high de- economic wealth. Yet in doing so, they overempha-gree of co-operation between different R&D actors” sise short-term problems (Thorsteinsdottir, 2000:(Mali, 2003: 7). In her discussion about Hungary, 437). The Iceland model indicates that an overem-Iceland and Ireland, Thorsteinsdóttir (2000: 439– phasis on the direct applicability of research can be440) has argued that: detrimental in the long run and that there is a need for a balanced approach (Thorsteinsdottir, 2000: The small size does, therefore, not seem to 437). There still is a need for basic research in small have led to a highly co-ordinated science policy countries (Berghäll et al., 2002: 63).8 […] On the contrary, with limited formal Currently, the main weaknesses of Luxembourg’s mechanisms for dialogue and co-ordination innovation system are structural weaknesses and there is a risk that the system is poorly imbalances and weak governance. According to the equipped to manage diversity and foster new OECD: opportunities and challenges. The governance of research and innovation isWhat we can learn from each of these cases is that not yet sufficiently developed to guarantee anthe myth of better collaboration in small countries optimal contribution of public research institu-does not always ring true. tions to the development of the national innova- In Luxembourg in particular, research is produced tion system. Objectives and strategiesin a ‘fragmented space’ that lacks homogeneity, that governing the public research institutions arecontains many internal boundaries between compe- largely absent. (OECD, 2006: 1)tencies, research axes, institutions, people and activi-ties. This is a typical barrier for regional innovation The building of a strong public research systemsystems, fragmentation, the fact that “relevant actors calls for strengthening the governance of themay be present without forming a working regional research and innovation system. At presentinnovation system” (Héraud and Isaksen, 2001: 54). there seems to be a lack of explicit and bindingThe lack of co-operation between research actors strategy at the various levels of governance,seems to be a major problem in Luxembourg. While and sometimes confusion of strategy and im-official discourses repeatedly stress the need to con- plementation. (OECD, 2006: 97)struct a critical mass of researchers, geographicaland cultural distances between researchers are still In the light of this situation, the OECD reportsubstantial. To (re)centre research activities, fund- recommends three main strategies: improvinging, infrastructures, and students on a few specific governance, improving complementarity betweendomains is one way to counter the “surface handi- research actors, and improving connectivity withincap” of Luxembourg (Ternes, 1985) and to counter- the innovation system (OECD, 2006: 4–6). It re-balance the strong trend to diversification. Through mains to be seen if, when, and how these recom-the implementation of the Foresight Exercise and the mendations will be translated into reality.definition of national research priorities, some ofthese problems will perhaps be tackled in the nearfuture (see next section). Thinking about the future: the Luxembourg Prioritisation is a, if not the, major challenge for Foresight ExerciseLuxembourg research (see Meyer, 2007a). This isespecially the case as small countries have to be Having looked at the past and present state of Lux-much more selective in what they focus their re- embourg science, let us focus now on how science issearch on than larger countries (Thorsteinsdottir, expected to evolve in the future. At the beginning of2000: 433). They are under stronger pressure to the 1980s foresight became one of the central newspecialise (Aichholzer, 2001: 5; Sharif, 2006: policy methodologies in most Western industrialised512–513).7 countries (Elzinga and Jamison, 1995: 591). How- In Luxembourg, prioritisation seems to be ren- ever, in most small countries, this generally hap-dered particularly difficult as a narrow economic pened in the 1990s (Aichholzer, 2001: 4). Inthinking and an overemphasis on diversification Luxembourg, the first Foresight Exercise was offi-seems to have colonised science policy in Luxem- cially launched in January 2006. The main rationalebourg. There is often a conflation between science behind the Foresight Exercise was described by theand technology (see OECD, 2006: 9). For a long Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR) as follows:Science and Public Policy June 2008 367
  • 8. Dynamics of science in Luxembourg Especially in a small country with very limited actors lack a forward-looking culture. However, human and financial resources, prioritization is three other problems have also become apparent. essential. For only through prioritization can First, many participants found the contractor who resources be sufficiently focused to enable in- carried out the Foresight Exercise rather disappoint- ternationally competitive cutting-edge research. ing for not really ‘giving a voice’ to researchers. (FNR et al., 2007b: 17) Second, while participants were asked to reflect about the future, there should perhaps have been Thus the challenge does not lie in distributing more emphasis and concern placed on the present limited funds among its existing science com- situation. Third, it seems that methods and processes munity. Rather, it is looking to identify new ar- that work in larger countries, were not sufficiently eas to invest much of the spending increases adapted to Luxembourg. with a view to developing future national After the final report of the first phase had been champions. (FNR et al., 2007a: 15–16) published in October 2006, the second phase of the exercise began (a new contractor was hired). DuringTo undertake the study, the National Research Fund this phase, the aim was to identify priority domainshad to import foreign expertise: from the Policy Re- for the six fields retained, drawing upon the datasearch in Engineering, Science and Technology Unit collected during the first phase of the exercise. Inat the University of Manchester, CM International (a June 2007 concrete priorities were submitted to theEuropean consulting group in innovation and tech- government (FNR et al., 2007a) which then decidednology management), as well as Z_Punkt and the upon several domains which would become nationalVerein Deutscher Ingenieure. research priorities. A first call for proposals was is- The stakes in this exercise were quite high: its aim sued in early 2008. The final report of the Foresightwas to identify research domains and priority axes Exercise states that “The research priorities […] aimwith a socio-economic interest for Luxembourg and to constitute a well-balanced research portfolioto develop future research programmes for the which allows to tackle the major social-economicNational Research Fund from these domains. The and environmental challenges faced by Luxembourgmain goal was to define “national research pri- over the next 10 years” (FNR et al., 2007b: 44), withorit[ies] [which] should address the challenges of the the very last sentence being especially optimistic:Luxembourg society, economy and/or environment” “Despite its small size, the Grand-Duchy has the(FNR et al., 2007b: 18). The various actors in Lux- potential to become a powerhouse in research andembourg research (research institutions, public au- innovation” (FNR et al., 2007b: 47).thorities, industry, non-governmental organisations) One particularity of the Foresight Exercise is thatwere consulted through a variety of techniques: in- it will be translated into concrete actions and meas-terviews, questionnaires, workshops and internet ures (a stronger orientation towards implementationforums. is common for foresight exercises in small countries The results of the first phase of the exercise were (Aichholzer, 2001:6)). In other countries this is notmade public in October 2006. Six fields of research always the case and foresight exercises do not al-were identified as being of interest for Luxembourg. ways have practical consequences (Keenan, 2006).All of these domains have been assessed according In Luxembourg, however, we can expect that fore-to several criteria of feasibility and attractiveness. sight exercises will be gaining in importance as aThe various methods that have been used for the means to systematically deal with expectations andForesight Exercise have not been without their diffi- future visions, as well as their strategic implications.culties. In particular, the workshops proved to be For foresight exercises hold the promise of ‘wiringcomplicated. A workshop targeted at young re- up’ innovation systems through the encouragementsearchers did not work well because, according to of networking, the facilitation of learning, and thethe organisers, the young researchers seemed unable creation of future-oriented attitudes.to project themselves into the future. The explora- Apart from the methods used, there are othertory workshop (for senior researchers) provided elements that make the Foresight Exercise a chal-mixed results. Some of the working groups worked lenging enterprise. Despite efforts to devise well-quite well, whereas others failed to provide useful balanced and participatory foresight methodologiesresults. At the various workshops, many participants to moderate expectations, foresight exercises are incomplained about the managerial and rigid methods general always confronted with the problem of opin-used and, to some extent, forced upon the partici- ion leadership and the risk of reinforcement of hypespants. Some researchers felt that they were being (Weber et al., 2006). Some challenges can beused to legitimise and validate a political project. expected in the near future, especially since “coordi- The initial contractor who carried out the fore- nating actions of even small science communitiessight exercise found most interviews rather disap- requires extra efforts and, to avoid heavy influencespointing, since interviewees were often unable to from more powerful groups […], this mechanismproject themselves into the future but instead largely has to be formal and accountable” (Thorsteinsdottir,focused upon imminent structural problems. One 2000: 441). As soon as visions become more con-explanation for this is that Luxembourg research crete, and involve deciding upon certain priorities,368 Science and Public Policy June 2008
  • 9. Dynamics of science in Luxembourgconflicts of interest between stakeholder groups small countries”. Discussing the case of Belgiumdominate the debate (Warnke, 2006). and the Netherlands he wrote “Not only are there All in all, there surely is some praise to be given opportunities for academic researchers to influencesince, for the first time ever, priority setting and re- policy decisions – there are high expectations thatsearch policy is being based on an informed practice, they do so” (Bruyninckx, 2005: 387). Others write:involving a broad range of actors and using partici- “in a small state like Cyprus powerful individualspative methods. Luxembourg science policy is in the and interest groups have more opportunities to useprocess of becoming more democratic, more robust, their influence during the process of policy formula-more professional, more quality-oriented, more tion than in a larger state” (Hadjimanolis andtransparent, and more reflexive. Yet, despite these Dickson, 2001: 812). In my own case, I clearly hadpositive trends, there are still lessons to be learned: the sense that the distance between researchers andLuxembourg’s researchers have to learn how to cul- science policy is particularly small in Luxembourg.tivate a productive dialogue on the future of science And, I agree with Bruyninckx’s (2005: 391, 393)and a critical appraisal of research. The National assessment that becoming involved in policy is aResearch Fund has to learn how to best adopt the pleasant and fulfilling role that provides the oppor-tools of foresight exercises to Luxembourg while tunity to gain insight. However, at the same time,making sure that it will be an open, fair, transparent, researchers have more difficulty in keeping at dis-legitimate, effective and trustworthy exercise. Fi- tance from policy in small countries.nally, those foreign experts who assess the nationalresearch landscape have to understand the particu-larities of the country in order to best represent re- Conclusionssearch actors without forcing rigid frames uponthem. The promise, at the end, will be an even better The future of Luxembourg research is now emergingForesight Exercise next time. more explicitly. The increasingly codified, reflexive Let me briefly reflect on my own involvement in and robust anticipations of the future (and represen-the Foresight Exercise. I have taken part in the Fore- tations of the past), however, reveal the need for asight Exercise both as a participant and as a consult- couple of actions to be taken today: fosteringant to proofread and write intermediate and final stronger ties within Luxembourg’s research land-reports. I was invited to take part in the Foresight scape and improving governance. Further, a clearExercise’s Young Researchers Workshop, being gap between science and science policy is apparent.myself a ‘young researcher’. During the second Science policy has been rather deficient during mostphase of the Foresight Exercise, I also participated in of the history of Luxembourg research. Even aftertwo ‘senior’ workshops in which priorities were due research institutions had emerged, agenda and prior-to be set under the umbrella of social sciences and ity setting was rare, if not fully absent. This gap be-humanities. Apart from often feeling out of place in tween the emergent and increasingly diversifiedthe midst of senior participants, I also had ethical research infrastructure and the relative lack of topdilemmas. Receiving payment, for example, clashed down coordination has contributed to create a ratherwith my academic philosophy of ‘free’ peer-review; ‘wild’ and weakly interconnected research infra-yet receiving money seemed to be the only solution structure. Today, however, the gap seems almost toto cater for an asymmetric and not purely academic be reversed. Current science policy appears to berelationship between the National Research Fund almost too ambitious, too forward looking, too impa-and myself. After participating in the workshops and tient in wanting to implement change. While thehelping to write one particular report, I raised my Foresight Exercise was intended to ambitiously mapdilemmas with the National Research Fund, wonder- out the future of research, it has become apparenting if my involvement was ethical and fair. The re- after the first phase of the exercise, that the presentsponse of the National Research Fund was that I should have been visited first in much more depth.could write what I wanted, as I was, after all, also a Through creating the University of Luxembourg, theparticipant. government had (quite undemocratically) forced a So I came to give up my relatively comfortable radical reform in higher education that created muchposition of observing Luxembourg research ‘from a discontent and a lack of trust. In general, much ofdistance’ both professionally and geographically (I the political discourse on ‘excellence’ and ‘interna-currently work at a university in England) when ac- tional competitiveness’ seems premature and insuf-tively taking part in the Foresight Exercise and giv- ficiently nuanced.ing my view on why one particular domain should Apart from these gaps between science and sci-become a research priority. At the end, strangely ence policy, there are three characteristics of scienceenough, some of the things I said and wrote ended in Luxembourg which seem to be specifically linkedup in the final report of the Foresight Exercise. to its smallness. This very personal story might not be untypicalfor researchers in other small countries. Bruyninckx • Compared to larger countries, Luxembourg seems(2005: 388) argued “that there are characteristics of to have a less ‘mature’ research infrastructure andacademy–policy interactions that are typical for a less ‘mature’ science policy. LuxembourgScience and Public Policy June 2008 369
  • 10. Dynamics of science in Luxembourg science has a relatively recent history, as it is a clear need to import expertise. As only very few mostly over the last two decades that research has studies on small countries exist, and as much could been institutionalised and professionalised and be learned through sharing and comparing experi- that more efforts have been put into evaluation, ences, more work on science in small countries and into improving the image and visibility of sci- needs to be done. ence. In parallel, Luxembourg’s science policy is currently in the process of becoming a more pro- fessional and evidence-based enterprise with an Notes increased focus on future-oriented policy planning that informs today’s action-taking. So far, the lack 1. In the literature, the term ‘small country’ is used in relation to of a strong governance of science and vision quite a range of small and not so small countries; from ‘very building has, however, contributed to a frag- small’ countries such as Luxembourg and Cyprus, to substan- tively larger ones, like Austria, Belgium or Ireland. In this pa- mented and weakly structured system in which per, I discuss countries that are explicitly described as being collaboration and cooperation is problematic. small in the referenced literature. The population, surface area• In Luxembourg, the distance between researchers and GDP put Luxembourg among the very smallest countries in Europe. and science policy is relatively short. Conse- 2. Numbers excluding scientific and administrative boards as well quently, policy making is strongly marked by a as ministers. ‘bottom-up’ approach. As my own and other peo- 3. Luxembourg has joined the European Union Research Or- ganisations’ Head of Research Councils, the European Sci- ple’s experience (Bruyninckx, 2005; Hadjimanolis ence Foundation, the European Research Consortium in and Dickson, 2001) suggests, it is much more Informatics and Mathematics, the Coopération dans le do- likely that researchers will become involved in maine de la recherche scientifique et technique programme (all in 2002), the European Research Area Networks (in 2003), science policy in small countries than in larger the International Council for Science (in 2004), and the Euro- ones. This short distance between science and pol- pean Space Agency (in 2005). In December 2005, the INTER icy is both an opportunity and a problem. Re- programme was launched by the National Research Fund in order to further promote international scientific cooperation searchers can have the opportunity to inform through encouraging Luxembourg researchers to participate in policy, to gain insight and to make their knowl- international programmes funded together with foreign re- edge travel beyond the boundaries of academic search funds or councils. 4. CEPS/INSTEAD (Centre d’études de la population, de la pau- research. Yet, dilemmas with this short distance vreté et de politiques socio-économiques/International networks are many: ethical and moral, legal, professional, for studies in technology, environment, alternatives, develop- and pragmatic. For both parties, staying at ‘arm’s ment). Initially created in 1978 and institutionalised in 1989. 5. These include: a series of television spots called quantastësch length’ is a tricky position to negotiate. and the initiative Fierwat nët Fuerscher? (Why not re-• Luxembourg is dependent on foreign expertise. searcher?) both targeted at improving the image of research Compared to larger and more research-intensive within the public, especially among young people; the AT- TRACT programme which aims to attract ‘outstanding’ young countries, Luxembourg is much less able to influ- researchers to Luxembourg who are not yet established in ence European science policy, much less able to Luxembourg; the INTER programme designed for researchers be a leader in any given field, much less likely to in Luxembourg to cooperate more closely with international researchers. attract foreign human resources and funding, and 6. The origins of the university date back to the creation of the much more dependent on external expertise and Cours supérieur in 1817. policy making. In short, a small country is lim- 7. Yet, prioritisation needs to be carefully thought through, in particular to avoid an overlarge path dependency and to pro- ited: in terms of surface, human and financial re- vide sufficient room for new and promising areas to develop. sources, visibility, history, expertise etc. One 8. There are other reasons for not applying an economical ‘pen- consequence of this is a need for foreign exper- sée unique’ in science policy. The rules of the market do usu- ally not apply to science (economists describe this as ‘market tise, a need that surfaced on several occasions: to failure’). This counts for a university “[t]he ‘academic market supervise and carry out the Foresight Exercise, to place’ is not a typical labour market” (European Commission, evaluate research projects, to fill in senior staff 2004: 88), as well as for innovation in general, as “innovation processes are affected by endemic market and system fail- vacancies at the University of Luxembourg etc. In ures” (OECD, 2006: 2). general, “special measures may be needed to complement domestic resources with foreign ex- pertise in the small countries” (Berghäll et al., References 2002: 65). The specific challenges for a small country are thus at least threefold: first, to be able Aichholzer, Georg 2001. Delphi Austria: An Example of Tailoring to afford foreign expertise; secondly, to be able to Foresight to the Needs of a Small Country. Vienna: Institute of legitimise its use; and thirdly, to be able to attract Technology Assessment. Anon. 1992. Table Ronde. In Recherche et innovation dans un foreign researchers. très petit pays: session détudes économiques luxembourgeoi- ses: Mai/Juin 1991, pp. 193–250. Luxembourg: Institut univer-These seem to be aspects that set small countries sitaire international Luxembourg. Berghäll, Elina et al. 2002. The role of science and technologyapart (Meyer, 2007b). What I would suggest is that, policy in small countries. Helsinki, Finland: Government Insti-compared to larger countries, most small countries tute for Economic Research.will probably share these three characteristics: a less Bruyninckx, Hans 2005. Academic research in a small country: called to serve! International Environmental Agreements: Poli-mature research infrastructure and policy; a shorter tics, Law and Economics, 5(4), 387–393.distance between researchers and science policy; and Chambre de Commerce 2004. Entreprise Luxembourg. Priorités370 Science and Public Policy June 2008
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