“Edvard and I are not known for whining, and we’re not whining now either. We are shocked and we are worried about the future. This is a warning,” says brain researcher May-Britt Moser to Khrono.

Norwegian Nobel prize winners shocked by cuts in government research spending

“We’ve been doing this for 30 years now, and we’ve never seen cuts as dramatic as these,” say Nobel prize winners Edvard and May-Britt Moser.

The reactions come after Ola Borten Moe (from the Centre Party), Norway’s Minister of Research and Higher Education, last week forced the board of the Research Council of Norway to resign and signaled that grants would be stopped. The two researchers have spoken to the newspaper Khrono which covers academia in Norway (link in Norwegian).

The Ministry of Education and Research have since November scrutinized the financial management of the Research Council. The results of these efforts was that Borten Moe intervened, forced the entire board to resign and installed former Minister of Finance and former leader of the Socialist Left Party, Kristin Halvorsen as the head of a new interim board.

The Ministry is of the opinion that the board was in need of more knowledge and competencies on public administration, budgeting and accounting rules, according to Aftenposten (link in Norwegian).

In the article in Khrono, Edvard and May-Britt Moser react strongly to the eight measures that the new board were presented on Monday this week by Mari Sundli Tveit, Chief Executive of the Research Council.

“We’ve been doing this for 30 years, and we’ve never seen such dramatic cuts, or experienced such a level of uncertainty about the future as we are right now”, says Edvard Moser. May-Britt Moser says that the suggestions gave her goose bumps as she was so shocked. Among other things, the two scientists react to the fact that the cuts are so sudden.

In order to save 842 million NOK next year and the year thereafter, one suggestion is to reduce grants this year by 20 per cent. It has also been suggested that the Research Council cancel next year’s funding of ground-breaking research (FRIPRO), and postpone the commencement of new Norwegian Centres of Excellence.

Both Edvard and May-Britt Moser work at the prestigious Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. They fear that the institute will lose a number of their top international researchers due to the uncertainties that lie ahead. They estimate that around 15-25 positions may be in danger if the suggested cuts are materialized.

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