About the European Science Foundation

Note: “2016 marks a new direction for ESF. After 40 years of success in stimulating European research through its networking, funding and coordination activities, ESF is now a services-based organisation that will continue to contribute to the European Research Area (ERA). Although the association will retain its legal name European Science Foundation, a different trading name and style will soon be introduced in order to differentiate between the ‘old’ ESF and the ‘new’ one. A new website is under development.” [See http://www.esf.org/esf-today/recent-developments.html]


The European Science Foundation (ESF) was established in 1974 to provide a common platform for its Member Organisations to advance European research collaboration and explore new directions for research. It is an independent organisation, owned by 78 Member Organisations, which are research funding organisations and research performing organisations, academies and learned societies from 30 countries. ESF promotes collaboration in research itself, in funding of research and in science policy activities at the European level.

ESF Research Networking Programmes (RNP) provide European scientists with a unique opportunity to establish international collaborative research networks and infrastructures around a major scientific issue or science-driven topic.

RNPs are coordinated programmes that aim at facilitating exchange of scientific ideas, personnel and knowhow between nationally funded researchers/research groups in order to enhance synergy across national boundaries at the European level and beyond.

With the overall strategic aim of promoting interdisciplinary fora where exchange of knowledge and expertise including development of new techniques and methods as well as training for the next generation of scientists is facilitated, RNPs include all or part the following activities:

Science meetings (workshops, conferences or schools);

  • Grants for short and exchange visits;
  • Dissemination activities (publications…);
  • Creation and maintenance of scientific databases at the European level.

It is important to note that RNPs are open activities. Principal participants within a Programme are expected to network during the Programme’s lifetime with colleagues in other relevant networks and research groups to ensure that opportunities within the Programme’s activities are known and are open to all. Activities proposed within the RNP should demonstrate this open character, i.e. ensure access to all the relevant research community.

RNPs are self-coordinated activities, i.e. managed by an appointed Steering Committee (SC) consisting of scientists who represent each of the national ESF Member Organisations (MOs) or other organisations that contribute to the programme. Funds are administered by the ESF. A dedicated ESF team provides guidance to the SC and support for the management of activities. Recognising that a degree of flexibility in scientific and financial management is essential for the success of an RNP, ESF will normally, as the RNP develops, accept a degree of adjustment from the original proposal, provided this is justified in scientific terms. ESF will not accept any adjustments that it considers to run counter to its responsibilities to the contributing organisations, or counter to ESF financial regulations. The ESF team in charge of the RNP will advise the Steering Committee on these matters. In occasional cases, including commencing activity in scientific areas not included in the approved proposal, the circumstances may require referral to the ESF team. In exceptional circumstances, the ESF team may require the submission of information for consideration at Standing Committee level.

ESF evaluates Programmes at the mid and final term and may, at any time, recommend to the funding Member Organisations termination or redirection. ESF, on behalf of the contributing organisations, retains ultimate financial and management authority.

Reference document: Guidelines for ESF Research Networking Programmes (RNPs). These guidelines are aimed at researchers involved in the running of ESF RNPs (such as RNP Chair and Steering Committee members) as well as researchers interested in participating in activities supported in the frame of an RNP.