Norwegian excellence policy

The emergence of explicit policies for excellence in research is relatively recent in Norway. Policies for generous, selective funding of the very best researchers and research groups began to appear during the later years of the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, albeit with very limited effect on overall research policy (Aksnes et al., 2012). This may be typical of the experience of small countries; several evaluations of Norwegian research at the time emphasised the relatively flat research landscape, with the distribution of resources based on the principle of equality and few research groups of high international quality (Walloe, 2008). The idea of a scheme to promote excellence in research was launched in the 1999 White Paper on research (KUF, 1999). While there were already a few single-standing schemes to promote excellence in research by forming centres and/or for long-term funding for the very best, the White Paper introduced what was to be called the CoE scheme as the first general scheme for excellence in research (Aksnes et al., 2012). The scheme was first announced in 2002, through an open call for applications (Box 8.1).

Box 8.1. The Norwegian CoE scheme

Governed by the Research Council of Norway (RCN)

Established/first call: 2002

Main selection criteria: Scientific quality, high international standard

Number of centres: 13 centres in 2003 (ended in 2012): 8 centres in 2007; 13 centres in 2012

Yearly funding: EUR 1-1.8 million from RCN, substantial co-funding/in-kind funding from host institution

Duration: 5 + 5 years, mid-term evaluation after 3.5 years

Organisational model: aims at co-localised research groups

Host institutions: universities, university hospitals and research institutes

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