The 7th Framework Research Programme of the European Union will launch its first call for project proposals soon, and this gives us an excuse to critically examine the 'billions and billions' of euros from the tax payer that go to fund climate research.
The EU has traditionally set-up different funding schemes, but the most popular among researchers are the collaborative research projects targeted at specific areas of research defined by the European Commission itself. This projects are applied for by a team of research institutions from different European countries. Among these projects we find the 'big integrated European research projects' that supposedly European scientist are craving. It seems , however, that climate is not a big post in the funding scheme. It is actually one of the smallest. The distribution of research funds was decided a few years ago already, so that the recent public developments surrounding CRU and the IPCC had no influence here. The EU will spend about 32 billion euros in funding collaborative research, of which just 1.8 billion will got to climate and environmental research. Almost 50% of the funding goes to Health and to Information Technologies. Some of the funding for Space Research could benefit climate research through satellite monitoring programs, but it is not very large either.
How does the funding of a typical large integrated research project in climate research funded by the EU ? The total amount would be of the order of 10 to 12 millions euros to be distributed among 20 to 40 institutions for a typical duration of 5 years. It is not difficult to estimate that this funding barely covers the salary of costs of one person for the duration of the project plus some travel, publication and computer costs.
Researchers do not actually have much control on the daily management of funds allocated to a project. Part of it are overhead costs that go directly to the management of the respective institution to pay for electricity, rents and administrative costs. Travel expenses fall under national regulations: if I happen to take a taxi from home to the train station for a cost of 10 euros, I will certainly get a phone call asking me to justify why I did not take the bus.
Of all the accusation directed to climate researchers, graft is in my opinion the wrongest. Egos, influence, power may indeed be involved, but money for sure does not play a role.