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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Henk Garretsen


Henk Garretsen
Scientific Coordinator and Chairman of ERANID


‘ERANID offers unique opportunities for European collaboration in addiction research’

The European Research Area Network on Illicit Drugs (ERANID) is planning to issue its first call for proposals in 2015. Scientists from the participating countries can then submit proposals for international research on illicit drugs. ‘Until then, it will take us some time to take stock of the existing knowledge, identify any gaps that exist, and translate all stakeholders’ wishes and requirements into research priorities,’ says Prof. Dr. Henk Garretsen, the Dutch chairman of ERANID.


'The main strength of ERANID is that it facilitates an international exchange of knowledge gained in the field of drugs and addiction research over the past few decades, while also allowing us to investigate the key questions of relevance today,' says Garretsen. 'By placing research in an international perspective, we can combat fragmentation and enhance the quality of research. ERANID provides a unique opportunity for European collaboration in addiction research. The programme allows us to share knowledge, identify knowledge gaps, and to become better acquainted with colleagues in other countries. What's more, it also creates greater understanding for the different approaches that countries have adopted in dealing with drugs. In the past, such understanding was lacking to some extent.


 ''The participating countries have stated their intention to make money available for research'


The European Commission has allocated funding to ERANID to enable the programme to set up a European network. Research funds will have to be contributed by the individual countries in due time. It is currently unclear how much money will be made available. No guarantees have been provided, says Garretsen. Nevertheless, he is confident that the participating countries will contribute the necessary funds. ‘We have not agreed firm arrangements concerning how much money is to be contributed by the participating countries. However, participation does of course come with certain obligations. In principle, the countries have stated their intention to make funds available for research. But as I indicated, no guarantees have been provided.’

Research priorities

The research priorities on which the calls for proposals will be based are not plucked from thin air. In the coming months, each country will submit a list of priorities which will be compared with the lists of other countries. The participating countries are currently identifying their national wishes and requirements. Each country has its own approach, which often includes surveying the existing literature and assessing the results of past research programmes. Experts are also consulted and input is sought from the professional field, including the more than 500 responses to the stakeholders’ survey on research priorities.

Organic process

Garretsen does not want to anticipate the choices that will be made at a later stage. ‘We are still taking stock of the situation. However, it is undeniable that we will need to narrow down the scope later this year. We can’t do everything, we have to make choices. We will assess all the suggested topics together with our international partners, and make a comparison with the knowledge already available. Of course, we will factor in completed and ongoing studies from the participating countries and international organisations, making grateful use of the approximately 400 responses to our call for information about ongoing research projects, funding programmes and policy frameworks. We can already learn a great deal from one another through this process alone, precisely because we are undertaking it with people from many different countries and backgrounds. That is what is so interesting about this period. It is an organic process in which we slowly but surely come together, in full keeping with the spirit of European collaboration.’