Brussels, 20 Sep 2004
The Academia Europaea has issued a statement calling on policy makers not to neglect the humanities in the European Research Area (ERA).
The Academia Europaea is a European, non-governmental association acting as an academy. Its members, which number around 2000 and come from Europe and elsewhere, are scientists and scholars who wish to promote learning, education and research.
'It is often argued, especially in political circles, that the natural sciences are more directly responsible for the economic advancement of our societies than are the humanities,' claims the Academia Europaea. This has led to the systematic underfunding of the humanities and ignorance of the advances for which the social sciences are responsible, it continues: 'To see the public funding of the sciences [...] merely as a means of promoting the delivery of economic goods is dangerously short-sighted.'
The human sciences can strengthen our understanding of other civilisations, countries and social structures within Europe, thus leading to a 'deeper unification, going far beyond a shared political apparatus,' according to the Academia Europaea. And enlargement of the EU has provided new opportunities for such research, giving access to new primary sources and new societal transformations for analysis.
The Academia suggests that 'whilst any political failure to realise the importance of the role of the humanities in the European research policy process might not produce any short-term economic disadvantage, it will certainly mean a less stable road to integration in the long run. [...] This must not be the unintended consequence of an incomplete European research policy.' For this reason, the Academia Europaea states that it considers it 'imperative' for the future European Research Council to actively promote and support the humanities alongside the natural sciences.
The statement recognises that 'Europeanising' the humanities is uncharted territory. It is described as 'demanding and historically rare', the reason being that subject matters are often limited in time and place. The social sciences are also traditionally undertaken by individuals at small and geographically fragmented centres of expertise. The Academia Europaea therefore calls for the development of a 'European Humanities approach' that should deliver critical mass, and for European and national policy makers to provide for a real integration of the humanities into research policy at the Community level.
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