The EU referendum result provides a “clear case” for more European funding to be available for social sciences research, in order to answer “fundamental questions” around social inequality and immigration.
That is the view of Jan Palmowski, pro vice-chancellor (postgraduate and transnational education) at the University of Warwick and secretary general of the Guild of European Research Intensive Universities.
He said that it is clear that Horizon 2020 “hasn’t quite worked as well as it might have done in social sciences and humanities” and that the referendum result last month offers more proof that this must be addressed.
“If you look at what’s going on with Brexit right now, it seems to me there’s a very clear case that fundamental questions of social tension, of political sustainability of governance, are right at the heart of Europe,” he told Times Higher Education.
“There is a real need for more research on some of these major questions in social sciences and the arts and humanities, and I don’t see how a European project can succeed without more research in these areas.”
He suggested that such research could explore tensions around immigration, social mobility and globalisation, adding that the official launch of the guild this November will allow the organisation to “start making an impact” on the details of the next EU framework programme for research and innovation.
A letter sent to THE in 2013, and signed by 11 leading academics and vice-chancellors, argued that the promise to embed humanities and social sciences research in Horizon 2020 “has proved empty so far” and called for a “substantial increase in the budget” proposed for these disciplines in order to solve “Europe’s problems”.
Professor Palmowski added that one of the main goals of the guild will be to increase research capacity across the Continent, particularly in Eastern Europe. Of the 16 to 18 universities that are members, three or four will be based in this region, he said.
“The fundamental challenge is how we can commit to the principle of quality – basic funding should go to the best applicants – whilst also being mindful that actually there are some real structural historical disadvantages that a number of universities face in other parts of Europe,” he said.