Brussels, 29 Apr 2003
Collaboration between researchers and policy makers, of the kind seen during a workshop organised to tackle social exclusion in Brussels in October 2002, is vital in order to overcome societal problems, Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin has said.
In the foreword to a newly published report about the event, organised by DG Research and DG Employment, Mr Busquin and Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Anna Diamantopoulou jointly state that it is crucial that academics do not exclude policy makers from their research, and that politicians listen to what scientists have to say.
'In the socio-economic field, more than in any other, it is urgent for academics not to consider themselves as members of an ivory tower in which the policy makers are not allowed. As for the latter, it is also vital [...] to understand how research results can help them to achieve the right solutions,' say the Commissioners.
The October workshop itself brought together high level representatives from the Commission and Member State governments, along with researchers from across Europe, drawn mainly from the unemployment, work and welfare cluster of projects (UWWCLUS) that were funded under the Fourth and Fifth Framework Programmes.
In particular, it aimed to use recent research results to highlight the policy changes necessary to fight youth unemployment, and to give politicians a better understanding of the nature of exclusion, its scale, causes and consequences.
In doing so, those policy makers present not only developed a better understanding of certain concepts, they were able to identify areas where gaps existed in their knowledge. One such gap identified in the meeting related to approach of researchers and policy makers to the socially excluded themselves. Politicians and social scientists often communicate with the socially excluded in the wrong way, they discovered, and there is a need to better understand the perception that marginalised groups have of themselves.
Conclusions to emerge from the workshop included the agreement that researchers must apply a strict methodology to give answers to important social questions, rather than seek to provide short term answers. Also, research has the task of reminding policy makers that the easy interpretation is not always the correct one.
As the Deputy Director General of DG Research, Hugh Richardson, acknowledged, greater cooperation between policy makers and researchers is sometimes difficult to achieve, given the different timeframes within which the two communities operate.
'While research is normally a long term activity, policy makers need short term solutions,' he said. 'Nevertheless, despite these problems the dialogue between research and policy has to be enhanced and be brought to more ambitious levels.'
The workshop was an important step in showing that this objective is possible. To read the workshop report, please: