Brussels, 08 Oct 2002
[...] THE VIEWS OF CREST
The theme of "science and society" with its large spectrum of important and basic questions has more and more come into focus of the discussions about research in Europe during the last few years. CREST itself has contributed to this development by its earlier report on this theme, development which now has been confirmed by the recent decision on the 6th Framework Programme and the place of "science and society" in that programme.
The Commission's Action Plan is an extensive and ambitious effort to concretise into practical activities the general goals of the Framework Programme. These proposed activities are clearly conceived from an ERA-perspective, where an indispensable element is joint and complementary participation also by Member States and their different stakeholders in the manner of "open coordination".
CREST notes with great satisfaction the interaction in the Plan between activities addressed at education and at science, but leaves otherwise aside the question of prioritizing between the different actions. This question has for the time being been solved in a practical way through the choice of clusters. The importance of ensuring a sufficient amount of stability and visibility for the clusters' activities is underlined.
CREST welcomes the initial results, based on earlier CREST discussions, of the joint efforts of Member States and the Commission to form clusters of cooperation in a few central areas of the Action Plan. This will hopefully constitute an important and highly desirable addition to the actions of the Framework, through its specific programme and by the programme committee. A basic aspect of the clusters will be their role to stimulate cooperation between national activities. At the same time it is clear that these clusters do not aim at an exhaustive organization of the "science and society" work as a whole. The Commission together with the CREST Member States will continue its own work on the entire Action Plan. The articulation between the clusters and other ongoing activities like in the context of the Framework Programme will merit some further reflection.
What should be expected?
The activity in the clusters is basically an open-ended exercise, channelling voluntary activities by Member States and with no given time limits from the outset. This involvement of Member States and stakeholders on the national level is especially important in the type of attitude-shaping and developing activities which constitute the main part of the "science and society"- block.
The activities could in first hand be expected to:
- contribute to the implementation of the Action Plan;
- give useful input to the formulation and successive revisions of the work programme for "Science and society" (and possibly at a later stage to a revision of the Action Plan itself);
- stimulate the elaboration of proposals under later calls for proposals from the Framework Programme,
- lead to bi- or multilateral national activities outside of the Framework Programme itself.
It does not seem, though, that the clusters themselves should be established as formal Framework Programme projects, except being able to receive limited support for the practical work under the heading of accompanying measures.
Member States participation or involvement is not seen by CREST to be constrained by the cluster approach developed, in instances where bi- or multilateral action by Member States with the Commission may be more appropriate.
How to do it?
Given their character of voluntary cooperation, no specific mandates can or should be given from the outside to the clusters. Nevertheless, some stability in the work is necessary in order to assure a reasonable success of the whole enterprise. Through the method of clustering several actions together, the cluster areas have as a rule become quite broad and extensive. Each cluster should therefore take care to define from the outset the closer focusing of its first work, in order to achieve the necessary concentration of efforts. To a suitable degree, broad working plans, time-schedules and milestones should also be discussed and laid down.