EU challenged to broaden Horizon

Concerns grow that framework programme is ignoring humanities research. Paul Jump writes

August 11, 2011



Credit: Getty
Grand ideas: research challenges should include work on identity, say some


The European Union's proposed research "challenges" for its next seven-year spending period fail to acknowledge the contribution that the humanities and social sciences can make, observers have warned.

The European Commission ran a consultation earlier this year on its intention to organise its next framework programme for research and innovation - known as Horizon 2020 - around a series of "societal grand challenges".

Those proposed so far relate to food security, health and well-being, clean energy, green transport, climate change and the move "towards more inclusive, innovative and secure societies".

Shearer West, until recently director of research at the Arts and Humanities Research Council and now head of humanities at the University of Oxford, described the latter as "a noble attempt to have a challenge for social science and humanities". But she added that it did not feel "very coherent".

She also warned that the other proposals were too technology-focused and ignored the strength of Europe's creative economy and its tourism and heritage industries.

She said the concerns were felt across the Continent. "The concern is that there won't be the capacity to develop research challenges to which the arts and humanities can contribute unless it is thought about very carefully now, before the strategy is locked down." She said the AHRC was having a "very productive conversation" with the Commission, which had invited it to propose three grand challenges on which arts and humanities researchers could lead.

It has proposed "European identities: mobility, diversity and cohesion", "Copyright and creativity in the digital age" and "Culture and changing concepts of well-being".

The British Academy, which shares many of the AHRC's concerns, has proposed an "understanding Europe" challenge, which would include research on identity, employment and quality of life.

The academy's consultation response expresses its concern that "insufficient attention is paid to...the requirement for fundamental analysis of societal problems, by scholars in the humanities and social sciences, before designing policies in response to those problems".

Mark English, the Commission's spokesman for research, innovation and science, said detailed proposals for Horizon 2020 would be presented at the end of the year, but he emphasised that the Commission would reserve the right to adopt new challenges in the future.

He said the EU recognised that social science and humanities research "complements technology-driven research in areas where there are major societal issues at stake".

paul.jump@tsleducation.com.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry

But the highest value UK spin-off companies mainly come from research-intensive universities, latest figures show