Brussels, 02 Nov 2004
The European Union Research Advisory Board (EURAB) has followed up its recommendations on social sciences and humanities within the European Research Area (ERA) of January 2004 with a progress report illustrating how few of its suggestions have been taken into account.
The original recommendations were principally aimed at the Commission and its preparations for the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). They also addressed the current framework programme, however, and were intended to have an impact on the remaining calls for proposals under FP6.
In its latest paper, EURAB claims that while the social sciences and humanities (SSH) have not been excluded in the groundwork for the remaining calls for proposals or the discussions of FP7, they have not received any special attention. 'Given the important (potential) role of the SSH coupled with their relative under-representation compared to that of the natural, medical and engineering sciences, this is particularly worrisome,' states EURAB.
EURAB also feels that the SSH have been ignored in the Marimon report on the effectiveness of the new instruments under FP6, as well as in recent Competitiveness Council meetings and in the agenda and priorities of the Dutch Presidency.
While the European Strategy Forum for Research infrastructures (ESFRI) did take note of some of EURAB's recommendations in a recent report, the advisory board feels that they nonetheless neglected the humanities disciplines and their specific needs.
'More than ever, the focus seems solely to be on the natural sciences, technological development and innovation,' states the EURAB paper. It suggests that this is perhaps due to continuing efforts to meet the Lisbon and Barcelona goals of making Europe the most competitive region in the world, and increasing research spending to three per cent of GDP, respectively.
'Economic growth and improved competitiveness are not ends in themselves and do not always - or automatically - lead to more and better jobs for all citizens, improved quality of life and to social cohesion and stability in an enlarged European Union,' states EURAB. '[The] crucial role that SSH have in addressing key issues that are vital to the future development of Europe, is still not recognised [...]. [Many] of the problems that Europe is currently facing are issues that must be dealt with by the SSH, e.g. the legitimacy of the European institutions, terrorism, and European cultural heritage,' continues the paper.
EURAB suggests that those initiatives that have been taken by the Commission would have greater impact and be generally more effective if better overlap were ensured in membership to working or advisory groups.
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