Brussels, 15 May 2003
European Research Area (ERA) policy makers should avoid applying a 'one size fit' approach to building bridges between national and European research programmes, especially in the field of social and human sciences, concludes a recent discussion paper from the European Commission.
The paper entitled, 'implementation of the ERA in the social and human sciences' maps out the ways in which research policies in the social and human sciences are designed and implemented, and examines the main priorities in those sciences that could provide the basis for European efforts to link together national programmes.
It notes that building critical mass in social and human sciences at EU level in the past has proved to be a difficult task, as these sciences are deeply embedded in Member States' infrastructures. 'The argument went that social, economic and political phenomena have been studied traditionally in the national context, and hence the scale and pace of development of European collaborative research and infrastructure support had continued to lag behind the natural sciences,' states the report.
However, the paper goes on to point out that, since the inception of the European framework programmes, this argument has been used in favour of promoting the need for the Commission's mobility schemes to include the social sciences, and for the development of targeted research key actions addressing policy options for European economic, social and political development.
According to the report, Member State authorities have responded positively to the new opportunities for EU level funding and have adjusted their national funding arrangements in order to promote the European dimension. At the same time, EU funding has led to many new networks and collaboration between university and non-university research institutes.
Yet despite such progress, in order to set up an effective ERA in this field, the paper states that it is important to recognise the varying impacts of EU funding on national research programmes, as well as the different types of national funding arrangements and institutional landscapes in each country.
To this end, the report identifies five types of national funding arrangement for social and human sciences and categorises them according to their potential for 'linkage and opening up' in the ERA. In addition to these categories, the report also defines eight clusters of targeted research programmes that offer considerable scope for synergy and coordination between Member States.
In order to bring these findings to the fore, the report underlines the need for a more structured dialogue between key representatives of research communities and national funding agencies. It also reminds policy makers of the most important and difficult task involved in developing the ERA, namely recruiting and engaging the high quality researchers from across the various national research communities. To read the discussion paper in full, please visit the following web address: http://www.cordis.lu/citizens/publicatio ns.htm