Brussels, 11 Sep 2003
The Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) successfully met the challenge, set by policy makers, of incorporating socio-economic considerations into the research activities of its thematic programmes, a recent report has claimed.
In his foreword to the report, entitled 'the overall socio-economic dimension of community research in the Fifth European Framework programme', Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin says that FP5 was designed in a different way to its predecessors, in terms of both content and operation, in order to meet the European challenges associated with the transition to a knowledge based society.
He writes that: 'The intention was to move away from research for its own sake and to turn the research towards current socio-economic problems, that is, research with the potential to accomplish the changes expected by the general public. In this respect, the Fifth Framework Programme was the first to significantly reinforce European support for socio-economic related research activities.'
In the absence of commonly agreed definitions and consistent datasets, the report first highlights the main conceptual issues to be addressed when devising an appropriate framework for the assessment of the socio-economic content of projects. Specifically, the report makes a distinction between the socio-economic impact of projects focusing on technological advancement, and projects with societal problems as their main focus. It also refers to the development of specific methods and tools for impact assessment within projects funded under FP5, and suggests that these will undoubtedly help establish a dedicated framework for future evaluation.
Turning to FP5's principal programmes and key actions, the report finds that while some reveal a strong and immediately recognisable socio-economic relevance, other programmes and key actions enabled an innovative effort to integrate socio-economic research with technological research and development. With regard to the energy environment and sustainable development (EESD) programme, the report says that thanks to its continuing effort to develop and use analytical tools and methods for policy support, the programme successfully provided visible and abundant input in policy-making.
The extent to which FP5 programmes contributed to EU policymaking is illustrated in a summary of the results of an extensive search carried out on the EURLEX database. Although the findings cannot be considered exhaustive, the report points to the significance of 20 major references, spread across the programmes and key actions, ranging from sustainable development policies to the security of networks, from the fight against communicable diseases to the promotion of 'intermodal' transport options.
However, despite the socio-economic relevance of FP5 programmes, key actions and projects, the report outlines a number of areas where improvements could be made in future Framework Programmes. When looking at future prospects, the report suggests that effort would appear necessary, not so much to increase the amount of socio -economic related research, but rather to enhance the socio -economic value that can be drawn from research programmes, and its visibility.
Other recommendations include the development and systematic use of tools and procedures for socio -economic content representation, a set of assessment indicators, and advanced impact assessment methods to help guide policy- and decision-makers in the priority and target setting process, and to establish the necessary yardsticks for future assessment exercises.
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