European Consortium for Humanities Institutes and Centres
The European Association of Sociology (EAS), the European Confederation of Political Science Associations (ECPSA), the European Educational Research Association (EERA), the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) and the European Consortium for Humanities Institutes and Centres (ECHIC) have sent a joint letter to the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, expressing concern regarding the implementation of Horizon 2020 programme.
The main concerns expressed in the letter address the diminished funding for the SSH (social sciences and humanities) research and the narrow utilitarian approach to SSH reflected in the calls for proposals as well as in selection of experts.
The letter was also sent to members of European Parliament and members of the Programme Committee for Challenge 6 within the Horizon 2020, as well as to several media outlets in member states.
Read the full letter here.
Conference report of the Horizons of Social Sciences and Humanities, which took place in Vilnius in September 2013, is now available online. Besides the Vilnius Declaration, its objective is to present the practical results of the conference, e.g. recommendations for specific Societal Challenges in Horizon 2020.
Online version of conference report: http://horizons.mruni.eu/conference-report/
The collected recommendations section offers a list of recommendations how to better integrate social sciences and humanities into H 2020: http://horizons.mruni.eu/recommendations/
On the page "What follows" you can find forthcoming events and links to related initiatives.
The hard facts of the role of humanities in Horizon 2020 are not encouraging. The money set aside in the budget for Research Challenge 6 'Inclusive, Innovative and Reflective Societies’ is a meagre 400 million euro. The Commission has bundled the challenge with a number of cross-cutting initiatives which give the impression that funding is larger but most of this money will not go to humanities purposes. However, there will be funding for humanities approaches in the other challenges such as Health, Food, Transport, and Security.
In the aftermath of Vilnius a number of initiatives have been taken to express the dissatisfaction with this outcome. ECHIC signed a letter with representatives of social science organisations to the Commissioner in November calling for her warm words of support to be translated into real funding initiatives. In the same process, the outgoing chair of the ERC Prof Helga Nowotny, sent a letter on the same lines.
The Director-General Robert Jan Smits has now in a letter assured the willingness of the Commission to make the integration happen as proposed in the Vilnius Declaration. He states that it is planned to distribute the declaration to all Programme Committees. He writes, that approximately one quarter of all topics in Societal Challenges other than SC6, Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation will be flagged as SSH relevant, and that 15% of the appointed experts to Expert Advisory Groups have relevant interdisciplinary knowledge. And he informs us that Member States have confirmed that they will address the issue of integrating SSH at each H2020 kick-off event and that incentives of interdisciplinary research are highlighted.
Very importantly, Mr Smits endorses the idea to set-up CSA platforms in order to create spaces for the network and preparation of interdisciplinary projects. This is arcane language but what it means is that we have support for the idea put forward in our letter that Horizon 2020 needs to take a special initiative to encourage and include the SSH in all the research challenges by setting up support for synthesis centres. The reason for such an initiative is that currently a lot of humanities research is simply ignored because of lack of visibility. Discussions in Vilnius nade it very clear that for example the study of food cultures which has broad humanistic relevance will hardly be included in future calls under the Food challenge. Synthesis centres or Integrative Platforms as they are now called should be designed to call on and make visible the real potential of humanities research to inform research challenges.
Knowing the tricky way words may be used it is too early to assume that the CSA platforms are what we envision but it means that there is now an identifiable way forward. CSA is EU jargon for Coordination and Support Action and can be anything from very small to quite large so budget is another issue (a crucial one indeed!) and will depend on how well we argue the case.
ECHIC is pushing the idea of Integrative Platforms and has found support for the idea in Science Europe and elsewhere. The ECHIC conference in Porto will be an important opportunity to discuss and develop the idea.
Poul Holm, Chair of ECHIC Board
Trinity Long Room Hub Professor of Humanities
Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Following up on the Vilnius conference, the following letter was sent to the EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Geoghegan-Quinn by the European Alliance for Social Sciences and Humanities (EASSH). In the letter EASSH protests against the evident sidelining – rather than mainstreaming – of the SSH and proposes:
The letter is signed by Poul Holm as Chair of ECHIC.
Social Sciences and Humanities in Horizon 2020
The European Federation of Academies of Science and Humanities, ALLEA, has produced a ‘roadmap’ showing how it wants to position social sciences and humanities research within the Horizon 2020 programme.
The document was drawn up by a working group of representatives from ALLEA member organisations, chaired by John Bell professor of law at the University of Cambridge, which met at the British Academy in London.
Their report insists that that the objectives of the Commission’s seven-year research strategy can only be achieved with the active involvement of social scientists and humanities researchers.
These “have a key contribution to make in defining and understanding the conditions for fostering innovative change and increasing the likelihood that innovation will lead to economic and societal progress,” the committee states.
The roadmap makes a number of specific recommendations including a plea for specific quotas for representatives from the social sciences and humanities on the expert advisory groups and committees leading the various Horison2020 programmes.