Lisbon Declaration on Humanities, Open Research and Innovation

The Lisbon declaration is the outcome document of the European Humanities Conference, co-organised by UNESCO, CIPSH and the Portuguese Foundation fro Science and Technology (FCT), 5-7 May 2021.

Read the declaration here

ECHIC’s Contribution to the World Humanities Report

How Do You and Your Colleagues See the Role and Relevance of the Humanities in the Contemporary World?

One cannot reflect on the relevance of the humanities without considering institutional scenarios which set the terms for discussions about the role of research more broadly. The European science policy debate is one such scenario. From the point of view of European institutions, which distribute public funding for research, the role and relevance of the humanities are contingent upon the centrality of the ‘human factor’. Since it would be difficult to deny that the ‘human factor’ (however reductively demarcated) is fundamental in addressing crises, emergencies, large societal questions, and wicked problems, the humanities can be imagined as relevant everywhere — and nowhere. Their association with the arts, cultural heritage, and the cultural and creative industries provides a quantifiable economic justification. Their proximity to the social sciences, in the assemblage known as the SSH, delivers the indirect benefit of heightened policy impact. Both Horizon 2020 and the new European framework for research and innovation, Horizon Europe, do not deny the relevance of the humanities; rather, they envisage the contribution of research in the humanities as the salt and pepper sprinkled over meals prepared and cooked by others. Put differently, the humanities are deemed relevant across the board, but only in so far as their epistemic culture is capable of adapting to the dominant scientific template of knowledge production.

The kind of knowledge — subtle, interpretative, qualitative, critical — the humanities generate may not sit comfortably within this template, which goes some way towards explaining why humanities disciplines were so underrepresented in large collaborative research projects funded under Horizon 2020.  On the other hand, however, the humanities are clearly adapting to a research environment that prioritises problem-solving habits: they have already expanded their remit, amplified the range of objects and phenomena that fall within their areas of investigation, and taken on increased responsibilities as regards the linkages between research, social practices and public debate. The success of the Environmental Humanities, Digital Humanities, Medical Humanities or indeed Health Humanities is a telling case in point, as is the growing share of humanities researchers in various transdisciplinary projects addressing wicked problems like vaccine hesitancy and climate change. The proliferation of transversal areas of research, typically referred to as ‘studies’, as Braidotti rightly argues, is a clear indication of the vitality, creativity and relevance of the humanities in the contemporary world. Yet, despite this wealth of approaches, which proves the humanities’ potential for innovation and openness towards self-transformation, when it comes to justifying how research contributes to solving the problems of the world, the humanities seem always to come up short vis-à-vis not only the STEM disciplines, but also the social sciences, as the Covid-19 emergency has clearly shown.

The context created by the global pandemic has thrown into relief underlying tensions — one in particular that oscillates between extremes of public relevance and irrelevance. On the one hand, the humanities-driven knowledge which sustains, inspires and keeps alive the cultural and heritage sector has more than proven its worth, as testified by the myriad initiatives undertaken the world over to offer audiences much-needed cultural engagement during lockdown, and to reaffirm the value of solidarity. On the other hand, public debates about what to do, how to understand the pandemic and its social and economic consequences have been largely dominated by scientists, of course, as well as by inputs from the social sciences — even as scholars in the humanities strove to be heard.

The pandemic has brought to the fore one public dimension of the humanities which has more to do with spiritual resilience and much-needed release or comfort, than it does with sharp critique and intense questioning. The ‘everyday humanities’ have played a vital role during lockdown, aided by the interventions of museums, art galleries, heritage institutions which were also facing the dire prospect of non-survival. Should this dimension be discounted on the ground that it is too soft, that it reduces the humanities to a purveyor of therapeutic ‘relief’ to people in distress, that it lacks the critical edge humanists are trained to expect? Another possibility could be to argue that the humanities are relevant as they foster education and research which provide the cultural ecosystem with its most essential nutrients. Shutting down or downsizing humanities departments and research centres is the surest way towards the desertification of culture and its institutions — the Covid-19 crisis has revealed how crucial their role is for the general public. Even if this recognition of the social value of arts and culture may not immediately translate into increased social and symbolic capital for the humanities as academic disciplines, the interface between academic and cultural work has emerged more starkly as a space of relevance for the humanities.

As regards the opposite pole of the tension, namely the subordinate position of the humanities in the pandemic debate, this has much to do with the vexed question of providing evidence-based policy advice. Experts across the sciences have relied on models to predict bio-political outcomes from the processing of data. Data driven research and artificial intelligence may well have taken a front seat in public debates. However, the limited effectiveness of some policies, their differential impact on the lives of individuals and groups, and, most of all, the costs of unpredicted secondary consequences are already emerging. This provides the humanities with one further incentive to rethink and reapply their conceptual instruments and methodologies. The humanities can present concepts, approaches and evidence bases subject to different forms of validation but which are particularly pertinent to how societies engage concretely at a non-statistical level with bio-political management of personal and collective risk. They would include the persistence of interpretation and the validity of the counter-intuitive; the evidential value of ‘anecdote’; the capacity to imagine, historicise and theorise the individual and collective phenomenologies of demographic segmentation; behavioural models of the subject, their interests, processes and solidarities; experiences of vulnerability, confinement and recklessness; the relationships between privacy and liberty; theories of communicative effect; the interface of the past with the future; and, crucially, the understanding of forms of uncertainty within a futurity increasingly subject to genetic, financial and political regimes of calculable probabilistic destinies.

July 2020.

SSH in Horizon 2020

European Commission’s first report on the integration of Social Sciences and Humanities in Horizon 2020 and EASSH’s response to the report

European Commission’s DG Research and Innovation presented the first report on the integration of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) in Horizon 2020. This monitoring and evaluation report assesses how the different SSH disciplines have been integrated into the projects funded in 2014 under the Societal Challenges and the Industrial Leadership priorities. The report is now available online.

European Alliance for Social Sciences and Humanities (EASSH) in response published a position on the report, in which they welcome the publication of it and point to the issues that call for urgent attention.

The Commission flagged around 37% of the topics under the 2014 calls as likely to invite SSH contributions. Based on the consolidated results, the Commission reports itself that only a quarter of consortia partners in projects funded under topics flagged for SSH have SSH expertise and will contribute it to their projects. When excluding Societal Challenge 6, the share of SSH partners amounts to less than a fifth. Even more worrying is the fact that 28% of funded projects under the SSH-flagged topics in 2014 do not include any SSH research dimension to address the issues at stake and do not include any SSH partner.

Around 16% of the funding in those projects will be allocated to SSH research. Across the 2014 calls addressing Europe’s major societal challenges as few as 7% of projects will benefit from insights from social and humanities scholars. In total, the share of budget going to SSH partners out of the total call budget will stand only at 6%.

European Alliance for Social Sciences and Humanities (EASSH) therefore highlighted the issues that need to be addressed urgently:

  1. Improve the data collection systems which can improve both the accuracy in tracing SSH participation and improve transparency around the data collection
  2. Work with the SSH community to develop a more robust methodology for analysing the integration of SSH research in projects.  Measuring the number of so called “SSH Partners” is not a robust indicator of the depth of integration in the fundamental research of any project
  3. Review the membership of the European Advisory Groups and Evaluation panels where the current minimal levels of SSH representation need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Little input to the design of work programmes and framing of topics, along with lack of SSH experience has contributed to the low integration of SSH in projects.

Full text of the EASSH response is available here.

Joint letter from SSH scientific community to the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Brussels, March, 7th

Dear Commissioner,

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 welcomed your  intention to improve the position of the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH), as you have stated on several occasions since the British Academy meeting in November 2011.

Considering your clearly expressed political intent to support SSH, in line with the European Parliament and the Member States, we wish to express our strong concern about the implementation of H2020:

– The first available 2014-2015 work programs indicate that the share of SSH research in SC6 has diminished dramatically. Extrapolated to the whole Horizon 2020 period, the core SSH program in SC6 will be funded up to the amount of 300 Million Euros. This is less than half of the FP7 budget for SSH (625 Million Euros) and far removed from what has been claimed on many occasions prior to this. It is now also evident that the main share of the SSH Challenge has been allocated to other priorities: a third of the budget of SC6 has been given to DG CNECT, which already gets more than 7 billion Euros under Priority 2 and from other budgets elsewhere in various Societal Challenges, and a further third of the budget is allocated to “innovation research”. Such budgetary decisions are in complete contradiction to the proposals for the Specific Programme of H2020, which allows for large research activity for SSH in SC6 in support of several key policy areas developed in particular by DG EMPL, EAC, ECFIN, HOME, JUST, DEVCO, BEPA, ENV and EEAS.

– According to the call for proposals, the « mainstreaming policy » of SSH in other challenges, which was presented as an important complement to the specific challenge, rarely pertains directly to research in SSH. Instead the calls have a narrow utilitarian approach to SSH and fail to mobilise the breadth of relevant SSH research for societal challenges. The selection of experts similarly fails to draw the breath of relevant SSH expertise.

We hope that we are mistaken. We therefore ask for a meeting with you urgently in order to get some clarification from you regarding the situation detailed above and so that SSH core research in SC6 can be granted the key position that was agreed upon by the European Parliament and the Council.

Yours sincerely,

Carmen Leccardi, President of ESA

Pablo Oñate, President of ECPSA

Lejf Moos, President of EERA

Noel B. Salazar, President of EASA

Poul Holm, President of ECHIC

Answer to: , , , ;

This letter was Cc’ed to:

– Members of Parliament

– Members of the Programme Committee for Challenge 6 (H2020)

– Media in member states: La Repubblica, El Pais, Libération, Der Spiegel, The Times

SSH in Horizon 2020: letter to the EU Commissioner by EASSH

“Towards Europe 2020: integrating the Social Sciences and Humanities”

Letter from the European Alliance for the Social Sciences and Humanities:

Dear Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn,

We were delighted to participate in the recent EU Presidency conference «Horizons for Social Sciences and Humanities» in Vilnius and we enthusiastically support the Vilnius Declaration. We were much encouraged by your strong words of support for mainstreaming Social Science and Humanities (SSH) research in Horizon 2020, and we took note of your pledge to see words turned into action.

We understand that things will take time and we want to offer our co-operation in mobilizing the interest and commitment of SSH researchers for the research agenda of Horizon 2020.

We are, however, deeply concerned by the low profile given to the SSH in the first draft of the work programme for the first 25% of H2020 (2014-2015). We urge the European Commission not to gamble away the willingness of the SSH community to contribute to research into all Societal Challenges.

So far, we see that the Calls for research enssaged under the Social Challenge approach will have, despite all good intentions, an overriding focus on technology-based solutions, based on outdated linear innovation models and implemented in the traditional silo-like approach.

In order to overcome this deplorable impasse, and building on recommendations made by delegates to the Vilnius conference, we submit the following suggestion:

The Commission should consider support for synthesis centres, that will allow stakeholders

and researchers from across all relevant areas to reflect on how Societal Challenge research can best integrate all necessary and innovative approaches, including a broader inclusion of SSH insights into the European agenda.

We propose the environmental and educational fields as early candidate areas.

As you know, European Social Science and Humanities research is very competitive in the global market place of knowledge and ideas. Europe as a whole would benefit from tapping more decisively into these rich resources. Conversely, if Horizon 2020 should fail to properly integrate the broad areas of competence of SSH research, substantial opportunity costs for the European Union are likely to occur.

We are particularly concerned that Social Challenge 6 (SC6), which is intended to have a particular focus on generating new insights and evidence through SSH research, risks being skewed heavily towards ICT-related applications research and on structural investments unrelated to any specific resaerch needs.

It is important that future SC6 Calls are formulated in such a way that projects can draw on the best of relevant SSH research. This means being explicit about the allocation of funds for research, as opposed to funding currently foreseen for other activities.

In this context, it would be beneficial if approvals of the Work Programmes were limited to just 1-year-periods each : the Commission and the communities can then monitor the implementation of the programme and the successful embedding of SSH.

By the same token, we feel we need to reiterate the importance and urgent need for Advisory Groups to be appointed in an inclusive and transparent manner.

The undersigned members of the EASSH Core Group, leaders from some of the premier research institutes in the fields of SSH, are looking forward to exchanges aimed at making Horizon 2020 a success.

Best Regards,

EASSH Core Group members and representatives

Ms    Angela    Schindler-Daniels,    Programme    Coordinator     NET4SOCIETY, Project Management Agency, German Aerospace Center, Bonn

Lejf Moos, Professor at Aarhus University, Denmark, and President, European Educational Research Association

Milena Zic-Fuchs, Professor at University of Zagreb, Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and Chair of the Science Review Group for the Humanities (ESF), ALLEA Working Group Social Sciences and Humanities

Poul Holm, Professor at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and Chair “European Consortium for Humanities Institutes and Centres” (ECHIC)

Sean Ryder, Professor at NUI Galway, Ireland, and  Chair, HERA Network Board (Humanities in the European Research Area)

Thomas  Risse,  Professor  of  International  Relations,  Free  University  Berlin,  and Chair Scientific Committee for the Social Sciences, Science Europe

Wolfgang Mackiewicz, President, Conseil européen pour les langues / European Language Council (CEL/ELC)

Dr Rüdiger Klein, Founding Chair, European Alliance for the Social Sciences & Humanities (EASSH)

Open Letter, 2011

Dear colleagues,

With this message we would like to invite you to sign an Open Letter addressed to the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation ( ), alerting her to the vital insights that Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities (SSH) contribute to address Europe’s and the world’s Grand Societal Challenges.

In view of legislative decisions to be taken on the next 100-Billion-worth EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020 (2014-2020), the letter stresses the necessity for a varied and strong research programme in the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities (SSH): it argues that neglecting such potential contributions as SSH research has to make risks undermining the EU strategy to develop innovative, inclusive and sustainable societies. Yet, there still is a distinct danger of insufficient funding in Horizon 2020 for research areas such as cultural change, demography, education, the economy and globalisation, identity politics and social cohesion, and many others. For background information on these matters see:

The Open Letter initiative has grown out of deliberations among a number of European umbrella organisations in the area of SSH, and seeks to bring to the attention of the European Commission and national governments the concerns of the largest research community in Europe.

If you agree that a substantial and independent SSH-centred research programme should be included in all future European Framework Programmes,  we invite you to sign the Open Letter online at Please also kindly spread this invitation to sign in your institutions and among your networks.

First results of this initiative will be presented to Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn on 10 November 2011. We hope to be able to point to a high number of signatures as an expression of a groundswell of support and concern among SSH communities. The collection of signatures will, however, continue after this specific date, as the legislative decision process will last for longer.

Thank you in advance for signing and for supporting this initiative. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions:

Poul Holm

President, ECHIC