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

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

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:

– a special initiative for environment and education research (synthesization centres)

– explicit focus of research calls on human and social research

– restrict current draft work programmes to one year to monitor developments

– appoint expert groups in an inclusive and transparent manner.

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Challenge approach will have, despite all good intentions, an overriding focus on technology-based solutions, based on outdated linear innovation models and implemented in the traditional silo-like approach.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)

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