SSH – preparing common ground for/in “Horizon 2020”

It is widely recognized that the social sciences and humanities play an important role in the process of European integration. While European research in the social sciences and humanities is world leading, they lack a forum which promotes scholarly exchange across fields and disciplines, sets common guidelines for quality standards and evaluations, and provides adequate representation in the EU policy arena. With the implementation of “Horizon 2020”, we believe that the time has come to jointly define the common ground that constitutes the diverse areas of social sciences and humanities throughout Europe and prepare for the opportunities offered by “Horizon 2020”.

The conference “Horizons for Social Sciences and Humanities”, initiated and organized by the EU Lithuanian Presidency is therefore timely. It invites elaboration of the potential that SSH can bring to the goals defined in “Horizon 2020” and how best to integrate the knowledge, methods and experience the SSH have to offer over a wide range of phenomena and problem spaces. The conference follows a bottom-up approach: Putting SSH researchers and scholars at the centre is intended to create an agora for open discussion on crucial questions, such as:

– What issues need to be addressed in Europe, and how can SSH contribute?

– Which structural requirements and preconditions determine a more effective outcome of SSH research under “Horizon 2020”, in particular at European level?

– How can SSH approaches be effectively embedded across the seven challenges in “Horizon 2020”?

and where appropriate, better links with the other two domains of the life sciences and physical sciences, based on the principle of working towards a shared problem definition and based on mutual respect?

Conference Topics

Day 1: Reflecting the status of SSH in Europe

The first day of the conference is dedicated to reflecting the status of SSH in Europe and the challenges ahead. Three keynote lectures will address key issues which affect all SSH disciplines and fields: Diversity and common grounds; training and education; impact and evaluation. Each keynote lecture will be commented by researchers from the younger generation and accompanied by a general discussion.

Day 2: Implementation of “Horizon 2020”

The greatest gambit under “Horizon 2020” and its most ambitious dimension is based on the idea to follow an integrative approach. This concerns mainly the third pillar of the programme, “Grand Challenges”. Within this framework, the social sciences and humanities have to be properly embedded: Certain topics such as migration, poverty, financial markets, health care and welfare system, will benefit particularly from a SSH perspective. Any programme dedicated to these issues needs to specifically acknowledge them. In addition, social sciences and humanities need to be present in the other challenges as well: progress needs to be made on membership in the programme committees and evaluation panels, but there are also challenges in cross-disciplinary research that await fresh perspectives.

Only if complementarity and integration of all concerned disciplines can be achieved, answers to the societal challenges will emerge. Based on the reflections of the first day, the major part of day two will be dedicated to parallel workgroups, one for each challenge. The workgroups will bring together and confront experts who are experienced and genuinely interested in finding novel forms of integrative collaboration. They will aim at identifying existing obstacles and ways of overcoming them and suggest concrete ways of how to move forward.

The open consultation process

The results of the conference will be formulated in an EU Presidency Conference Declaration which will be presented to the European Commission at the end of the second day. To that end, an open consultation process in preparation of the conference will be launched, inviting representatives of the SSH community to share their experience, aspirations and concrete proposals how to tackle these questions and more. From April to June 2013 all Principal Investigators of FP7-funded projects, ERC grantees and stakeholder organisations in the social sciences and humanities (broadly defined) will be asked to participate. The purpose is to gain a more nuanced picture and an overview of the current situation of SSH in Europe regarding the three main conference topics (below). The consultation process will address not only the reflective capacity of SSH regarding societal developments, but also probe the demand for structural changes in the ways in which research is organized. It will be scientifically supervised by the Steering Committee.

The Steering Committee: Helga Nowotny (chair), Rūta Petrauskaitė (vice chair), Giedrius Viliūnas (vice chair), Jutta Allmendinger, Paul Boyle, Craig Calhoun, Gustavo Cardoso, Rivka Feldhay, Poul Holm, Pavel Kabat, Alain Peyraube, Aura Reggiani, Peter Tindemans, Wim van den Doel, Michel Wieviorka, Björn Wittrock