The following proposal to create European Social Sciences and Humanities Laboratories (E-SSH Labs) – which was presented during the Conference “Horizon for Social Sciences and Humanities” (Vilnius, 23-24, September 2013) – is a response  to the Vilnius Declaration adopted by the Conference and the support it received from the Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and the DG Research and Innovation. The project strives to implement the principles of the Declaration in practice. The project is an invitation to create a trans-European coalition for SSH research including all countries and regions which benefit from the structural funds.

For comments and feedback please contact Prof. Wlodzimierz Bolecki, Institute of Literary Research, Polish Academy of Sciences and Humanities Wlodzimierz.Bolecki@fnp.org.pl or

Prof. Przemysław Urbańczyk, Institute of Archeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences and Humanities uprzemek1@poczta.onet.pl

Włodzimierz Bolecki; Przemysław Urbańczyk (Warsaw)


European laboratories of social sciences and humanities (E-SSH LABs) is a project to create a new, European research network in the field of SSH, embracing all the countries and regions that benefit from structural funds.


The aims of the project are:

    • To create new forms of cooperation (teaming) in the SSH research conducted in the EU in order to strengthen the European Research Area.
    • To introduce a new, interdisciplinary model for conducting research in SSH (see below: Research Model)
    • To construct a joint platform in the field of SSH capable of reacting fast to European and regional challenges in research and society.
    • To improve the quality of SSH research to a level comparable to SSH research in all countries and regions of EU.


E-SSH LABs create one organizational model for conducting all kinds of SSH research in each country and region, which joins the E-SSH LABs network.

E-SSH LABs will be based on the following principles:

A.         Internationalization: Complete internationalization of research teams in E-SSH LABs; formation of an international research network permitting mobility of personnel and research in the E-SSH LABs network; international SSH doctoral-school studies based on obligatory study in at least three foreign institutions that are part of the E-SSH LABs network.

B.       Networking:  E-SSH LABs should be able to form consortia with each other or different bodies in order to strengthen the potential of their own research and their region; cooperation with the best research centers in Europe and the world and attracting the most outstanding young scholars for research work at E-SSHR LABs.

C.            Interdisciplinarity (see below).

D.               Competition

      • Award of funds through an international competition organized by the ERC, Max-Planck Society, CNRS, SE and other European institutions sponsoring research (competition rules to be determined by said institutions). The Advisory Board appointed by these institutions would evaluate the quality of research conducted in E-SSH LABs and decide on their future (including potential closing down.
      • Means of selection of E-SSH LABs: bottom up.

Leaders and teams affiliated to research institutions apply. Subject of application: formation of E-SSH LABs in a specific country or region. E-SSH LABs may refer to one large interdisciplinary research team or several smaller such teams. It is possible to work in one institution, in consortia of connected institutions or in network relationships (e-infrastructure model of research maybe one of the options to discuss).


a) Formation of a creative and competitive international SSH environment. E-SSH LABs would encourage and initiate activities such as: teaming (the best teams), twinning (innovative interdisciplinary research). They will participate in ERA Chair as well as Horizon 2020 programmes. They help to create new specializations for the European labor market with the expertise of SSH (universities, media, culture – and other  media area of civic creativity).

b) Acceleration of the academic career path within E-SSH LABs. Guarantee of rapid development of international and interdisciplinary research skills for young SSH researchers (PhD students) in the international and competitive research environment.

c) Efficient research infrastructures: E-SSH LABs would enhance the use and benefits of existing domestic and European SSH research infrastructures (consolidation through competitiveness).


A.         By 2020, E-SSH LABs would be financed from the structural funds available to individual countries (funding mechanism to be determined). After 2020, the E-SSH LABs in individual countries should have a sufficient research potential to gain grants in European and domestic competitions.

B.         Using national structural funds for joining the E-SSH LABs network requires the recommendation of the major European research institutions (ERC, Max-Planck Soc., CNRS, SE etc.) and the European Commission. Such recommendations will be prerequisite for the creation of E-SSH Labs. Furthermore, the project needs multiple E-SSH Labs in several countries to efficiently act as network


A.         The project’s research basis is abandoning entirely previous divisions or disciplinary boundaries, which form administrative structures at universities or Research Academies (in post-communist countries). E-SSH LABS work across traditional disciplines of the social sciences and humanities as philology, history, history of art, philosophy, archaeology, cultural studies, law, journalism, etc.

B.         E-SSH LABs would, however, conduct research in areas defined as common transdisciplinary research topics, whose name, number and scope would be subject to change.

C.         In the current phase of this project, for example, we can identify the following subject areas:

1.          Language and text

Subject of interest of all disciplines of the humanities: linguistics, history (sources, documents), literary studies, and history of art, archaeology, law, philosophy, and social sciences, e.g. sociology, psychology.

2.          Images and visualizations

Subject of interest in history of art, history, literary studies, philosophy, archaeology, social sciences (see below).

3.          Things and materials

Archaeology, history, literary studies (books, papers), ethnology, social sciences.

4.          Sounds and actions

Musicology, linguistics, history, materials science, theatre studies.

5.          Values and norms

Values and norms (rules, attitudes, laws, customs, axiological systems, concepts, etc.). All disciplines of the humanities (from linguistics to law) and all social sciences.

6. Societal structures

7. Ideas, institutions

8. New challenges in society

9. Others – (to be proposed by the body responsible for the call)

All such cognitive research subjects are based on objects, phenomena and problem settings in which not only humanities and social sciences are interested, but also form vibrant societal discourses and practices. Each E-SSH LAB may – depending on the objects of the Lab or the interests of the researchers who work there – create its own configurations of these research subjects.

The subjects of interdisciplinary research should be defined in the competition for appointment of E-SSH LABs by the body responsible for the call.


Each of the research subjects mentioned above is a subject of interest of both SSH disciplines and those of the “hard sciences”. The E-SSH LABs model permits the formation of teams consisting of specialists from all scientific disciplines and fields interested in a specific subject (SSH + hard sciences). The benefit of this solution will be the highest effectiveness of the results as well as ensuring close cooperation on specific projects within E-SSH LABs. This will be also a huge step towards embedding of SSH into any field of research and development (R&D).