Emphasis on humanities research in Horizon 2020

By Róisín Treacy

Greater emphasis will be placed on funding for social sciences and humanities research in Horizon 2020, according to European Union Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

The former Fianna Fáil minister confirmed this change to the EU’s funding programme for research and innovation at a meeting at the British Academy in London on November 10.

Geoghegan-Quinn said Horizon 2020 will be structured around three pillars: “excellence in the science base”, “creating industrial leadership and competitive frameworks” and “tackling societal challenges”.

A similar programme, Understanding Europe, will also support the efforts of Horizon to establish a prosperous and sustainable Europe by 2020.

In response to the Green Paper in May, the British Academy, the UK’s national academy for humanities and social sciences, said that few of the large challenges facing the world are likely to be solved with technological solutions.

Instead, they argued that they will all require analysis by social science and humanities research before political action can be taken.

The academy strongly urged the EU to create a programme that would address the major policy issues raised by the changing economic, social and cultural dynamics of European society.

Their proposal was endorsed by ALLEA, a federation of over 50 academies of science, social sciences and humanities in 40 European countries.

Geoghegan-Quinn said that the European Commission received 750 consolidated responses to their Green Paper, and that of those responses, around 14 per cent concerned the social sciences and humanities area.

“We need a strong evidence base for policy-making on these issues and the social sciences and humanities have the appropriate tools and methods to address the intricacy of these challenges, including enhancing the societal dimension of security policy and research,” said Geoghegan-Quinn.

In an interview with University World News, Sverker Sörlin, professor of environmental history at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, said, “The current actions across Europe to improve the proposal for Horizon 2020 are extremely welcome. They call for integrated efforts in the sciences and the humanities and social sciences to deepen our understanding of past, current and future social change.

“The EU has a sad track record of heavy-handed investment in technologies, whereas it is clear that what this ageing and paralysed continent needs now are new institutions and new ideas on how to address the ongoing decay and crippling inertia.”

The full list of proposals for Horizon 2020 are expected to be published before the end of the year and then discussed by the European parliament and member states.

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