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Who owns the European scientific research agenda?

Responsible Research and Innovation: with and for European citizens and their organizations
"Who owns the European scientific research agenda?"

Seminar in the European Parliament
Hosted by Bart Staes, MEP
29 September from 16h to 18.30h
Room: P7C050 (Paul Henri Spaak building) European Parliament, Brussels

European Research and Innovation policies have made big steps towards further inclusion of citizens’ needs, demands and ideas. There are, however, still bottlenecks in completing a culture change towards an engaged Responsible Research and Innovation system. In this seminar, we intend to show achievements, point out bottlenecks, and discuss ways forward with MEPs, and senior civil servants from European Institutions.

Research and innovation have a large impact on the daily life of Europe’s citizens. We are all confronted with pressing challenges for a sustainable, healthy, safe and inclusive European society. Thus, Europe’s citizens should have their say in how their needs and views are included in research and innovation to tackle these challenges. Even more so when it is the citizen’s tax money that funds European research.
Currently the EU faces some crucial democratic debates on some fundamental scientific issues, like the precautionary principle in policy and law making and the independence of scientific advice. This round table with scientists from across Europe will help MEP's with asking the right questions to the new commissioner designate responsible for Research policy.

Apart from these democratic motives, there are also more pragmatic reasons for co-creating knowledge with civil society; engaged research leads to better applicable results, because more sources of knowledge and capacities are used, new angles are generated and context is better taken into account.

The PERARES project, funded under the Seventh Framework Program, advanced ways in which civil society organizations could be involved in setting research agenda’s. It did so by expanding the network of Science Shops throughout Europe. Science Shops broker research requests from citizen groups to research institutions. Networking Science Shops creates a whole system for responsive science and innovation, encouraging “upstream engagement” of civil society in setting research questions and co-creation of knowledge. Science Shops are often, but not always, linked to universities and provide independent, participatory research support in response to concerns expressed by civil society. Often, students, our young researchers of tomorrow, are involved in the Science Shop’s research projects. The PERARES project also piloted other forms of engagement in setting research agenda’s; from scenario workshops, tri-national projects, and participatory action research with marginalized communities, to on-line dialogues.

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), and Engagement, are now a key element in Horizon 2020, the European Commission’s research funding program for 2013-2020, especially to advance research on tackling the Grand Societal Challenges. But, there are still typical bottlenecks for full citizen engagement:
•       Engagement is seen as an add-on, instead of an add-in to research and teaching
•       Academic promotion criteria and academic rankings use a narrow definition of ‘excellence’
•       Evaluation metrics do not reflect the value of engagement
•       Funding and review mechanisms are focusing on purely scientific or commercial outputs

A truly knowledge-based society must be able to integrate underrepresented local and experience-based wisdom with well-established expert and scientific theory.

For a successful transition process towards a culture change in Research and Innovation, public engagement and participation on all levels is vital:, participation of citizens in setting research policy, shaping programmes, and writing projects, but also participation in monitoring or performing research, in data collection, and scenario development.

How can we complete the culture change in Research and Innovation?


16:00 Welcome drink
16:10 Welcome by MEP Bart Staes
16:15: Introduction by Petra De Sutter, senator and Head Dept. Reproductive Medicine, University Hospital Gent
16:30 Dr. Henk Mulder, University of Groningen, PERARES Co-ordinator, on the achievements and bottlenecks of engaging civil society in research
17:00 DG Research & innovation
17:15 Round table on Roadmap for Science With and for Society
Moderators: Henk Mulder and Petra De Sutter

Budd Hall (tbc), UNESCO Chair “Community-based Research”, Canada

Norbert Steinhaus, Co-ordinator Living Knowledge Network

Emma McKenna, Science Shop Belfast

Sophie Duncan (tbc), National Coordination Center Public Engagement, UK;

Balint Balazs, ESSRG, Hungary

Focus of the exchanges:
a) How to strengthen engagement of Europe’s citizens and their organizations in research and innovation?
b) What can the European Parliament request from the new Commission and the new Commissioners?
c) What options are there to complete a culture change in Research and Innovation?

The European project PERARES (Public Engagement with Research and Research Engagement with Society is funded by the European Commission under FP7-Science in Society-244264). Its main objective was to advance the co-operation between researchers and Civil Society Organizations in establishing research agendas.