Social Sciences and Humanities are everywhere
Societal Challenge 6 and embedding Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) in Horizon 2020 were the central themes of the Info Day organised by the Netherlands Entreprise Agency and Neth-ER in Utrecht. Representatives from the European Commission, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands, and Horizon 2020 proposal evaluators discussed opportunities, best practices, and tips & tricks about SSH research in Horizon 2020. Over 70 participants from universities, universities of applied sciences, government, and RTO’s were present.
Perspective from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science
Daniël Mourad, Coordinator EU research at the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, gave a warm welcome to the participants and elaborated on the European results of Dutch research in Horizon 2020. Mourad pointed out that despite investing more in research and development than the European average, the Netherlands is not performing as well as countries such as Germany and Scandinavian countries. This is particularly true for private expenditures. Mourad also highlighted that the Netherlands performs well in SSH research, not just within Societal Challenge 6, but also in other parts of Horizon 2020; for example in Marie Skłodowska-Curie and ERC research.
Perspective from the European Commission
Monica Menapace, project and policy officer for DG Research and Innovation of the Reflective Societies Unit, addressed the 2016-2017 Work Programme for Societal Challenge 6. She explained how SSH are also integrated in other new Work Programmes and addressed some hot topics in Brussels regarding SSH research, for instance, the importance of transdisciplinary research in Horizon2020. Furthermore, the Commission is monitoring the issue of oversubscription closely, but is expecting improvements. Nonetheless, the Commission is looking for new solutions regarding this pressing issue. Also, she demonstrated that there is a clear geographical divide in participation in SSH: only three per cent of SSH project coordinators come from the thirteen newer Member States.
SSH opportunities in Horizon 2020
Lieke Michiels van Kessenich, Horizon 2020 Advisor for Societal Challenge 6 for the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) presented the SSH Opportunities in Horizon 2020 and introduced the Net4Society network to the audience. Net4Society is the network of Societal Challenge 6 National Contact Points who actively support networking in the research community and offer help in every respect of Horizon 2020. A specific focus of Net4Society is on supporting the successful integration of SSH throughout Horizon 2020. Net4Society published a useful analysis of SSH-relevant Topics in the 2016/17 Work Programmes.
Best SSH practice
How does one attain success with a Horizon2020 project? Melanie ten Asbroek, EU Grants Officer at the Institute for Innovation and Governance Studies at the University of Twente, shared a best practice: the European Sustainable Energy Innovation Alliance (ESEIA). ESEIA is a European organisation with 170 companies, 140 experts and 22 higher education and research organizations operating in the field of sustainable energy systems from 14 EU Countries. Working multidisciplinary is the nature of this network, where twelve out of forty projects are related to social humanities. One of the success factors she mentioned is a cross-sector membership and long-term vision and collaboration.
SSH proposal evaluators
The last part of the programme was a conversation between the info day participants and a panel of SSH Horizon 2020 proposal evaluators to give a clearer image of the evaluation process. The participants were given the opportunity to ask their questions to a panel of three experienced evaluators: Helena Imminga-Berends from Regenboog Advies, Michael Kowalski from the Leiden University and Fred Balvert from the Erasmus MC.
Issues such as the importance of geographical spread of a consortium, the expertise of the evaluators, the possibility for conflict of interest between evaluators and project proposals, and whether the evaluators get extra information apart from the topic text (they don’t) were touched upon.
Furthermore, the participants of the day were challenged to work on innovative solutions, to make a truly excellent proposal, as Horizon 2020 calls are less and less prescriptive. Also, participants were advised to connect their proposals not only with the topic in the work programme, but also with society, the news and European policy issues.
As the day has shown, SSH truly are everywhere.
Website Netherlands Enterprise Agency: Horizon 2020
Website Net4Society: International network of National Contact Points for the Societal Challenge 6 in Horizon 2020
Publication Net4Society: Opportunities for Researchers from the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities (SSH) in Horizon 2020
Website European Commission: Societal Challenges in Horizon 2020
Website Neth-ER: photo album