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Aurora Meets European Commission on Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH)

Horizon Europe is the 9th EU Framework Programme to support research and innovation (R&I), succeeding Horizon 2020. It will run from 2021-2027 with the first Calls for Proposals expected in 2021.

Although a budget and full specific programme has not yet been agreed upon, the European Commission has reached an agreement with the Council and European Parliament on the key features. The Horizon Europe strategy sets out three pillars for funding, each of which will be supported by activities to widen participation and strengthening the European Research Area (more details see here). Specific attention will be given to citizen engagement and social sciences and humanities (SSH).

At the initiative of Pim de Boer (EU Brussels liaison officer for both VU and Amsterdam UMC ) researchers from the University of Duisburg-Essen and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam met with staff from European Commission’s DG Research and Innovation on the 2nd of March, to discuss the role of SSH in pillar 2 of Horizon Europe, i.e. dealing with clusters or global challenges. Here are some highlights from that discussion.

Horizon Europe aims to have a dual approach to incorporating SSH. On the one hand, SSH will have a dedicated programme of work under (mainly) the second cluster (culture, creativity and inclusive society) and third cluster (civil security for society) in pillar 2.

On the other hand,  SSH is intended to be embedded across all other clusters in pillar two and all other parts of the Horizon Europe Programme. SSH may offer new perspectives on the challenges at hand, may provide designs with and implementation of new interventions beyond the current mainstream – often technology centred – perspectives on the urgent problems that Europe faces today.

This implies a need to incorporate SSH in all other clusters addressing all challenges. SSH particularly has a role to play in how research is designed (for example, through citizen/user engagement in the choice of research questions and research design), as well as in ensuring societal impact. Such an effect needs to be measured. Examples of measurements have been published in the ‘pathways to SSH impact’ document.

We discussed various examples of how SSH can be embedded across the clusters with ‘action research’, ‘living labs’, ‘stakeholder involvement’ being cited as examples of good practice for addressing, among others, behaviour, disinformation, inequalities, education, polarisation, urban planning, health (like the COVID-19 infection) and governance aspects.

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