The European Commission's Directorate General for Research commissioned an evidence based ex-post impact assessment of the FP6 sub-priority "Global Change and Ecosystems" in 2008. The purpose was to identify the degree of achievement of the objectives of the sub-priority and the impacts of the activities carried out.
The results of the study show that
EU environmental research is leading in several environmental research areas
EU research contributes to the development of tools for environmental policy
Economic and social impacts in all environmental areas are expected.
The major outcomes were identified in terms of scientific and technological impacts
projects in the majority of the areas have strongly contributed to the institutionalisation of the European Research Area;
scientific leadership goes along with EU political ambition in an area;
several projects addressed new issues and initiated new approaches, in particular research with a strong interdisciplinary component; and
in several areas, S/T impacts go beyond publications and include other types of outcomes, notably in the case of problem-solving research, such as guidelines, test methods, manual-type handbooks, atlas, training courses, web tools etc.
In terms of policy relevance of environmental research, the impact of the projects in the sub-priority is high and is expected to be even more so in the future. On the one hand, many of the issues addressed in the programme were policy inspired. On the other hand, most projects contribute to national and international policy through the strengthening of the knowledge base and/or the development of methods and tools for environmental policy.
Economic and social environmental impacts will be important as the environment directly affects human activities, to name only a few sectors, agriculture, health, tourism, industry. Nevertheless, most of the economic and social environmental impacts of environmental research are indirect, and for the time being potential.
On the basis of the scientific, policy, economic and social impacts, the study pointed out challenges and recommendations to strengthen and enhance future EU environmental research:
Dissemination and exploitation of results and best practices still remain a challenge.
The different funding instruments have to be tailored to the specificity of the area. In areas of applied research, large instruments do not seem to provide an advantage and a rather focused approach seems more effective (ex: environmental technologies area). On the contrary, in the area of water and soils, large projects allow for a more integrated approach where various communities are brought together in a single project. In the area of climate change, the network of excellence has played a key role in coordinating a process of exchange and dissemination of results between researchers and policy makers.
The report also includes an annex with a detailed presentation of the results for each of the main 10 areas of the subpriority.