The European Research Area - What is the ERA?
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European Research Area

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A huge need for integration


Concerted effort


What European added value?


Benchmarking skills


Federating excellence


Strengthening scientific tools


Supporting innovation in SMEs

Maximising human capital


Science and society – a vital alliance

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Back to Homepage - Date: 20-09-2002

What is the ERA?

Science and society – a vital alliance

Health, food, safety, environment, protection of privacy… Increasingly, in areas that crucially impact our daily lives, decisions by policymakers and managers are based on input from the scientific community. How does one assess, select, compare this input except by starting from a common language? How can this decision-making be integrated into democratic debate?

Science and technology are increasingly influencing the way society operates. This development – directed theoretically towards improving the quality of life, but also increasing its complexity – has produced, however, a mixed bag of misinformation, expectations and concerns within European public opinion. These contrasting attitudes in any event point to the very real problem of transparency – and hence of the information for and involvement of citizens – regarding the scientific and technological issues of our times.

Convinced of the political importance of restoring a healthy dialogue between science and society, the Union’s leaders have mandated the Commission to include this priority within the European Research Area. In December 2001, therefore, the Commission put forward a concrete action plan for meeting this challenge. This plan is directed in particular at:

  • promoting the scientific education and culture of European citizens, in particular by promoting dialogue and the interface role of the media and by encouraging new pedagogical approaches in science teaching;
  • strengthening citizen participation in the debates raised by scientific advances;
  • greater attention to the ethical discussion that needs to be at the heart of scientific strategies, as well as a renewed approach to “risk management” and to the essential role of managers in decision-making;
  • a growing involvement of women, who are not sufficiently represented in scientific development.

The ERA is not limited to Union countries. For several years now, Community research programmes have been opened up to central and eastern European countries. Europe is already benefiting fully from these countries’ high quality science and technology traditions, even though enlargement has not yet taken place. The ERA is also enabling scientists from these countries to update and improve their skills and, in return, these links are giving the Union new impetus. In practice, the simplification and harmonisation of entry formalities will mark an important concrete step in the direction of ‘brain hosting’.

A significant opening up to the world

The creation of the ERA must increase the importance, influence and attractiveness of European science and technology at international level.
This strengthening of its global position will be achieved by pursuing a dual strategy
aimed at:

  • increased participation in international scientific cooperation, especially research on vital global issues such as health or combating poverty, major space or energy projects, etc.
  • making European science a centre of attraction for researchers worldwide as it traditionally was in the past.




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