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Headlines Published on 03 May 2004

Title In hot pursuit of knowledge – citizens and governance

Europe’s quest for new knowledge throws up a plethora of challenges. Can we build a ‘knowledge society’ which is inclusive and respects cultural differences in a growing Union? As global competition hots up, what is the role of institutions in governance, conflict resolution, protecting human rights and the environment? One EU thematic priority is looking to answer these questions and more.      

When it all stacks up, science affects society in many ways: education, culture, law, ethics… © Source: PhotoDisc
When it all stacks up, science affects society in many ways: education, culture, law, ethics…

© Source: PhotoDisc

The European Union’s current research Framework Programme – usually referred to as FP6 – has seven major thematic priorities. The seventh, and by no means the lowest priority, is called ‘Citizens and governance in a knowledge-based society’ (KBS). This is a mercurial sounding theme but it has clear objectives centred on two overriding principles outlined in FP6.

First, it speaks about social cohesion being paramount as the Union strives to reach its goal of becoming a society that creates and uses its knowledge to improve the quality of life for everyone. The second theme focuses on what happens to citizenship, democracy and new forms of governance as the Union – and world – converges, and how this affects cultural heritage.

Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin touched on the issue of governance and the political aspect of research in a recent speech to authorities in Germany’s Stuttgart region. “Europe needs to invest more in research if it wants to be competitive and modernise its infrastructures and… production,” he said. “But more money should also go together with a clear research policy at European level.”  

To understand more about these issues, the Commission asked European researchers and their associates last year to submit project ideas under several broad headings. This two-pronged ‘call for proposals’ in April and December 2003 yielded some exciting ideas for research – using traditional funding instruments and new instruments, called the integrated projects (IP) and networks of excellence (NoE), created for FP6 – and provided the Commission with valuable insight for fleshing out this particular theme.

Counting (on) the results
Of the total €725 million earmarked to ‘citizenship and governance’ in FP6, around €54 million has been set aside to fund 44 projects in the first call. These were whittled down – using a careful and objective evaluation procedure – from a total of 258 proposals under five broad topic areas received by the Commission.

These topics were science and technology in the KBS; new approaches to security; multilevel governance; migration, immigration and multiculturalism; and societal trends in the KBS. The projects selected for EU funding represented all the pre-May Member States except Luxembourg, as well as numerous new EU members and associated countries including Switzerland, Israel and Norway.

The second call was equally well subscribed, with 168 proposals being sent to the Commission under 12 main research topics. The results of this round of proposals are expected in the first half of 2004. Some of the topics include knowledge dynamics and understanding, social cohesion, changes in work, life-long learning, cultural dialogue, EU contract law, and European history.

Just under two-thirds of the second batch were IPs which, according to the ‘Guide for participating in FP6’, are “designed to generate the knowledge required to implement the priority thematic areas… by integrating the critical mass of activities and resources…”. The rest were NoEs which should “strengthen excellence on a particular research topic by networking together the critical mass of resources and expertise.”

Source:  EU sources

Research Contacts page

More information:

  • Citizens and governance research priority (on Europa)
  • Sixth Framework Programme (FP6)
  • Research, innovation, governance (speech Commissioner Busquin, 6 April 2004)

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