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image European Research News Centre > Research and Society > Citizens and governance in a knowledge-based society: how can progress be controlled?
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image image image Date published: 07/11/02
  image Citizens and governance in a knowledge-based society: how can progress be controlled?
RTD info special FP6
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  'Human resources are Europe's main strength,' stressed the Lisbon European Council in March 2000. A few months later, the Commission published Science, society and citizens in Europe, a document which was the basis for an exhaustive debate on the subject, broadcast live through an electronic forum. On 26 June 2001, the Commission presented its Science and Society action plan.
   
   

The knowledge society is the embodiment of a change in civilisation whereby science and technology have become omnipresent and are developing at a disconcerting rate.

In this fast-changing context, the relationship between government and citizens is no longer the same – new modes of governance must be established and socio-economic progress must be rethought with a view to sustainability. Different relationships and a positive dialogue between the scientific community, companies and society's decision-makers are required.

A European perspective

Before this new kind of governance can be established, high-quality and readily understandable information must be provided on the implications of scientific research as well as increased access to scientific culture. Progress in science and technology can then be democratically understood, evaluated, studied and debated.

This approach must be within a European perspective as, in a global economy, it is at this level that society's choices must be made. Governance within the Union must be based on the traditionally shared values of justice and solidarity while at the same time respecting cultural diversity and individual sensibilities – which will be even more of a consideration within an enlarged Europe.

Ethics and precaution

It is especially necessary to take into account the ethical dimension. This requires public dialogue on subjects which lend themselves to debate, increased awareness of these issues among researchers, and accessible and more systematic communication of the implications at stake.

The role of scientists and the use of expertise are also increasingly significant to political decisions in fields where the principle of precaution must be respected – for example, consumer health, food safety, and nuclear waste. On all these cross-border issues, the Union needs reference frameworks and European standards and guidelines.

Bringing science closer to the citizen involves strengthening the democratic process and introducing new procedures for participation, like the consensus conferences that are currently being held in some countries. This need for wider participation also applies to other areas, such as increased equality between men and women in the field of research, science and technology.

Finally, given the complexity of relationships between science and society, there is a need for interdisciplinarity and forward studies permitting a better understanding of the problem as well as improved anticipation of emerging issues and future scenarios.


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Science and society: promoting the initiatives

Under the Sixth Framework Programme the theme of Science and society is also present in another field of action: Structuring the European Research Area. Unlike the Citizens and governance thematic programme, whose objective is to support research, the activities in this case are aimed at:

  • bringing research and society closer together (increasing awareness of scientists, involving citizens, etc.);
  • a responsible analysis, in accordance with ethical values, of the implications of science and technology (evaluation, risk management, principle of precaution, dissemination of good practices, etc.); and
  • strengthening dialogue between science and society (dissemination of scientific culture, stimulating the interest of young people, initiatives to promote the role of women in science and research, etc.).

This action will receive a budget of ?80 million.

http://cordis.europa.eu/rtd2002/science-society/home.html

http://ec.europa.eu/research/
science-society/science-communication/links_en.html


http://cordis.europa.eu/improving/public-awareness/home.htm

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