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This action plan is presented at the request of the Research Council of 26 June 2001. It is part of the process of creating a real European Research Area ("Towards a European Research Area", COM(2000)6, 18.01.2000), launched by the European Commission in January 2000.

It is a follow-up to the Commission staff working paper "Science, society and the citizen in Europe" (SEC(2000)1973, 14.11.2000), which in November 2000 set the basis for the debate on the relationship of science and technology with society and Europe's citizens.

Its aim is to support the strategic goal set by the European Union in Lisbon: to become, by 2010, the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.

The plan seeks to contribute significantly to implementing the White Paper on European Governance ("European governance: a White Paper", COM(2001)428, 25.07.2001), adopted by the Commission on 25 July 2001. It draws, moreover, on the reflections emanating from preparatory hearings and seminars (See in particular the report of the interservices working group "Democratising expertise and establishing European scientific reference systems"), in particular the "Science and Governance" conference held in October 2000. In addition, it seeks to support and intensify the political process instituted in 1999 to enhance the participation and role of women in research (Commission Communication: "Women and science: mobilising women to enrich European research", COM(99)76, final, Council Resolution of 20 May 1999, OJ C 201, 16.07.1999, European Parliament Resolution of 3 February 2000 (PE 284.656), Commission staff working paper: "Women and science, the gender dimension as a leverage for reforming science", 15 May 2001, SEC(2001)771).

This plan takes into consideration the opinion of the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the European Research Area, together with the opinion of the Economic and Social Committee and the CREST report on the Commission staff working paper referred to previously. The discussions on education, science and society which took place in Uppsala on 2 March 2001 during an informal meeting of the Education and Research Ministers (Joint DG RTD and EAC Commission staff working paper "Science, education and research: Towards a knowledge-based society", in preparation for the informal meeting of research and education ministers on 2 and 3 March 2001 in Uppsala) have also been taken into account.

Finally, the debates initiated in the context of the action plan "eLearning - Designing tomorrow's education" will be taken into account with a view to enhancing the contribution of information and communication technologies to science education and - more generally - to creating the foundations for active citizenship, so that it is society itself that governs which scientific choices are made and controls their impact.

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