and society (1): towards
a new partnership
At the dawn of the 21st century, as the
economic integration of an enlarging European Union
becomes a tangible reality with the introduction of
the Euro, our society is faced with the challenge
of finding its proper place in a world shaken by economic
and political turbulence.
Examples abound to show that knowledge, in particular
science, technology and innovation, are indispensable
to meet this challenge. Every day, scientific and
technological progress contributes new innovations
essential to our quality of life and international
in a knowledge-driven economy", COM(2000)567,
20.09.2000). Scientific cooperation is also often
an important factor in dialogue with countries outside
the EU ("The
international dimension of the European Research Area",
However, there are indications that the immense potential
of our achievements is out of step with European citizens'
current needs and aspirations, such as peace, jobs,
security and sustainable development of the planet.
The October 2001 Eurobarometer Survey (an opinion
science and technology" was conducted at the
Commission's request in the fifteen Member States
between 10 May and 15 June 2001) of European attitudes
to science gives a mixed picture, ranging from confidence
and hope to lack of interest in scientific activities
or even fears regarding some of their impacts.
80 % of Europeans believe that science will one day
conquer diseases such as cancer or AIDS, and scientists
enjoy a high level of public confidence, to the extent
that 72% of the respondents said they would like politicians
more frequently to use expert advice in making their
choices. Despite these expectations and the climate
of confidence, the same survey also shows that Europe's
citizens do not always have a very positive perception
of science and technology, and that science is remote
for some sections of the population.
Industrial hazards and ethical issues are widely
highlighted in the media, raising questions and reinforcing
the public's desire for progress to be more closely
monitored. Some people feel that science and technology
are changing their lives too quickly.
Although progress has been made, too many stereotypes
still keep women out of science and deprive it of
the diversity sorely needed for a more harmonious
contribution to political, social and economic life.
Young people, moreover, no longer find studying science
and scientific careers sufficiently attractive. Together
with demographic trends, this potentially affects
the labour market where industry has difficulties
in recruiting the engineers and scientists needed.
Europe would therefore gain by assembling in a Community
framework the efforts deployed in the Member States
to improve the European public's ability to assess
the scientific and technological issues of the day,
and to motivate them to become more involved in science.
The Commission's strategy
The Commission will focus its attention in this action
plan on a selected limited number of new actions of
high Community added-value designed to:
- Promote scientific and education culture in
First of all, people must become more familiar
with science and technology. It will be essential
in this respect to give science and technology a
higher profile in the media and education in Europe
to stimulate young people's spirit of enterprise
and whet their appetite for science studies and
careers. This is also needed to promote dialogue
between science and society, in particular through
organising major events at regular intervals.
- Bring science policies closer to citizens
The relationship between science, technology
and innovation, on the one hand, and society, on
the other, must be reconsidered. Science activities
need to centre around the needs and aspirations
of Europe's citizens to a greater extent than at
present. In particular, in future, women must be
able to participate more fully in science, and science
must anticipate tomorrow's issues.
- Put responsible science at the heart of policy
Most policies have a scientific and technological
dimension and decisions must be supported by transparent,
responsible opinions based on ethical research.
It is therefore necessary to strengthen the ethical
basis of scientific and technological activities,
to detect and assess the risks inherent in progress,
and to manage them responsibly on the basis of past
The activities planned under these three themes will
be conducted in close cooperation with Member States
and the candidate countries, and - beyond Europe -
with third countries and international organisations.
Numerous players will be involved: local and regional
public authorities, the general public, civil society,
The Commission will act as a catalyst, using all
the means available at Community level and especially
its research policy instruments (2)
(networking, accompanying measures, etc.). It is clear,
however, in the context of the European Research Area
that significant results can be expected only if Member
States themselves make an all-out effort in a joint,
coordinated approach with the Commission. In this
context, the Council Resolution of 26 June 2001 calling
for this action plan is addressed as much to Member
States as to the Commission.
It is also important to stress that this action plan
is part of a gradual process in which the monitoring
of specific indicators, the assessment of the impacts
of the activities adopted and the regular review of
the action plan will require the active involvement
of all the parties.
Finally, the future-oriented nature of the goals
should not conceal the urgency of certain problems
and the Commission has taken care to set sufficiently
early deadlines to maintain the momentum over the
next few years. The activities will be launched by
the Commission as of 2002. An overview and an assessment
of the first two years of the action plan will then
be presented to the parties involved in 2004.
the purposes of this communication, "science" includes
all public and private activities of a scientific and
technological nature, including social sciences. The
term "society" covers all citizens and their associations,
as well as businesses and public authorities.
(2) Many of the activities in
the action plan will be implemented through the Community
RTD framework programmes. The Commission will ensure
appropriate co-ordination between all activities relevant
to science and society, including other framework
programme activities and those implemented through
other Community policy instruments.