Assessing what we know about science, research and society
Increasingly, citizens’ views are playing an important part in research and development as many areas of science and technology have a direct bearing on ordinary people’s daily lives. Public participation is now widely regarded as a hallmark of good government, and involvement of the public is becoming a standard feature of the work of many administrative authorities. Recent studies have shown Europeans are well aware that energy consumption is on the rise and that this increase is not sustainable in the long term. Specifically, Europeans see the need for action aimed at the development of new energy sources, such as nuclear fusion and renewable energies. Overall, this is an encouraging signal for the continuation and strengthening of European research activities at Union and national levels.
The EU-funded ERIC Group is addressing specific needs that have emerged over the last few Framework Programmes, in particular the need to compliment existing socio-economic information regarding science, research and society issues. The ERIC Group is working to improve:
- Knowledge of citizens’ opinions, awareness, expectations, concerns and willingness to act;
- The ability to interpret this information for effective action.
The various Eurobarometer surveys periodically carried out by the Commission are important elements in this process. The most recent survey on energy was carried out in 2003. Since July of that year, the ERIC Group has been studying such topics as:
- Science, technology and energy in education;
- Awareness-raising in energy efficiency;
- Activities of market diffusion of technologies;
- Public acceptance of new technologies, and social attitudes;
- Assessment and measurement of efficiency of information communication actions;
- Communication in the context of energy transitions.
Full project title: Energy Research Information Communication Group
Project acronym: ERIC Group
Project coordinator: Martin Huemer, DG RTD Directorate J1,
Science in society significance
The EU’s 2003 Eurobarometer survey on ‘Energy: issues, options and technologies’ revealed important concerns among European citizens about the Union’s dependency on external energy supply. The EU, through the ERIC Group and other initiatives, is now working to develop more effective means to involve people in shaping policies and services. Involvement may be at a customer/service user level, as a member of a community or interest group, or as a simple citizen or resident. One ERIC sub-group, called ETSAM (Energy Technologies Surveys And Methods), is looking at methodologies for conducting surveys on public attitudes concerning energy technologies, and is helping ERIC to provide advice on the preparation of a new Eurobarometer on energy.
The ERIC Group aims to:
- Help understand and take into account societal needs in preparing energy transition;
- Identify best practices useful to foster European citizens’ awareness and understanding on energy and energy technology issues;
- Improve information and communication of energy technology issues.
The Group is also preparing a report with detailed recommendations to policy-makers.