The Science in Society (SIS) Programme aims to promote research's engagement with society and vice versa, whether by mobilising stakeholders for new partnerships, encouraging two-way dialogue between researchers and other stakeholders, promoting a European Research Area (ERA) of ethics or by providing better access to research results.
The SIS Programme also supports new ways to interest young people in science and in research careers , and promotes equality between men and women in research . It strengthens the public profile of science and the ERA by endorsing innovative ways to communicate and debate on scientific issues with the general public.
ERA's societal dimension can be enhanced by creating opportunities for members of the public and other groups in society (such as civil society organisations ) to appropriate relevant knowledge, and for scientists to draw closer to the concerns of citizens. During the first years of the SIS Programme under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) , actions on public engagement and communication focused mainly on capacity building and mobilising key actors beyond the research community to engage not only in research findings but also in issues for future research.
Some projects were also successful in creating real engagement and two-way dialogue between researchers and the public, notably Meeting of Minds (European Citizens' Deliberation on Brain Science), while the Goverscience seminars provided a forum to debate the best way to take this issue forward. It became clear that many research organisations needed ideas and encouragement to help them work with members of the public and other types of organisations to enrich their research strategies and systems by taking account of societal concerns.
A major new development in this regard has been the launch of longer-term Mobilisation and Mutual Learning Action Plans (MMLs) since the 2010 Work Programme .
The effective involvement and engagement of society in tackling the many challenges being faced requires mechanisms that facilitate cooperation between a diverse range of actors with different types of knowledge.
MMLs are designed to bring together actors from research and the wider community (e.g. civil society organisations, ministries, policymakers, science festivals and the media). They will collaborate on action plans that will connect research activities for a chosen Societal Challenge.
These plans will encompass a series of SIS actions, such as public engagement, investigating ethics and governance, two-way communication, women in science, and science education. The emphasis will be on mobilising all relevant actors and on mutual learning in order to pool experiences and better focus their respective efforts on finding solutions that develop and use scientific and technological knowledge in the public interest.
In addition to MMLs, the Science, Economy and Society Directorate has also developed the MASIS (Monitoring Research and Policy Activities of Science in Society) initiative, which aims to increase the visibility of SIS activities, and therefore their impact on European policymaking and society at large.