Over the years, civil society organisations (CSOs) have been relied on to simply channel scientific results to members of the public, limiting the great potential of this resource. Fortunately, there is now a growing interest from both CSOs and researchers to exchange views and work together from the outset of the research process, creating a better symmetry between the needs of society and how science can address them.
Formally, CSOs are defined as organisations that are non-governmental, not-for-profit, not representing commercial interests, and that pursue a common purpose for the public interest. They are responsible for articulating the opinions of various social spheres, and include environmental groups, minority groups, consumer representatives and patient organisations, to name just a few. As such, a good deal of scientific research is extremely relevant to their interests.
CSOs also have valuable expertise and often enjoy close links with the people most likely to benefit from research. For their part, most researchers want the knowledge they generate to benefit society in some way, and CSOs can help make this happen.
Research organisations (ROs) and CSOs can both benefit a great deal from working together. There are a number of factors, however, that hinder closer collaboration between the two. For many ROs, for example, engaging with CSOs and the wider public is viewed as an 'extracurricular activity', and researchers are not always rewarded for such work. Furthermore, application forms for research funding are configured for ROs, and are not really suited for the kind of contributions CSOs make to projects.
The funding scheme Research for the Benefit of Specific Groups – Civil Society Organisations (BSG – CSO ( 196KB)) was introduced in 2007 under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to allow CSOs to actively take part in Calls for Proposals . It aims to develop scientific knowledge related to CSO activities in order to contribute to public debate, and invites CSOs and ROs to form partnerships and combine their knowledge. Specifically, the funding scheme aims to:
BSG – CSO can be made available in specific Calls for Proposals. When CSOs require scientific knowledge in a field covered by one of these calls, they source appropriate ROs to prepare a joint project. If the proposal is accepted, ROs and CSOs then combine their knowledge to conduct the planned activities.
In addition to research activities, training, debates and dissemination activities can be supported through the scheme. The maximum funding rates of eligible costs vary according to the type of activities: research and technological development (RTD) (50 % or 75 % for non-profit public bodies, education establishments, non-profit research organisations and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)); and management, training and dissemination (100 %).