Shared visions, common research futures
“Europe, which holds a large part of the responsibility and merit for launching cognitive science and fuelling it with some of its key insights, has of late been lagging behind the US and Japan, and must make a very resolute effort to catch up and remain in the lead, in the face of the increased level of competition brought about by China, which is giving cognitive neuroscience top priority (Andler , 2005)”.
A global and an EU perspective on cognitive sciences together with an overview of the national foresight exercises in the field were presented during a workshop on "Cognitive Science"
A workshop on Cognitive Science took place in Brussels on the 26th of September 2005, as part of the annual “issue analysis and workshop” under the framework of the contract European Foresight Monitoring Network (EFMN). Foresight practitioners together with experts from Cognitive Sciences community, academics and other European officials were brought together in a brainstorming workshop aiming at defining where strategic policy support is going in this field.
Brief presentations were given on how Cognitive Science was addressed in three national Foresight exercises: Cognitive Dimensions in the Danish Foresight on Cognition and Robotics ; Dimensions of UK Cognitive Systems Foresight ; Understanding Thought Processes, “Lead Vision” resulting from the German Research Dialogue “Futur”.
The philosopher Daniel Andler then set the scene with the emergence of Cognitive Science. Cognitive Science can be defined as being “the interdisciplinary study of mind and brain, combining the concepts, methods and insights of large parts of psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology and other social sciences, and formal methods from computer science, mathematics and physic”. The scope of cognitive science is in general terms that of the mind, or rather the functions and processes of the mind, which are also to a large extent those of the brain.
Cognitive science is now entering a phase of explosive development with the new neuro-imaging techniques bringing new methods of evidence-gathering to the field. The potential for applications is enormous, in the medical and psychiatric realm, for sensory and motor prostheses, for normal, remedial, and compensatory education, for cognitive, communicative, and decision-making tools. The impact on individual, social, and cultural practices and self-understanding, with implications in the political, economic, and ethical realms, cannot be underestimated.
Need to build a strong European cognitive science
Europe has a great tradition in many of the constituting disciplines of cognitive science and some extremely productive teams and institutes in a number of areas. European Cognitive Science has been given attention from several scientific disciplines’ angles, but there is no common platform where these disciplines’ interests can interplay and mutually enrich their research portfolios. It has no real visibility under EU research.
The US and Japan have heavily fostered their research in cognitive science in the last decade. Nevertheless Europe is in a position to take the lead, or at least to become again a major player, by defending and reaping the scientific and societal benefits of an integrated, fully interdisciplinary cognitive science.
Future development of cognitive science
A final round table ended the session focussing on the future steps to be done and specific immediate needs emerged for the work to be done in the cognitive science area:
- A Vision of the cognitive science area should be given through a state-of-the art of the cognitive sciences in Europe;
- A roadmap should be developed, taking into account both epistemological and institutional problems, as well as the public perception of the problem;
- A comparative analysis of the approaches between the three national foresight exercises on cognitive science should be done.
European Cognitive Science has been given attention from several scientific disciplines’ angles, but there is no common platform where these disciplines’ interests can interplay and mutually enrich their research portfolios. It has no real visibility under EU research, not even under Social Sciences. Building a strong European cognitive science is a goal which all the members of the EC can contribute to, as all of them can, and have begun to, promote research in the field, which does not require the heavy artillery of 'big science'.
 C. Clausen, Manufacturing Engineering and Management, Technical University of Denmark,
 A. Jackson,
 S. Giesecke, ARC systems research GmbH Vienna
 D. Andler is member of the “Key technologies” expert group