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Issue 9, 2nd semester 2005

Foresighting Europe Newsletter


You can contact the Science and Technology Foresight Unit :

Shared visions, common research futures

Social Sciences & Humanities


As adopted on 21 September 2005, Foresight activities in FP7 will be part of the “Social Sciences and Humanities” research and will “provide national, regional and Community policy-makers with foresight knowledge for the early identification of long-term challenges and areas of common interest that can help them formulate policy”.

Foresight activities in FP7 will be designed as horizontal activities and structured into four types of activities:

  • wide socio-economic foresight on a limited number of key challenges and opportunities for the EU;
  • more focused thematic foresight on the developments in emerging research domains;
  • foresight on research systems and policies in Europe and on the future of key actors involved;
  • mutual learning and co-operation between national and/or regional foresight initiatives, co-operation between EU, third country and international foresight initiatives.


European Conference on “Social sciences and humanities in Europe: New challenges, new opportunities” was held in Brussels on 12-13 December 2005. This major European conference addressed the broader strategic context of the development of social sciences and humanities in Europe, and explored policy options at European and international levels.

This conference was a good opportunity for the scientific and policy communities to discuss options for the future of Europe’s research in the social sciences and humanities, in particular in relation to the themes and instruments of the Commission’s proposals for the 7th Framework Programme as important means will be dedicated to the support of social sciences and humanities.

Commissioner Potočnik strongly encourages potential project leaders to include a Foresight element in their FP7 research project

In his introductory speech, Commissioner Janez Potočnik highlighted the fact that there will be a dedicated theme in FP7 for socio-economic research and the humanities, including Foresight. This theme will cover well-known issues that deserve more and bolder research like growth, employment, governance, migration, the use of indicators, and foresight. The Commissionner concluded by saying “We hope that researchers in humanities will be more involved in European research in order to enrich our views on all topics. This is why I also strongly encourage potential project leaders to include a foresight element in their research project”.

The role of Foresight in building desired futures for Europe, as seen by some foresight experts during the conference 

During the conference, a session was dedicated to the identification of priority areas for research co-operation in Social Sciences and Humanities.

The Foresight issues were tackled during this session along the 3 different discussions thanks to the participation of several well-known experts from the Foresight Community. The themes of those parallell sessions: Growth, competitiveness, employment and sustainability in a knowledge-based society; Societal trends and European citizens; and Europe in the world: understanding changing interactions and interdependencies between world regions.

Foresight was highlighted as having an important role to play in building a vision on the place of Europe in the world. Europe has indeed to move from an inward-looking perspective towards an outward-looking one. In this respect, Foresight can provide us with good ideas on the world situation, factual evidence and world model instruments (for e.g. climate/environmental changes) - all lacking today. Another important aspect emerging from the discussion was about how Europe together with other economies (including emerging ones like China, Brazil, India, …) wants to shape the world in the next decades and how foresight can contribute to that thinking.

Cooperation should be put more in ‘synergy’ with the developing world. In this respect, foresight could define new modes of transnational cooperation in a Europe having a more global perspective. Joint Foresight exercises could play a part in international cooperation.

In this perspective, dedicated research should be given to mechanisms and approaches that support interdisciplinarity, collective and long-term thinking, translation of global drivers into local regional issues and in this sense Foresight can play an active role.

Main Conclusions on Foresight emerging from the Conference

  • Commissioner Janez Potočnik is in favour of studying the future impact of S&T as well as on integrating foresight elements in bigger technological research projects.
  • A few new foresight themes emerged from the conference, among them: the future of creative industries, service and business development, food, health, welfare global government, security, global socio-economic development the future of agriculture.
  • The themes related to “Europe in the world” and aspects of the “Lisbon Agenda” also called for foresight. An idea for a new general theme might be “Challenges for European societies in the age of Globalisation- possible versus desirable futures
  • Various third countries national research councils or academies call for SSH co-operation (China, Brazil, South Africa, etc). As subjects concern socio-economic developments, competitiveness and other Lisbon Agenda objectives, foresight may be welcome as a field of co-operation. Effective instruments for valorisation should be implemented to establish foresight intelligence concerning the world region chosen.