Addressing the principal challenges faced by European societies today is one of the key responsibilities of the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities (SSH) Programme. The way in which the Programme responds to these challenges rests in its design and implementation. Consequently, the elements that constitute the SSH Programme serve as a dynamic framework in which to encourage teams from different countries to unite their efforts in tackling Europe's common problems.
The SSH programme is to foster new scientific knowledge about various phenomena in Europe and beyond. But it also aims to impact policymaking at national and European levels by challenging accepted ideas, promoting leading comparatism, providing new data, building new indicators. As such it is right at the heart of the main EU policies, in particular the dynamic Lisbon agenda, a partnership for growth and employment. It also supports the European Research Area (ERA) by adding new knowledge and policy advice on how to foster a more dynamic, innovative and competitive European science.
It is thus important to understand that the SSH programme is "problem oriented" and "policy relevant". It purports to tackle issues that are or will be crucial for our societies and economies in the mid or longer term.
Besides, the SSH programme supports strongly all collaborative projects between European teams so as to embed exchanges between social scientists.
The SSH Programme has been designed in close collaboration with EU Member States and Associated Countries. It has been adopted in a joint act by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Furthermore, its implementation is assisted by the Programme Committee, a permanent committee of Member State and Associate Countires' representatives and the European Advisory Group, an expert group which offers strategic advice on the orientations of SSH research.
The SSH Programme is mainly executed through Calls for Proposals, on the basis of an annual Work Programmes. Once a call is published, the research community is invited to submit proposals on the topics in the respective Work Programme. The submitted proposals are subsequently evaluated by external experts.
In addition to the Call for Proposals, the SSH Work Programme is also implemented via a small number of public procurements and expert groups.
One basic characteristic of SSH is the variety and complexity of the themes being studied. Clearly, the SSH Programme is not exclusively focused on social scientists. Policy-makers, business world, trade unions, civil society organisations, and the media can benefit widely from the findings and outcomes of research in this area.
SSH research can make a relevant contribution to the development of Europe by identifying possible answers to some of its main challenges: achieving enlargement, enhancing competitiveness with social cohesion, fostering sustainable development and quality of life, exploring a European identity alongside national identities, enhancing the role of Europe in international governance, and reforming political institutions at European and national levels. In this way, SSH research may benefit all of Europe's citizens.