Last week 41 National Contact Points (NCPs) from EU Member States, Associated and International Cooperation Partner Countries came together on board of the Moby Dick, usually a passenger ship on the Rhine, to launch NET4SOCIETY.
NET4SOCIETY is a Coordination Action funded by the EU-Commission under FP7 Specific Programme Cooperation, Theme 8 (SSH), designed to foster cooperation among the NCPs for Socio-Economic Sciences and the Humanities (SSH) in FP7. Under the coordination of Germany, countries from Norway to Greece, Iceland to Israel, Portugal to Belarus and Mexico to South Africa all unite in their objective to strengthen international cooperation in helping scholars in the social sciences, economics and humanities to tighten their ties into the European Research Area.
During the next three years the 41 partners in NET4SOCIETY will build their network, exchange good practice information, define standards for capacity building, devise training and mentoring measures to facilitate knowledge transfer from well-practised good practitioners to newcomers, design workshops for SSH- and NET4SOCIETY needs and set up a knowledge base for easy access to information for all SSH-related interests including events, research institutions and partner searches. Since one of the challenges of FP7 is finding the SSH-relevant research topics hidden in the other thematic areas, information on all potentially relevant calls will be published on the NET4SOCIETY website ( www.net4society.eu).
The European Commission ascribes a lot of weight to NET4SOCIETY: three Commission officers participated in the kick-off. Nikolaos Kastrinos, the EU officer responsible for the project, stressed the potential importance of the network. In order to ensure that the very complex project is set on firm footing, Nuria Perez-Moneo-Santos, the project's financial and administration officer, explained in detail the administrative and financial rules governing such networks. Konstantinos Diamandouros, Commission officer responsible for NCP activities in "Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities" and "Science in Society" placed emphasis on the necessity of good coordination between NET4SOCIETY and other Commission initiatives concerning National Contact Points and listened to SSH-NCPs' needs in timing and content of NCP trainings.
Starting with a definition of networking by Angela Schindler-Daniels, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Germany, the work began: Nina Berweger and Christa Engel, DLR, set up the grounds for sound project management. Melanie Büscher, DASTI, Denmark, and Malgorzata Krotki, IPPT-PAN, Poland, Work Package Leaders Networking, taught the participants the difficult task of communication without words or hands. Andrea Höglinger and Michalis Tzatzanis, FFG, Austria defined quality measures. Maria Samara, EKT NHRF, Greece, together with Austria reported on first results from a questionnaire about training needs of the SSH-NCPs, and Monique Longo, APRE, Italy, and Tuba Turan, TUBITAK, Turkey, had the participants draw their expectations from a successful network. A special taskforce will see that ICPC countries will find their way into European research projects and have their needs taken into account - if only by understanding the vast differences in accounting & working conditions in European and non-European countries.
All in all, the launch and the subsequent work on firmer grounds in Königswinter, was very successful. Favouring interactive participation to passive listening, a lot of work was covered, no one was lost and everyone went home intent on keeping NET4SOCIETY afloat.