Science With And For Society (Swafs)

Public Engagement

What is Public Engagement in Research & Innovation?

Public engagement in Horizon2020 implies the establishment of participatory multi-actor dialogues and exchanges to foster mutual understanding, co-create research and innovation outcomes, and provide input to policy agendas. It is about bringing on-board researchers, policy makers, industry and civil society organisations and NGO, and citizens, to deliberate on matters of science and technology. Public engagement also creates the space for ethical value-laden issues to be explored, while bringing inclusiveness, transparency, diversity, and creativity into the research and innovation process.

Furthermore, public engagement processes enable multiple actors to establish a common language, arrive at joint understandings, learn from each other, explore controversies, and co-create ideas, knowledge or solutions. To be of greatest impact, public engagement needs to be designed as a two-way process with feedback loops, so that the outcomes of the engagement processes are usefully fed back into the research and innovation process.

Why is Public engagement Important

The benefits of involving the broadest possible range of actors in research and innovation include: the uptake of new and alternative forms of knowledge, as well as the consideration of a broader range of societal needs and perspectives, all of which are key towards helping us tackle the complex and interconnected societal challenges that lie upon us. Public engagement in research and innovation further contribute to:

  • Enhancing creativity in research and innovation design process and results
  • The likelihood that research and innovation outcomes are more societally relevant and desirable
  • Achieving shorter time to market and greater consumer acceptability of research and innovation outcomes
  • Providing a breeding ground to foster a more scientifically literate society of knowledge-driven and empowered citizens, able and interested to participate in and support democratic processes, including on decisions of Research and Innovation financing, and evidence-based policy making

How can Public Engagement be integrated in Horizon2020?

Public engagement in Horizon2020 can either be called for directly by the European Commission to help feed into its own policy agenda-setting processes, or alternatively may promoted through calls for proposals, so that it may be taken-up by project consortia, and external actors, including researchers, universities, research funding agencies, public authorities, business and research-intensive industry, etc.

In Horizon2020 a call topic may be specifically designed to solicit public engagement in research and innovation. Depending on the focus, such a dedicated call may take on the form of either a Research and Innovation Action (RIA) or a Coordination and Support Action (CSA). In Horizon2020 there exists a type of CSA called a Mutual Learning Action Plan (MML), which is particularly suited towards fostering multi-actor and public engagement in research and innovation. A number of such MML are outlined in the table below.

Alternatively, public engagement may be plugged-in to a much larger initiative (eg: Joint Programming Initiative (JPI), Joint Technology Initiative (JTI), European Innovation Platform (EIP), Knowledge Innovation Community (KIC), or a larger RIA, etc.), in which it should then at least be dealt with as a separate work-package, or sub-project.

The following are ways via which public engagement may be integrated in Horizon 2020:

a) Via a 'participatory' RIA: This is a type of RIA that builds-in public engagement upstream and throughout the research and innovation design and process, as a means to foster a more societally relevant outcomes. Ideally this form of engagement should be iterative (foresee feedback loops) so that co-creation can actively contribute to enriching the process and outcomes. For example this could be achieved by designing a participatory RIA that:

  • operationalises the concept of “quadruple helix” innovation or “mode 3 knowledge production”,
  • embeds transdisciplinarity, and/or
  • employs citizen science techniques (for more info see the SOCIENTIZE project)

b) Via a CSA aiming to contribute to defining future EU R&I policy: This includes multi-actor and/or citizen engagement processes like VOICES, whereby the outcome of the engagement process is designed to provide ideas and direction for further research and innovation. Ideally, such processes should employ face-to-face as well as on-line participatory methods to provide input to policy and participatory foresight for selected themes (eg: environmental research, eco-innovation, energy research). Such initiatives require high-level commitment and policy alignment, transparency and traceability of outcomes. In particular, in order for them to have real impact, they must deliver outcomes at the right time of the research and innovation policy cycle.

c) Via a CSA aiming to support thematic policies: A major aim of research and innovation policy is to provide knowledge and evidence to support the design and implementation of thematic policies (e.g. environmental, health, transport), at multiple levels (from global to local), in particular in relation to tackling societal challenges. An example of such a CSA is the GAP2 project on regional fisheries management in support of the implementation of the EU Common Fisheries Policy. Public engagement and co-creation have their rightful place in science/policy/society interfaces in support of both thematic policy development and policy implementation. To be of impact, such initiatives have to be co-created with relevant Directorates-General and/or public authorities; and the outcomes need to be timely so as to coincide with the most appropriate phase of a thematic policy cycle (e.g. policy definition, policy impact assessment, policy implementation or policy review) at either EU, national to local levels, depending on the needs and objectives.

d) Via a CSA or RIA through which to foster institutional change: the purpose of such an action would be to foster the up-take of public engagement by one or more of the following research and innovation actors, within the framework of Innovation Union and ERA, and in line with the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).

  • Non-organized civil society: citizens, consumers, and citizen-scientists
  • Civil society organizations (CSO), including NGO and associations
  • Students, researchers and innovators
  • Trainers and teachers (formal and non-formal education)
  • Schools, museums, science centres, science shop
  • Public research funders (local to International)
  • Private research funders (industry, business, SME, foundations, venture capitalists)
  • Public research performers (universities, research centers)
  • Private research performers (industry, business, SME, foundations)
  • Public authorities responsible for policy making or policy implementation (local to international level)
  • Standards bodies
  • Media, and in particular scientific media

An example of this could be the development and implementation of Responsible Research and Innovation ‘Roadmaps and Toolkits’ amongst consortium partners committed to modernising their research and innovation governance processes through institutional innovation. The aim is to assist the above actors to effectively take-up public engagement and co-creation through, for instance: internal and external advocacy and awareness-raising, sharing of case studies and lessons learned, promoting good practices and codes of conduct within their organisations and across relevant communities, its inclusion as a criterion for the annual performance assessment of research staff, etc.

» List of EU supported Public Engagement projects and initiatives

ASSET FP7 (CSA/MML) Epidemics and total pandemics
BEWATER FP7 (CSA/MML) Water adaptation in global change within the context of the EU Blueprint (water legislation)
CASI FP7 (CSA/MML) Sustainable and eco-innovation
CONSIDER RIA (FP7) Civil society organisations and research governance
EJOLT FP7 (CSA/MML) Environmental justice and conflicts
EMAPS FP7 (RIA) Electronic maps to assist public science
ENGAGE2020 FP7 (RIA) Public engagement in Horizon2020
EUROBAROMETER EB79.2 FP7 (GTNB) Public attitudes to science and responsible research and innovation
GAP2 FP7 (CSA/MML) Fisheries management at regional seas level in support of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) implementation
INPROFOOD FP7 (CSA/MML) Sustainable food innovation
MAPPING FP7 (CSA/MML) Privacy, property and internet governance
MARLISCO FP7 (CSA/MML) Marine litter
NERRI FP7 (CSA/MML) Neuro-enhancement
PACITA FP7 (CSA/MML) Parliament and civil society in technology assessment (TA)
PE2020 FP7 (RIA) Public engagement in Horizon2020
PERARES FP7 (CSA/MML) Living Knowledge Network for civil society engagement in research
PLACES FP7 (CSA/MML) Cities of scientific culture
R&DIALOGUE FP7 (CSA/MML) Low-carbon society, carbon capture and storage (CCS) & renewable energy
ROBOLAW FP7 (CSA/MML) Robotics: law and ethics
SATORI FP7 (CSA/MML) Stakeholders acting together on the ethical impact assessment of research and innovation
SEISMIC FP7 (CSA/MML) Urban sustainability
SFS FP7 (CSA/MML) Sea for society: marine ecosystem services
SIforAGE FP7 (CSA/MML) Active and healthy aging
SISCATALYST FP7 (CSA/MML) Children as change agents
SPICES FP7 (GTNB) The use of national media to solicit citizen contributions for shaping the Horizon 2020 Science with and for Society programme
SYN-ENERGENE FP7 (CSA/MML) Synthetic biology
VOICES FP7 (GTNB) Pan-European citizen focus groups for shaping Horizon 2020 urban waste research