Trust in Europe: The contribution of the social sciences and humanities
29 October 2015, Trust European Research Conference, Brussels
Carlos Moedas - Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation
Check Against Delivery

The social sciences and humanities have never been more important to Europe. The study of our history, societies and cultures has never been so urgent. Never before, have we so greatly needed to understand one another. Last month, Vice-President Timmermans spoke out about our current state.

He said, "What ails Europe, what ails our nations today is a poisonous cocktail of a lack of mutual trust and a lack of self-confidence.  We are slow to react to challenges, we are slow to implement even the most obvious common answers, because we do not believe in ourselves, in our ability to adapt, to respond to challenges, to make tomorrow better than today.  We are slow to find common answers not because there are no answers, but because we do not trust the word “common”."

Those words are honest.  Those words are the voice of a new political Commission.  Europe has been shaken to its very foundations – its European values. Yet, to every great question of our time, Europe is the answer − and I believe the social sciences and humanities can show us how.

Ladies and gentlemen, this year, enough time has passed to assess the integration of the social sciences and humanities in Horizon 2020 so far.  

Today, I'm going to tell you that we've achieved a lot, but that there is still work to do.   I'm here, because I want to assure you that the Commission not only values the contribution of the social sciences and humanities to research − we're depending on you. We're depending on your contribution to Europe's most pressing challenges.

How can we tackle the issue of migration without sociologists?
How can we reform our democratic institutions without political science?
How can we have any vision for the future, without looking first to our common history?

Europe needs you.

In the design of Horizon 2020, social sciences and humanities became a major component of Societal Challenge 6 and the Commission made a new and conscious effort to fully integrate social sciences and humanities research into each of its priorities. Realising this fully, has proven to be more challenging than we first thought, but that has only made us more determined to try harder.

As you know my 3 priorities are Open Innovation, Open Science and Open to the World. As citizens or nations, universities or businesses − the digital age has brought us all closer. It has changed how we research and how we innovate.  We now understand that the best research is conducted by the most diverse research teams. We now appreciate that innovation happens in spaces where disciplines collide and ideas combine.

Open innovation and Open Science in Europe, cannot evolve without the social sciences and humanities' contribution.

As part of the ongoing work to improve Horizon 2020, we can already begin considering how to further integrate the social sciences and humanities in the design of future work programmes.

For example – from data extracted from the grant agreements of the 308 projects selected for funding in 2014 – we now know that social science and humanities' contributions so far, came from a broad range of actors, in terms of type of activity, country of affiliation and discipline, but in terms of the countries represented, most social sciences and humanities partners came from EU-15 member states (83%) and partner integration was highly uneven across projects.

The Commission will therefore continually work alongside the social sciences and humanities community to improve the quality of topics, evaluations, feedback and communication over the course of Horizon 2020.

If Europe is to contribute effective solutions to global challenges like climate change, resource depletion, migration, poverty, conflict and extremism − we need the social sciences and humanities to provide insights such as historical context, cultural understanding and visions for change and looking to the future, we will explore how my priority, Open to the World, can further support the European social science and humanities community in making further contributions to improving global relations and solving global challenges.

Migration is indeed one of our most pressing global challenges and an important part of Europe's socio-economic and humanities research agenda. President Juncker made one thing very clear in his State of the Union address last month:

"In spite of our fragility, our self-perceived weaknesses, today it is Europe that is sought as a place of refuge and exile […] that is something to be proud of and not something to fear."

So, this month the European Commission launched the Science4Refugees initiative to help refugee scientists and researchers find suitable jobs, improve their situation and bring their skills to European research.

I urge all of you here to spread news of the Science4Refugees initiative among your colleagues and partners.  So that our scientific and research community does its part to build trust, friendship and cooperation with people who speak the same language of science as we do.

So that your universities and research organisations welcome, support and ultimately benefit from the diversity of skills and talent that refugee scientists bring with them. We must realise that the people we need to develop competitive European innovation, are the same people who want to help us do it.

When we talk about building trust in Europe − whether it is trust between individuals or trust in institutions − I must recall the words in the opening pages of Professor Helen Wallace's Policy-making in the European Union − A book which is constantly on loan from the Commission's central library.  You will never get your hands on a copy.

She describes the EU as a "remarkable, ongoing experiment in the collective governance of a multinational continent" and such an experiment requires a huge amount of trust from citizens.

Trust in the EU's integrity.

Trust in its purpose.

Trust in its values.

Professor Wallace has always expressed the need for talented individuals to revive "thoughtful and skilful deliberations on the process of European construction". With those words she laid out an eloquent mission for social scientists and politicians alike. I know I'd rather be someone on the construction team, than somebody tearing things down.

Horizon 2020 is also a "remarkable, ongoing experiment" in how we can best fund world-class European research, and its construction is something we can always improve and add to. Horizon 2020 can only get better and we can only try harder to unveil the massive potential the social sciences and humanities have to offer.

Europe needs you. The world needs your research. The Commission will continue to support your work in every way possible. Walter Isaacson once said, "Innovation will come from people who are able to link beauty to engineering, humanity to technology, and poetry to processors […] In other words, creators who can flourish where the arts intersect with sciences."

I trust that you will make your voices heard. You can trust that we will listen.