This page explains what SwafS is about, its history and includes a presentation video explaining the programme.

Responsible Research and Innovation

The Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission is determined to bridge the gap between the scientific community and society at large.

In 2001, the «Science and Society» Action Plan was launched to set out a common strategy to make a better connection between science and European citizens. In 2007, under the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), «Science and Society» became «Science in Society (SiS)» with the main objective to foster public engagement and a sustained two-way dialogue between science and civil society. This effort is pursued under Part V 'Science with and for Society' of Horizon 2020.

Since 2010 the focus of SiS has been to develop a concept reconciling the aspirations and ambitions of European citizens and other Research and Innovation actors: a framework for Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).

Responsible Research and Innovation means that societal actors work together during the whole research and innovation process in order to better align both the process and its outcomes, with the values, needs and expectations of European society. RRI is an ambitious challenge for the creation of a Research and Innovation policy driven by the needs of society and engaging all societal actors via inclusive participatory approaches. RRI is now a cross-cutting issue of Horizon 2020.


Science with and for Society (SwafS) across Horizon 2020

There are times when science can seem to lose its connection to society and its needs, and sometimes its objectives are not fully understood, even if they are well intended. The lack of a common language and rapid progress in many areas of research has increased the public's concern or contributed to ambivalence about the role that science and technology play in everyday life. But science cannot work in isolation, and advances in science and technology are not an objective in their own right.

The ‘Science with and for Society’ programme is instrumental in addressing the European societal challenges tackled by Horizon 2020, building capacities and developing innovative ways of connecting science to society. It makes science more attractive (notably to young people), raises the appetite of society for innovation, and opens up further research and innovation activities.

Learn more in the section Funding


Evolution of the Programme

Science and technology contribute new innovations that are essential to Europe's international competitiveness. Just as Europe cannot do without competitiveness, it cannot do well without including the citizen in the process – the process that is to produce and maintain the best match possible between the immense potential achievements, and the needs and aspirations of citizens (such as peace, employment, security, health and sustainable development of the planet).

On 26 June 2001, European research ministers adopted a resolution inviting both EU Member States and the European Commission to become more active in bringing science and society closer.

As a follow-up to the Commission staff working paper of November 2000 'Science, Society and the Citizen in Europe', which established the basis for the debate on the relationship of science and technology with society, and as a response to the June 2001 invitation, the European Commission published a Communication on 4 December 2001 setting out the Science and Society Action Plan.

2002-2006: First steps in the Framework Programmes

The Science and Society Action Plan was subsequently adopted making the 'Science and Society' theme under Structuring the ERA in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) the first ever initiative of its kind on a European scale. With its budget of EUR 80 million, the initiative helped increase awareness among research and industry of the need to bring a range of research-related societal issues to the top of the policy agenda.

2007-2013: From 'Science and Society' to 'Science in Society'

The 'Science and Society' programme expanded in the seventh Framework Programme into a 330 M€ 'Science in Society' programme under the Specific Programme Capacities. It allowed keeping the discussions and debates alive among the various stakeholder networks in Europe and further refining our understanding of the relationship between science and society. The Ex-post evaluation of science in society in FP7 (full report and executive summary) assesses the rationale, design and implementation of the programme and evaluates its achievements, impacts and EU added value.

2014-2020: 'Science with and for Society' and Responsible Research and Innovation in Horizon 2020

Lessons learnt gave birth to the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) that went tested and promoted during the last years of the seventh FP. RRI is now a cross-cutting issue under Horizon 2020. Furthermore the programme has grown again into a 462,2 M€ 'Science with and for Society' programme, giving the theme enough leverage to hope put into practice RRI in Europe, notably through 'institutional changes' of research and innovation organisations.


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