With the release of the Horizon 2020 draft work programmes for 2014/15, ALLEA reiterated its position as regards the opportunities for interdisciplinary research throughout the programme as well as concerning the integration of Social Sciences and Humanities experts in the Horizon 2020 advisory groups in order to guarantee substantial involvement of SSH approaches at every stage of the process.
Both issues were taken up in response letters from the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. On the invitation of the Commissioner ALLEA President Günter Stock and British Academy Vice President Dame Helen Wallace discussed more in detail ALLEA´s position in a personal meeting in Berlin on 28 January 2014 with the participation of the Commissioner, the Director General and the Commissioner´s head of cabinet. ALLEA and the Directorate General for Research and Innovation agreed on a number of concrete interactions within the next months which were integrated in the future scope of activities of the ALLEA Working Group on SSH, led by the British Academy, which held an in-parallel meeting in Berlin on 27/28 January 2014. Detailed information about the meetings and the follow on actions will be made available in the next issue of the ALLEA newsletter.
Interdisciplinarity in Horizon 2020
In late 2013, the ALLEA President provided the Directorate General for Research and Innovation with “Guidelines for an interdisciplinary research programme” resulting from an exemplary workshop which assembled scholars from various disciplines who addressed the topic “Sustainable aquatic food supply” in a dedicated interdisciplinary manner. The project was initiated by the Vice President of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Professor Klaus Lucas, and supported by the Volkswagen foundation.
In her personal response letter, the Commissioner highly appreciated the concrete proposals and assured that the guidelines be fed into the relevant units within her Directorate-General as a contribution providing “useful inputs for the preparation of future work programmes”.
A separate response from the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT) highlighted the usefulness of the presented design not only for the Societal Challenges, but also for other programme lines such as “Future and Emerging Technologies“ or “Industrial Leadership”. The guidelines will also provide input to a Commission study aiming “to make recommendations on how to best shape smart approaches to multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity”, the letter states.
Horizon 2020 advisory groups
As a follow on to an earlier ALLEA ad hoc initiative which yielded the ALLEA comments on the ERA communication led by the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences the Director General for Research and Innovation, Robert-Jan Smits, asked ALLEA to come up with a list of experts from the ALLEA academies in order to provide expert advice in the programme parts related to the Social Sciences and Humanities.
Upon receipt of a comprehensive list of eminent experts prepared to engage in the advice activities separate letters from Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn and Director General Robert-Jan Smits invited and encouraged the ALLEA experts to register for the official Horizon 2020 expert advisory groups which monitor and supervise the formulation and implementation of Horizon 2020 calls in the work programmes. Director General Smits stated that the ALLEA expert list will furthermore be forwarded to the responsible units in the Commission, “to all colleagues who are in charge of calls across Horizon 2020 and specifically of calls for societal challenges”. The Commissioner underlined her gratitude for ALLEA´s continued and “valuable support” to a successful implementation of Horizon 2020 and encouraged ALLEA to contribute to the parts of the work “which requires support from external experts”.
Further recent ALLEA positions directed to the relevant European authorities included statements of the ALLEA Working Group Intellectual Property Rights, addressing the issue of stem cell research as well as the problem of the grace period.