Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


Assessing the Social and Environmental Impacts of European Research, EUR 21702

Funded under: FP6-SUSTDEV


The Lisbon Strategy, as well as other recent EU policy developments (e.g. the Barcelona Strategy) clearly contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development that is a permanent objective of the EU enshrined in the Treaty. In addition, since 2003 all major policy proposals of the Commission are subject to an Impact Assessment, where social and environmental impacts need to be assessed along with the economic ones. Research policy is no exception, and the Extended Impact Assessment (EIA) of RTD programmes and actions - whether ex ante or ex post - must therefore be carried out in terms of their contribution to the three 'sustainability pillars': economy, society and environment.
The assessment of social and environmental impacts is a rather unexplored 'terrain'. When it comes to impact measurement, it is widely recognised that quantitative assessments raise challenges of varying difficulty: while economic impacts are conventionally measured through indicators that have long been codified and are regularly monitored, such as GDP, employment, added value, trade balances, etc., environmental and social performances are more difficult to assess with a standardised set of quantitative variables.
Such difficulties can be explained both by the intrinsic nature of environmental and, even more, social values, where quality and perception play a major role, and by the relatively recent awareness of their importance, which accounts for the so far insufficient development of an appropriate measurement framework.
To cope with these difficulties, and contribute to establishing a better balance between economic performances on the one hand, and social and environmental achievements on the other, future RTD strategies should devote more explicit emphasis to social and environmental objectives, while further developing and consolidating an appropriate framework for the systematic assessment of their achievement.

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