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The key role civil society organisations play in EU research

Civil society organisations (CSOs) can profoundly affect the outcome of research and innovation in technology. An EU initiative provided data on exactly how this can be achieved and that promises to assist successful research policy for the benefit of society.

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CSO input into research can widen the knowledge base and increase the legitimacy of research results. Despite the high level of interest in CSO participation in technical innovation, there has been very little research dedicated as to how these representative groups actually participate in research. The EU-funded CONSIDER (Civil society organisations in designing research governance) project sought to fill this knowledge gap by providing sound empirical data on the role of CSOs in research. Consortium members carried out a literature review on CSOs in research, a survey of all Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) projects, and 32 in-depth case studies of research projects that incorporate CSOs through more than 100 interviews. A series of outreach activities for CSOs and other stakeholders was also initiated, including workshops, community-related exercises and establishment of a network of associates. All this work fed into a model of CSO participation in research that formed the basis for a set of guidelines. Main findings show that approximately one in four FP7 projects in 2012 cooperated with at least one CSO. Despite the benefits of including CSOs in research, CSO participation is not a cure-all, proving useful and effective in certain situations but not in others. Not all research projects will benefit from CSO involvement, and it can even be counterproductive. To succeed, there must be a clear understanding among project partners and an identifiable need. The team developed practical guidelines to support researchers, civil society representatives, policymakers and funders in better understanding, planning and implementing the policy and practice of CSO participation. CONSIDER helped bridge the gap between research and civil society by laying the groundwork for more public involvement. Such participation has been established as a cornerstone of the responsible research and innovation agenda that encompasses all European research funded by Horizon 2020. Here is a link to the animated introduction to CSOs in research.


Civil society organisations, research and innovation, research policy, research governance, public involvement

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