New report assesses the impact of IST research on EU policy making
The European Commission has published a new report assessing the contribution of information society technologies (IST) research projects to EU policy making. 'How R&D can impact on policy making' analyses the impact of 13 IST projects launched under the Fifth Framework Programme. Each project targeted key EU policy areas, such as the Lisbon Strategy, sustainable development, eEurope and governance. Research projects can contribute to policy making in three ways, according to the report. First, project results help develop the overall socio-economic knowledge base with which existing policies are implemented and monitored. Second, the results of previous initiatives help shape the future direction of IST research, and finally, project outcomes can provide direct input into the development of new policies. One of the projects examined in the study is ECLIP initiative. The key aim of ECLIP was to increase awareness of the e-commerce regulatory framework among small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The project consortium created an overview of current e-commerce regulations relating to SMEs, identified gaps and discrepancies, and made detailed recommendations as to how these could be overcome, including formal policy proposals. The report concludes that as well as formulating recommendations for new legislation, ECLIP also helped to define the e-commerce content of the eEurope 2002 Action Plan, the EU's key IST policy framework. Alongside similar analyses of the other 12 projects, the report concludes that whilst IST research can and does make a direct contribution to EU policy creation, more could be done to maximise its impact. One criticism is that the results of research are often not communicated to those stakeholders that need them most, a situation that might be remedied through the creation of cross disciplinary contact groups to exchange ideas and information. Another suggested improvement relates to the increased use of policy fora as integral parts of project activities. 'A direct involvement of political institutions throughout Europe could have a focussing and profile raising effect,' states the report. A final recommendation concerns the collation of findings from different research projects in related or complementary areas in order to create a 'big picture' view of a given policy area. Looking forward, the study concludes that large scale projects supported under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) will be encouraged to devote part of their time to analysing the socio-economic issues related to the technology in question. Furthermore, FP6 priority areas such as 'citizens and governance in a knowledge based society' and 'research for policy support' will preserve the balance between targeted technological research and more general socio-economic activities.