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Linking up researchers in the socio-economic sciences and humanities

International cooperation in the field of socio-economic sciences and humanities (SSH) has been improving over recent years, thanks largely to the efforts of a European project which is facilitating SSH researchers' participation in the EU's research framework programmes. The ...

International cooperation in the field of socio-economic sciences and humanities (SSH) has been improving over recent years, thanks largely to the efforts of a European project which is facilitating SSH researchers' participation in the EU's research framework programmes. The NET4SOCIETY ('Trans-national co-operation among National Contact Points for socio-economic sciences and the humanities') project is setting up new structures for the exchange of experiences and ideas. It is funded under the SSH Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to the tune of EUR 2.6 million. At the heart of NET4SOCIETY are the National Contact Points (NCPs), which provide researchers worldwide with invaluable advice on how to get involved in the EU's research framework programmes. Among other things, NCPs help researchers to identify appropriate calls for proposals, find partners, provide assistance in writing proposals and offer support regarding the tricky administrative and financial aspects of EU project management. Over 47 SSH NCPs are working together in the NET4SOCIETY community, whose members come from as far afield as Argentina, Egypt and Mexico. The newest recruit to the group hails from Taiwan. The NET4SOCIETY initiative provides these diverse NCPs with a platform through which they can share experiences and ideas. In addition to providing training and facilitating a mentoring system, NET4SOCIETY offers a dedicated SSH research database of key SSH players and is carrying out a survey of SSH experiences within FP7. According to Project Coordinator Angela Schindler-Daniels from the Project Management Agency of the German Aerospace Center, the SSH NCP for Germany, the project has proven extremely popular, especially among NCPs from smaller countries which are typically responsible for a number of thematic areas within FP7. 'They get support in the network that they don't get from elsewhere and that is very well received,' she told CORDIS News. NET4SOCIETY recently helped to organise a conference on education research entitled 'Educating Europe - Educational Sciences go FP7 and beyond', which took place in Brussels, Belgium. Because education is traditionally viewed largely as a national affair, education researchers in different EU Member States tend not to know each other well. The aim of the conference was to bring together education researchers from many countries to meet one another and discuss shared issues. Importantly, the event highlighted the significance of education research for other key policy areas such as employment and social care. Looking to the future, NET4SOCIETY is scheduled to end in early 2011, but a follow-up project is already in the pipeline that will enable the consortium to continue to provide services to SSH NCPs with a greater focus on outreach activities aimed at the broader SSH community. Although the social science communities are now fairly well integrated into the EU's framework programmes, work still needs to be done, in particular to convince many humanities researchers to get involved. Meanwhile, the SSH NCPs would like to see a rise in the budget allocated to SSH research under the forthcoming framework programmes. Currently, calls for proposals under FP7's SSH Theme are heavily oversubscribed and less than 10% of projects eventually receive funding. And while some projects are rejected on quality grounds, there are many projects that meet the exacting requirements of the proposal evaluators but lose out on funding because there isn't enough money to go round. 'There is a lot of excellent SSH research that is in dire need of funding,' said Ms Schindler-Daniels, adding that the social sciences and humanities cover vital issues such as employment, social welfare, integration, citizenship and much more. 'Most European citizens are dealing with these topics every day!' she pointed out.

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