The guiding principle of 'Science and society' programme is to stimulate structural links, within the European Research Area, for a more dynamic interaction between scientists, policy-makers and society at large.
In a knowledge-based society, both policy makers and citizens should be equipped to make informed choices from the ever-growing range of options thrown up by scientific and technological progress. New relations and a more productive dialogue between the scientific community, industrialists, policy-makers and society at large is necessary. However, such a dialogue cannot be confined to the EU alone. It must be international in scope and take full account of the enlargement and the global context.
A range of policy initiatives and research topics are organised along three axes: the first aims to bring research closer to society; the second is concerned with promoting responsible research and application of science and technology and the third seeks to step up the science/society dialogue, and addresses the role of women in science.
The Science and society activities are intended to encourage the development of harmonious relationships between science and society and the opening-up of innovation in Europe as a result of the establishment of new relations and an informed dialogue between researchers, industrialists, political decision makers and citizens.
1) Bringing research closer to society
The aim is to examine systematically the various components of "science and governance" in order to create conditions under which policy decisions are more effective in meeting society's needs and more soundly based in science. These decision also need to take account of the concerns of civil society.
"Governance and scientific advice":
The aim is to create conditions under which policy decision in multi-level governance are more effective in meeting society's needs, and more soundly based on science. At the same time, the objective is also to, through inclusive participation, help take better account of the relationship between technological innovation and social change, and of the aspirations and concerns of civil society.
2) Responsible research and application of science and technology
The aim is to ensure that rapidly advancing progress in science is in harmony with the ethical values of all Europeans. Activities will promote "responsible research" in Europe, in which the requirements for investigative freedom are better reconciled with social and environmental responsibilities in the development and application of science and technology.
"Ethics": The objective is to ensure that the rapidly advancing progress in science is in harmony with the diverse cultural backgrounds across the continent, as well as with the fundamental ethical principles applied in the European countries. Dialogue, networking, capacity building, awareness creation, monitoring and early warning will be used to achieve this. The aim is also to deepen the understanding of ethical issues in relation to new scientific and technological developments and their applications. This will be done by conducting research on ethics in these areas, and on its legal, social, economic, and cultural impact on the European Research Area in the global context.
"Uncertainty, risk, and implementing the precautionary principle":
The aim is to provide analysis and support to best practice in the application of the precautionary principle in different areas of policy making as well as in the assessment, management and communication of uncertainty and risk.
Activities under this heading are included in the area of 'Governance and scientific advice'.
3) Stepping up the science/society dialogue and addressing the role of women in science
Support for responsible development of science and technology requires a continued dialogue between the relevant stakeholders as well as better public awareness of scientific and technological advances and their possible implications. There are also particular needs to stimulate young peoples' interest in science, to increase the attractiveness of scientific careers, and to make progress towards gender equality in research.
"Scientific and technological culture, young people, science education and careers":
The objective is to increase public awareness of scientific and technological advances and of their societal impacts and also to promote dialogue between citizens and the scientific community. The activities aim to develop a wider understanding of scientific and innovation culture, to facilitate communication between civil society and scientific research institutions, to raise awareness among scientists of the concerns and interests of citizens, to promote young people's interest in science, and to encourage critical and creative ways of thinking. The activities also intend to improve science education and the uptake of scientific careers as well as to network and promote partnerships between existing organisations working on these objectives.
"Women and science":
The objective is to boost gender equality in research, through stimulating the participation of women in science and technological development and to foster the integration of the gender dimension throughout European research.
The concerns of the theme 'Science and society' should become a natural part of European scientific endeavour. Contributing towards this objective, model contracts applied in the 6th Framework Programme require project participants to link their work to societal issues by addressing public outreach, dialogue, ethics, education and gender questions. A number of embedding measures will be supported here.
Actions under 'Science and society' will be implemented by means of networks, benchmarking, exchange of best practices, developing and promoting awareness of methodologies, studies and the bringing together of national efforts. In specific cases, where appropriate, dedicated research will be supported. Participation of the candidate countries is encouraged.
A series of calls for proposals on specific topics will be published in the framework of the annual workprogrammes. These calls are designed to meet the programme objectives according to a fixed schedule.
Specific targeted research projects implemented in the area of 'Science and society' will be sharply focused and will take either of the following two forms, or a combination of the two:
(a) A research and technological development project designed to gain new knowledge either to improve considerably or to develop new products, processes and services or to meet other needs of society and Community policies.
(b) A demonstration project designed to prove the viability of new technologies offering potential economic advantage but which cannot be commercialised directly.
Co-ordination actions are intended to promote and support the co-ordinated initiatives of a range of research and innovation operators aiming at improved integration. They will cover activities such as the organisation of conferences, meetings, the performance of studies, exchanges of personnel, the exchange and dissemination of good practices, setting up information systems and expert groups, and may, if necessary, include support for the definition, organisation and management of joint or common initiatives.
Specific support actions complement the implementation of the overall 6th Framework Programme and may be used to help in preparations for future Community research and technological development policy activities including monitoring and assessment activities. In particular, they will involve conferences, seminars, studies and analyses, high level scientific awards and competitions, working groups and expert groups, operational support and dissemination, information and communication activities, or a combination of these.
The Commission is responsible for the implementation of the specific programme including the drawing up and regular updating of the 'Science and society' work programme, which identifies the instruments to be used on a priority basis, and any subsequent adjustment to their use. The Commission is assisted by a committee, composed of representatives of the member states and chaired by a representative of the Commission.
The Commission reports regularly on the overall progress of the implementation of the specific programme and arranges for an independent monitoring and assessment of the framework programme to be conducted concerning the activities carried out in the areas covered by the specific programme.
During the implementation of this programme and in the research activities arising from it, fundamental ethical principles must be respected. These include the principles set out in the Charter of fundamental rights of the EU, such as protection of human dignity and life and protection of personal data and privacy. Participants in research projects must conform to current legislation and regulations in the countries where the research is carried out.
The Commission examines and validates its objectives and identifies new policy directions with the help of ad hoc advisory groups and other structures.