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New Opportunities for Research Funding Agency Co-operation in Europe II

Final Report Summary - NORFACE II (New Opportunities for Research Funding Agency Co-operation in Europe II)

Since 2004, the NORFACE Network has proved itself as a successful coordinated common action of national research funding agencies in the Social Sciences. NORFACE has offered unique opportunities for participating funding agencies by developing common research funding instruments, thus creating opportunities for facilitating and building new networks of research collaboration in the social sciences. Major achievements up until now have been three transnational initiatives: three rounds of the NORFACE seminar series in 2005, 2006 and 2007, the pilot research programme 'Re-emergence of religion as a social force in Europe?' (EUR 5,4 million) in 2006 and the transnational research programme 'Migration in Europe - Social, economic, cultural and policy dynamics' (EUR 3 million and EUR 6 million ERA-Net Plus contribution) in 2008. These programmes were in line with the ideas of the European Research Area (ERA). By strengthening and promoting co-operation amongst member organisations, NORFACE is contributing to the realization of the ERA in the social sciences.

The NORFACE network is an important platform for sharing thoughts about both national and international research collaboration and research policies and learning from each other's best practices and experiences. The primary objectives of NORFACE to encourage trans-national research coordination, analyse national systems and intensify communication, have paved the way for national agencies to work together and achieve convergence, in both research policy and research practice. The NORFACE partners together provide the capacity for significant levels of cooperation and exchange.

The NORFACE network is a partnership of currently sixteen agencies, coordinated by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The NORFACE network was started by a group of seven partner organisations in 2004, and subsequently six research councils joined the NORFACE Network in 2005: NWO (the Netherlands), ETAg (Estonia), DFG (Germany), FCT (Portugal), ARRS (Slovenia) and SSHRC (Canada). The Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) is an associate member of NORFACE. Since 2005, three other partners have joined NORFACE: the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the French National Research Agency (ANR) and the most recent Partner is the National Science Centre (NCN) in Poland.

The following research councils are currently involved in NORFACE (28 February 2013):

- Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF), Austria
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Canada
- Styrelsen for Forskning og Innovation (DASTI), Denmark
- Eesti Teadusagentuur (ETAg), Estonia
- Suomen Akatemia (AKA), Finland
- L'Agence nationale de la recherché (ANR), France
- Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Germany
- Rannsóknamiðstöð Íslands (RANNIS), Iceland
- Irish Research Council (IRC), Ireland
- Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Netherlands
- Norges forskningsråd (RCN), Norway
- Narodowe Centrum Nauki (NCN), Poland
- Fundaçãopara a Ciência e a Technologia (FCT), Portugal
- Javna agencija za raziskovalno dejavnost Republike Slovenije (ARRS), Slovenia
- Vetenskapsrådet (VR), Sweden
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), United Kingdom.

Project context and objectives:

Building on the already existing solid NORFACE network, the NORFACE II Support Action (2011 - 2013) aimed at further deepening and strengthening the established trans-national cooperation based on the experience gained and the existing cooperation structures, but also broadening the network activities and the EU impact, in order to successfully prepare a new ERA-Net Plus. The network's activities have been coordinated through a series of 3 work packages (WP) in the 18 months of the NORFACE II Support action:

WP 1: Joint research and related activities and initiatives
This central WP involved the scoping and identifying of the multidisciplinary research needs with a view of developing joint research and related initiatives. The objective was to identify new areas for research collaboration and to strengthen activities aimed at removing and lowering barriers to trans-national research collaboration.

WP 2: Exploiting data and research infrastructure in the social sciences
In many European countries, initiatives are taken to improve the infrastructure for research in the social sciences. By analysing national and international strategic initiatives, developing mechanisms to exploit data and by stimulating a joint approach, this work package aimed to develop coordinated strategies and approaches between the NORFACE partners for the future enhancement and exploitation of the Social Science data and research infrastructure.

WP 3: Governance and management of NORFACE network, output, dissemination and impact
This WP focused on project management issues to ensure good governance and effective management of the NORFACE network, and to maintain a coherent and durable platform for information exchange, shared activity and joint decision making to ensure delivery of a successful network of funding agencies.

Project results:

The NORFACE II Support Action objectives have been formulated in the description of work (DoW) and activities to reach those objectives have been pursued and successfully carried out. The following achievements towards the objectives can be reported:

To select the theme for the new NORFACE Joint Research Programme (WP1)

The NORFACE network committed itself to launching a new innovative joint research programme on welfare state futures. The NORFACE welfare state futures programme builds on the success of the NORFACE network, aiming to further develop a solid European network of national funding agencies. The valuable experience gained in developing and running previous calls have been used in the planning of the welfare state futures programme.

The planning and development of a new joint research programme started by scoping and identifying multidisciplinary areas for potential cutting-edge research collaboration. Potential theme proposals were submitted by the NORFACE partners and a working group met to study the theme proposals submitted by the partner organisations and to process the proposals. After extensive consultation within and between the NORFACE partners and the wider scientific community, the NORFACE network decided on the theme of welfare state futures for the planned joint research programme. This highly relevant topic with clear societal relevance and urgency will elicit innovative multi-disciplinary research projects in the social sciences. It will produce a step change in scale and scope for European social sciences research programming by offering several innovations with the aim of contributing to the achievement of an inclusive growth. The programme offers a fruitful topic for a European approach, with multiple opportunities for comparison. The joint research programme is a clear invitation to look into the real challenges and focus on new concepts and development, rather than reproducing and revisiting studies of the past. This will expand the knowledge and understanding of European societies and provide input for useful policy guidelines.

To deliver a plan for the new NORFACE Joint Research programme (scientific case, programme design) (WP1)

After the selection of the theme welfare state futures, the network board invited an international, multi-disciplinary theme expert group to explore the possibilities and eventually develop the outlines of a joint research programme. The members of this group were selected by the NORFACE research councils and consisted of roughly equal numbers of established researchers and emerging researchers, men and women, and covered a wide disciplinary and geographical field. As a first step towards a programme specification, the theme expert group met for a brainstorm session, with the aim of identifying and discussing interesting new ideas for innovative themes and subthemes to be included in the programme. After thorough debate, a large number of themes and subthemes were formulated and grouped. A core writing group was constructed out of the midst of the members of the theme expert group. The core writing group carried out the task of writing the programme text for the new programme, in consultation with the rest of the theme expert group, additional experts and the NORFACE partners.

The NORFACE partners have pooled together a considerable sum of funding for research in the welfare state futures of EUR 16 million. A proposal for ERA-Net Plus funding has been submitted to the European Commission (EC) and would increase the scope of the programme and contribute to avoiding fragmentation and duplication by pooling resources and help bring together expertise from a variety of areas.

To develop coordinated strategies and approaches between the NORFACE-SA partners for the future enhancement and exploitation of the social science data and research infrastructure, in particular promoting data collection for research in the interdisciplinary field of migration (WP2)

NORFACE has drawn attention to data and research infrastructure issues from the very beginning of its activities in 2004. In the context of the NORFACE II Support Action, the future enhancement and exploitation of the Social Science data and research infrastructures was set as an important objective. At a NORFACE workshop (May 2012, Berlin) on the perspectives of 'Europeanisation' of data infrastructure in the social sciences - how is it evolving and how well will it meet future needs?', national and international strategic initiatives were analysed. This analysis was combined with an analysis of the data collection of the twelve funded projects in the NORFACE migration programme, to arrive at coordinated strategies for the future enhancement of data in NORFACE. Future directions for the further development of European data developing mechanisms to exploit data were identified. Furthermore, the experiences and lessons learned from the Migration programme were used to take the new NORFACE programme on welfare state futures a step further.

To organise targeted joint activities, addressing both the research community and appropriate stakeholders in the social sciences domain (all WPs)

The NORFACE network is an important platform for sharing thoughts about both national and international research collaboration and research policies, and learn from each other's best practices and experiences. To further deepen and strengthen the established trans-national cooperation, but also broaden the network activities and sharing thoughts, a number of workshops, meetings and events were initiated and/or attended by NORFACE partner(s) during the NORFACE II Support Action. The objective of NORFACE is to become a long term, sustainable network.

Examples of activities include the following:

- NORFACE organised, in cooperation with the German Data Forum and the United Kingdom Data Forum, a successful workshop on the 'Europeanisation' of data infrastructure in Berlin, mentioned above. The event brought together representatives of European infrastructure projects, funders and other stakeholders in order to analyse the present situation and to discuss future perspectives of the data infrastructure for the European social sSciences.
- The NORFACE partners organised a two-day workshop on delivering ERA in the social sciences and preparing for Horizon 2020 (day 1) and EU-India collaborations (day 2). This workshop took place in October 2012 in Edinburgh. The workshop brought together members of the NORFACE II management team and network board with representatives from Science Europe, the EC and selected academics.
- The relationships with other related networks and ERA-Nets in the social sciences and humanities, in particular ERA-Net Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) were intensified during the NORFACE II Support Action period. A joint-workshop was organised with HERA in June 2012, focusing on boundaries between different scientific areas as well as the boundaries between science and society. The partnership of NORFACE also led to other initiatives addressing the research community and appropriate stakeholders in the social sciences and humanities domain. Key players from both NORFACE and HERA together took the lead in preparing proposals submitted to the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) Call 'EU-India Social Sciences and Humanities Platform' and 'Trans-Atlantic Platform' in January 2013.
- The partnership of NORFACE led also to other initiatives addressing the research community and appropriate stakeholders in the social sciences and humanities domain. Key players from both NORFACE and HERA took the lead in preparing proposals submitted to the FP7 Call 'EU-India Social Sciences and Humanities Platform' and 'Trans-Atlantic Platform' in January 2013.
- At the European policy level, the NORFACE consortium has been successful in jointly commenting on the draft plans for the EC SSH thematic priority for the NORFACE welfare state futures programme, and to have its network board members and staff actively participating in the discussions about the formulation and implementation of the FP7 thematic priority: Socio-economic sciences and humanities subsequent work plans.
- NORFACE partners have also been involved in best practice studies that have helped the partner councils to familiarise themselves with each other's research activities and deepen the cooperation.
- Furthermore, the activities and objectives of NORFACE were presented at numerous events, when debating the challenges facing social science research in Europe or presenting the call details of the welfare state futures programme.

To evaluate the NORFACE pilot research programme 'Re-emergence of religion as a social force in Europe?', with lessons learnt for the new NORFACE Joint Research Programme (WP3)

To improve the coordination and set-up of the new transnational programme, the NORFACE network initiated a final evaluation of the NORFACE pilot research programme 'Re-emergence of religion as a social force in Europe?'. The lessons learned from the religion programme were taken into account in order to successfully prepare the new NORFACE programme welfare state futures. The importance of a Network such as NORFACE was underlined in the final evaluation of the 'Re-emergence of religion as a social force in Europe?' programme: 'NORFACE has proved to be a good instrument to stimulate excellent scientific research, develop a European research community, and tackle themes of important for European public policy. Compared to a national programme, it is more flexible when it comes to funding international cooperation and more efficient in generating international visibility'.

The NORFACE II Support Action concentrated on the preparation of joint research and related activities and initiatives. The impacts are numerous and ranging from: relevance to the EU objectives, framework programme relevance, critical mass and European added value and instrument relevance. The new NORFACE programme, developed during the NORFACE II Support Action, will offer an approach from a variety of perspectives and disciplines enabling and encouraging multi-disciplinarity and offering a fruitful topic for a European approach, with opportunities for comparison. By emphasis on looking over the boundaries of subtopic and discipline, overlap in research effort may be reduced and the scope of the results increased, as the resulting research will be more broadly based. Also the implementation of the new programme enhanced the trust and collaboration among the partners and contributed to building the ERA by strengthening European capacity for multilateral and transnational research. The NORFACE Call will also expand the critical mass of innovative, collaborative research in the theme of welfare state futures' - considered crucial for the advancement of the common, European knowledge society, and thereby improving scientific excellence at all levels and diminishing fragmentation in Social Sciences research. Regular meetings of the NORFACE partners, at the network board and management team level, ensured that a wealth of experience and insight into all aspects of implementing research programmes underlies the welfare state futures programme. The lessons learned from the religion evaluation and the impact assessments written under the NORFACE II Support Action were taken into account in order to successfully prepare the new NORFACE programme welfare state futures. The NORFACE partners have much valuable experience, both from having successfully worked together on the two previous NORFACE research programmes, and from other international and national programmes. All this experience fed into the structure supporting the programme. The proposed programme will be unique and will produce a step change in scale and scope for Social Sciences research programming on welfare state futures. Furthermore, by discussing national and international strategic initiatives, developing mechanisms to exploit data and by coordinating a joint approach, NORFACE contributes to the developments of a European data infrastructure for the social sciences.

Potential impact:

Coordinating a large-scale network with the aims of NORFACE requires effective internal and external communication and improving by learning from previous experiences. The NORFACE network aimed to ensure a structured exchange of information between partners (internal communication), to launch a strategy for dissemination of information from NORFACE II Support Action activities as well as the NORFACE joint research programmes (external communication) and to strengthen the collaboration with other related networks and ERA-NETs in the social sciences and humanities (cooperation).

The experiences of the NORFACE network are disseminated through several routes. The website is the core of the internal and external communication in NORFACE. The purpose of the NORFACE website is to inform and raise awareness about progress and results of NORFACE activities among all its key interest groups. It reaches out to the academic community as well as policy makers, end-users and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the media. The website carries all NORFACE publications and is used to share experience. NORFACE newsletters are regularly produced, hard copy publications distributed and events and workshops initiated to stimulate the sharing of best practices and interagency cooperation.

The planning of the new NORFACE joint programme on welfare state futures provided a platform by which European research can gain visibility and connect to researcher and policy makers outside Europe, thereby stimulating the building of new international connections and networks, and providing new opportunities for the fruitful exchange of knowledge. Programme workshops and conferences in the welfare state futures programme will be used not only for the onward development of individual works, but also to engage with and communicate knowledge to key experts outside the programme, for instance through inviting key users, political actors and NGO delegates to discussions of emerging findings and to relevant workshop events. The experience of the NORFACE 'user engagement' task, and the knowledge gained there will be used to shape the transfer and take-up of new policy relevant knowledge generated by the programme.

In accordance with the DoW, scientific (peer reviewed) publications or the applications for patents, trademarks, registered designs, etc. where not foreseen and not registered as the aim of the NORFACE II Support Action. A list of all scientific (peer reviewed) publications and application for patents is is therefore not included in this final report.

Coordinator's contact details:

Dr Renée van Kessel-Hagesteijn
Director Social Sciences Department, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
P.O. Box 93425, 2509 AK, the Hague, the Netherlands
Tel: +31-(0)70-3440902, Fax: +31-070-3850971
E-mail: r.vankessel@nwo.nl
NORFACE webpage: http://www.norface.net