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Final Report Summary - SSH-FUTURES (Social sciences and humanities for Europe)

The SSH-FUTURES project aimed at better understanding the dynamics of knowledge from the social sciences and humanities within the European research landscape. The project contains retrospective and prospective sections.

The European research landscapes operating in a rapidly changing world encounter unavoidable obstacles, like institutional barriers to innovative approaches, which have to be overcome, if no opportunities are to be missed. The SSH-FUTURES project offered insights into a range of these issues and draws conclusive recommendations from the findings.

The future of the social sciences and humanities depends on the close and fruitful interaction between the very differing stakeholders in a multi-level governance system. The project has collected and analysed a wide range of information and data on the social sciences and humanities research landscapes of the Member States and European commonalities and divergences. Based on the literature review, the survey among researchers in the social sciences and humanities, the forecast survey and the qualitative expert interviews with stakeholders, this study has generated a number of recommendations for the further improvement of the flows of knowledge across national borders and the building up of an innovative and competitive European research landscape for the future. These recommendations cover both institutions at European and national levels and the research community itself. The recommendations are inspired by the ambition further to stimulate the exchange of knowledge within the European Union and to enhance the importance of social sciences and humanities research.

The endeavour to cross boundaries within the academic world also has to encompass overcoming the logic of division even within disciplines themselves between so-called generic and applied research. The consideration that knowledge constitutes the capacity to act is crucial for the future of the social sciences and humanities. Social sciences and humanities knowledge can be employed in different concrete fields of action: as a means of power, as a justification for a decision, as a means of orientation, as new social icons for society or as a means of rationalisation. This also renders the perennial historical and ongoing debate on the use of the social sciences and humanities obsolete. The demanding task for the future of the social sciences and humanities is to avoid reinforcing the ivory tower logic, in which the social sciences and humanities are partly trapped. Therefore, there is the need for the realisation that dissemination necessitates different qualifications to the usual academic ones.

The relevance of translational issues is crucial and imposed by different policymakers on the regional, national and European / international levels, as well as by civil society organisations and the public at large. The different stakeholders have to be addressed with the appropriate tools. This requires awakening trust. Methodologies and funding must be transparent. Quite often, information is dubious and abridged by the media, and controversies between different scientists are understood to be arbitrary. But this represents a distorted picture of the research landscape, which can be at least partly contradicted by social sciences and humanities knowledge producers contributing to the public debate with criticism and corrections. Consequently, the dissemination of knowledge is not a simple task consisting of the distribution of information. The time-lag that follows dissemination underlines the challenge that dissemination needs attention and funding far beyond the conclusion of the project.