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Project on Social Sciences and European Research Capacities

Final Report Summary - SS-ERC (Project on Social Sciences and European Research Capacities)

The project was intended as a contribution to the efforts made both at European and national levels to support research systems in coping with the transformation processes which are profoundly affecting them. These transformations are pushing to the forefront the relevance of the social dimension (in a broad sense) in the production of scientific and technological research and the growing complexity of science-society relationships. At the same time, they are showing the need for rendering science and technology more transparent and open to citizens. This contributes to making research more dynamic, but, at the same time, more difficult to interpret and steer, since at a minimum level it requires a closer cooperation among a broad and diversified range of actors as well as an increased involvement of the social sciences in order to improve the capacities of the research systems in Europe to face these changes. It is easy to understand how this changing scenario has much to do with the possibility for Europe to pursue the objectives established at the Lisbon European Council, held in March 2000, and to speed up the process of creating the European Research Area (ERA).

It is in this perspective that the handbook has been conceived. The document is addressed to a wide range of actors: primarily, the policy makers involved, at different levels (European, national or local), in science, technology and innovation. Moreover, the actors who, directly or indirectly, are engaged in research and innovation, including scientists, universities, research institutions, science parks, high-tech incubators, technology districts and the like. Finally, the handbook could also be useful for the large number of actual and potential stakeholders (enterprises, civil society organisations, science communicators, etc.) concerned with science and technology.

The handbook on the socialisation of the scientific and technological (S&T) research represents the final product of the SS-ERC project. It collects and melts the results of the previous phases of the project and, in particular, a research on the current trends in S&T carried out in five EU Member States (Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain) and five experimentations conducted in four countries (one in Denmark, two in Italy, one in Slovenia and one in Spain) where forms of cooperation between social researchers and natural scientists / engineers have been tested.

The handbook is aimed at providing research actors (scientists, administrators of research institutes, policy makers, entrepreneurs and their representatives, leaders of civil society organisations) with theoretical and practical orientations for identifying, interpreting, managing and driving the profound changes that are presently modifying the way in which science and technology are produced, communicated and valorised in view of common economic and social objectives.

The text revolves around the concept of S&T socialisation, which refers to the aptitude of research actors and stakeholders to handle the social dynamics (in a broad sense, including relational, political, cultural, economic and organisational ones) increasingly involved with S&T and science-society relationships, in a context where, especially in Europe, research appears to be less embedded into society, its capacity to manage itself seems to decrease and its 'place' within society appears unstable and uncertain.

The handbook is organised in three parts.
- Part A dwells upon the changes affecting science and technology in contemporary societies, introduces the notion of socialisation and describes the risks related to a 'hypo-socialisation' of S&T, mainly in a European perspective.
- Part B analyses S&T socialisation from different points of views, deepens the relation between socialisation and democratisation of science and technology (introducing the notions of 'scientific citizenship' and 'technological responsibility') and provides some overall categories for developing specific S&T socialisation policies in support of the usual research policies.
- Part C provides strategic and practical orientations to devise S&T socialisation measures, at the appropriate levels (research groups, university departments, research institutes, local, national and European levels) in six main S&T socialisation areas, i.e. scientific practices, scientific mediation (research management, teaching, local networking, etc.), scientific communication, evaluation, governance, and innovation.

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