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Science, technology and civil society - Civil society organisations, actors in the European system of research and innovation

Final Report Summary - STACS (Science, technology and civil society - Civil Society Organisations, actors in the European system of research and innovation)

STACS linked concrete experiences of workshops and seminars bringing together scientists and civil society representatives with a theoretical reflection on and an analysis of existing experiences and policies, and policy recommendations for the further development of academia - civil society research partnerships.

The project aimed at exploring the feasibility of academia - civil society partnerships in different research areas and how to optimise the interaction between science dynamics and the needs and concerns of society. The project intended to impact on the strengthening of Civil society organisations (CSOs) participation in the elaboration of research protocols and to bring new arguments and issues into the public and political debate around scientific technical problems with wide societal consequences.

The capacity buildings sessions of the STACS project had one common goal to achieve: 'give CSOs the possibility to follow training sessions on selected scientific issues of high societal relevance'. The STACS project nursery workshops aimed at identifying research topics for cooperation between CSOs and public research institutions and at involving CSOs in future research projects for the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

For some of the partners of the project, it was a new challenge to organise meetings with scientists and civil society partners in order to discuss together research needs and possible research cooperation between them. The capacity building sessions and the STACS project nursery workshops have been perceived as a real success by participants and organisers. They are concrete examples on how CSOs and scientists can exchange views about the same topic and establish a working relationship through a collaborative approach. They gave a strong input to tackle topics with joint agendas.

One of the goals of the STACS project was the construction of indicators allowing the evaluation of the research efforts in a few domains in the European Union, in Member States, and in other countries. We chose to measure research efforts in organic farming, ecotoxicology, and participatory research, through the measurement of the number of publications in these domains, a widely used bibliometric indicator. The results show that these domains are not prioritised and that it is relevant to try and build indicators that can inform civil society of the national research efforts in domains they consider as a priority. Furthermore, there are wide disparities between countries, and discourses on research do not always reflect the reality of research efforts in a given domain. But the use of quantitative indicators also highlights the limits of evaluation exercises of scientific activity solely based on publications and patents.

As our studies show, sustainable development is fully integrated in the language used in research Framework Programmes (FPs), but essential domains of sustainable development such as renewable energies and organic agriculture have not been prioritised enough and the visions of sustainable development conveyed by civil society do not appear very well reflected in FP. As a consequence, it would be useful to develop indicators and other tools to ensure that the views of civil society are better reflected in the European Union (EU) research agendas. Interestingly, participatory research is particularly present in research domains linked to sustainable development such as environmental sciences, ecology, multidisciplinary agriculture.

The partners of the STACS project gave numerous oral, poster and / or Powerpoint presentations in internal, national and international meetings and conferences in order to present STACS to divers publics - scientists, CSOs, policy makers, farmers, disabled people. STACS clearly inspired the project 'Cooperative research on environmental problems in Europe' (CREPE) which is funded under FP7 (2008-2010). CREPE is coordinated by the English sociologist Les Levidow from the Open University of London, and FSC is partner in the project (please see online). The project intended to empower and resource CSOs to participate in cooperative research on various agri-environmental issues. These themes included innovation priorities, agro-fuel production, participation in agbiotech issues, water scarcity and local agri-food networks. At almost each presentation of CREPE, the STACS project and results are mentioned and used.

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