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STACS — Result In Brief

Project ID: 44597
Funded under: FP6-SOCIETY
Country: France

Bridging the science–civil society divide

The engagement of civil society in science is now a high priority on the European scientific agenda. An EU-funded project created a platform for cooperation and dialogue between the two interest groups on a European level.
Bridging the science–civil society divide
The issue of civil society involvement in research has not always been a priority on the scientific agenda. But with the European vision of a knowledge-based society demanding early dialogue between scientists, policymakers and civil society, the subject has recently become more important.

However, increasing the societal relevance of research raises numerous questions. In which cases and in what ways can civil society be fruitfully involved in the regulation and production of scientific knowledge? How can civil society organisations (CSOs) be prepared for participation in foresight and science policy activities and in research projects? Answering these and many other questions were among the main challenges faced by the STACS project.

The EU-funded science, technology and civil society initiative began by exploring the feasibility of partnerships between academia and civil society in different research areas. It also looked into ways to optimise the interaction between science dynamics and the needs and concerns of society.

Researchers in the STACS project set out to make an impact on strengthening the participation of CSOs in the development of research protocols. It also aimed to bring new arguments and issues into public and political debates on scientific technical problems with wide societal consequences.

STACS initiated training sessions on socially important scientific issues in an effort to build the capacity of CSOs to approach scientific questions. These were complemented by workshops that served as research project 'nurseries' identifying research topics for cooperation between CSOs and public research institutions. The objective was to involve CSOs in future research projects in the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The workshops addressed FP7 thematic priorities such as health, agriculture, nanotechnologies and socioeconomic sciences.

These training sessions and workshops helped to find ways of building links with research institutions and to identify research groups interested in working with CSOs.

The capacity-building sessions and the STACS project nursery workshops were perceived as a real success by participants and organisers. They were promoted as examples of how CSOs and scientists can exchange views about the same topic and establish working relationships through a collaborative approach.

Another branch of the project concentrated on the dissemination of knowledge. STACS created a website, which remained operational beyond the end of the project, providing a European-wide platform for exchange between CSOs and scientists. The project team also carried out an analysis of the European research system, raising awareness for CSOs and strengthening their capacity to benefit from the research initiatives undertaken.

Finally, meetings were arranged with Members of the European Parliament and officers of various European Commission departments. During these meetings, the project leaders presented their findings and engaged policymakers in discussions on how to bring European research closer to the continent's citizens.

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