quick scan
WI-WE Progress
Progress: 100.00%   WWI-WE Version: 16
0 mandatory questions pending
19 questions total
19 questions answered
19 questions completed
0 questions pending
Popular WI-WE Tags

Mapping Weak Signals

Inspired by: workshops/meetings » Concerns over socio-economic and humanities research "downgrade"

version: 16 / updated: 2011-01-29
id: #1534 / version id: #1341
mode: VIEW

Originally submitted by: Rafael Popper
List of all contributors by versions (mouse over)
Last changed by: Rafael Popper
WI-WE status:

Source of inspiration


iKnow workshop country name

United Kingdom

Workshop date

February 2010

The source of the Weak Signal is

Based on the social sciences and humanities (SSH) expert group discussions at the iKNOW workshop in Manchester (February 2010) and a post in Research Fundamentals blog (December 2010) available at: http://fundermental.blogspot.com/2010/12/protecting-social-sciences-humanities.html

Signal's headline

(max. 9 words)
Concerns over socio-economic and humanities research "downgrade"

Signal's description

(approx. 150 words)
Please describe the Weak Signal (approx. 150 words)
The role of Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities as a stream (SSH) within the European Commission's Framework Programme is being changed. In particular, three issues have been highlighted by critical commentators and the University Association for Contemporary European Studies: (1) The perceived "downgrading" of SSH research as Directorate L for Science, Economy and Society (SES) has been discontinued. From January 1, 2011 SSH became a Unit under Directorate B for European Research Area but its role remains uncertain for people outside the EC; (2) the plan to abolish broader, long-term integrated projects in SSH in the next Framework Programme, in the course of moving to a focus on "grand challenges" in which social sciences may well feature only as ‘auxiliary’ disciplines to be mainstreamed into more applied work oriented more around other disciplines; and (3) the downsizing of funding for specifically socio-economic and humanities research projects in the 8th Framework Programme. Among the questions raised: Can fundamental social research questions be sufficiently addressed to fully inform more applied research? Might not whole areas of social enquiry, of vital importance to Europe’s future, be neglected as Grand Challenges are focused in more technical ways? Will the social researchers engaged in FP work be drawn more from consultancies and specific approaches to study (specific brands of economics, for instance), neglecting equally valid approaches that are less digestible by engineers and environmentalists?


social sciences, humanities, SSH, FP8, funding, research, policy


(max. 250 characters)
Commentators following the discussions about the next European Commission Framework Programme for Research and Technology Development (FP8) are concerned about proposals to downgrade socio-economic and humanities research role and funding.

Signal's first apperance


Signal's potential evolution

It could lead to...
issue type of issue/development potential impact on society timeframe for the issue to become at least 50% probable
#1 Threat to social sciences across Europe, as FP restructuring intersects with squeeze on research funds in many countries. new/emerging
mainly harmful
#2 New Grand Challenges may require much closer integration of social and other fields of research, possibly with productive consequences. new/emerging
#3 Social sciences assigned secondary, support role in EC FP research (like in the first three FPs). re-emerging
very harmful
#4 Stress on competitiveness as underpinning issue in innovation (may be offset by other Grand Challenges). re-emerging
mainly beneficial
#5 Neglect of capacity to monitor and understand change, just as changes take on profound new forms. continuation
#6 End of research on particular areas of SSH which may be seen as "less important" for Europe (e.g. some behavioural and cognitive sciences and approaches, focus on inequities). discontinuation
very harmful
#7 Considerable reduction in research efforts addressing issues related to European identity, multiculturalism, multilingualism, social cohesion, democracy, participation, peace and international cooperation. discontinuation
very harmful

Under what assumption the Weak Signal might evolve.

Very weak and disconnected efforts to "protect" European SSH research do not manage to influence SSH-related discussions in the planning of the EC's 8th Framework Programme for RTD. Thus, socio-economic and humanities research becomes, at best, an "add-on service" to wider European research programmes (i.e. reactive analysis of implications of "grand challenges" on society).


please specify
please select
Level 3: important for the European Union

Filters preventing the signal's monitoring

institutional filters (rules, laws, regulations)
political filters (party or ideological interests)

Comments on selection:

Internal EC discussions about FP8 may prevent many people from monitoring this signal.

Key driving forces of this signal

Please use these boxes to provide up to 2 drivers of HIGH importance. Click on HELP to see examples:
Driver 1 Driver 2
Economic Growing pressures to translate research into economic value.

Major risks & opportunities associated to the signal

Please choose the most appropriate timeframe option(s) to which you would like to provide inputs.
Risks Opportunities
before 2015 Sudden drop in the number of undergraduate and postgraduate students applying for social sciences and humanities related studies.

Potential stakeholders' actions

short-term actions
(after 2015)
Academic/Research sector Evaluate the implications of lack of pan-European instruments supporting research on social sciences issues.

Signal's relevance for European Grand Challenges

where? please justify:
particularly relevant Europe world
Ageing and other demographic tensions
Behavioural change
Coexistence and conflicts
Crime and terrorism
Social pathologies & ethics
Social exclusion & poverty
Social cohesion and diversity
Globalization vs. localization
Innovation dynamics

Signal's relevance for thematic research areas

please justify:
particularly relevant
Social Sciences and Humanities
Science in society

Pan-European strategies influencing the signal

please justify:
particularly relevant
Strengthening research institutions and universities
Facilitating and promoting knowledge sharing and transfer

Research-friendly strategies potentially improving understanding of the signal

For further information about 'research-friendly strategies' click here
please justify:
particularly relevant
Overcoming sub-criticality and systemic failures
To be subcritical means that the effort in a particular field or subfield lacks resources, equipment or a sufficient number of researchers to achieve a desired goal
Creating a closer link between researchers & policy-makers
(e.g. supporting both thematic and cross-cutting policies, highlighting the strategic purpose of the European Research Area, etc.

Signal's relevance for future R&D and STI policies

Note: RTD = research and technology development; STI = science, technology and innovation
This signal suggest that further research may be needed on the role and contributions of social sciences and humanities (SSH) research to the European STI landscape.