"SSH experiences with FP7 - a Commentary" published

In 2010, NET4SOCIETY carried out a survey about the experiences of researchers from the scoio-economic sciences and humanities with FP7. The full results of the survey are now published and have been presented to the European Commission. The results will help to draw up recommendations on how to improve conditions for SSH researchers in FP7 and beyond. A summary of results and the report are available for download.

“Social sciences and humanities researchers are not active in EU research!” This is a common misconception recently proven wrong. The “Socio-Economic and Humanities Programme (SSH)” of the European Union Seventh Framework Research Programme (FP7) is considered a gateway for researchers into international research cooperation.

 This positive response is one of the key results of a recent survey of SSH researchers and scholars around Europe and beyond, carried out by the EU-funded NET4SOCIETY project. NET4SOCIETY is a network of National Contact Points assisting SSH researchers’ engagement in FP7. The survey focused exclusively on the experience and assessment of SSH researchers within FP7. More than 450 researchers from 39 countries contributed to the survey via an online questionnaire, and an additional 100 researchers in 29 countries were interviewed this summer.

 Two out of three SSH researchers said their primary motivation to participate in this challenging and bureaucratically intense programme is the international research environment and the interdisciplinary opportunities it offers. An indicator for the scope of international cooperation in SSH are the 67 countries currently participating in the SSH projects. Typically, European SSH research teams include six to nine international partners. This working environment – often misconceived as too large and diverse to be attractive – is considered a very important approach, and can only be complemented, but not replaced by other schemes which fund individual researchers, such as the ERC.

 While putting to rest some typical misconceptions often voiced about FP7, numerous issues were criticized. Over-subscription to calls and low success rates are considered a massive barrier for SSH researchers. In total more than 1.700 proposals have been submitted, whereas 134 project have been funded so far. With a success rate of under 10%, the SSH programme has the lowest success rate in the FP7 Cooperation programme, while at the same time attracting proposals of the highest quality. While being the world’s largest SSH research programme, with a total budget of 623 million Euro for 7 years, this programme by far commands the smallest budget within the Cooperation Programme. Inadequate budgets have repeatedly led to a substantial number of excellent proposals, scoring 14.5 out 15 possible points, being denied funding.

“SSH experiences with FP7 – a commentary“ gives a number of recommendations for improving EU research funding for SSH in the future. One key message: a distinct programme for SSH research to address the societal challenges that Europe and the world are facing is indispensible. Other recommendations for improvements include the concentration of funding on small and medium scale collaborative projects. Three out of four SSH researchers would also welcome the inclusion of bottom-up funding possibilities within the context of the SSH programme.

 Overall, the answers and comments of the research community indicate a high approval of the current programme and there are high expectations that FP8 will include a more appropriate budget, recognising the great potential that the European SSH research community has to offer.

Contact NET4SOCIETY survey: Christina Bitterberg (German Aerospace Centre, Project Management Agency, Christina.Bitterberg@dlr.de )

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