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Humanities and social sciences to get own budget in Horizon 2020

An additional societal challenge to provide funding for social sciences and humanities research is to be added to Horizon 2020, officials at member states and the Commission said.

The European Commission has made preparations to split the sixth challenge in Horizon 2020’s societal challenges pillar—inclusive, innovative and secure societies—into two, creating one challenge for humanities and social challenges, and one for security research. The new, sixth challenge will be called Europe in a Changing World, and will include research on “inclusive, innovative and reflective societies”, according to a Commission official.

These three fields would cover research into media, history, culture, philosophy, European identity and linguistics, the Commission official said. “The Council of Ministers and the European Parliament both wanted this, so we have plans to turn the six challenges into seven,” they said.

The Commission’s first proposal on Horizon 2020 contained no specific funding for humanities and social sciences, a fact that was widely criticised by researchers and national governments. German diplomats in the Council of Ministers fought hard to challenge the proposal, one person close to the negotiations said. In particular, Germany demanded the creation of the “reflective” part, which covers philosophy and history research, they said, as these are areas in which the country has a strong research profile.

This was confirmed by an official from the German government. “In the Council’s deliberations on Horizon 2020 it was decided with strong input from Germany that the sixth societal challenge should be split,” the official told Research Europe Today. He added that the decision by the Council to call for the establishment of this societal challenge had already been made in May.

The seventh societal challenge will be called Secure Societies, and will cover the “freedom and security of Europe and its citizens”, according to the Commission’s proposal. This will cover security and defence research, as well as some research related to politics and diplomacy.

No extra funding will be put forward for the additional societal challenge, instead the budget of the previous sixth challenge will be split between challenges six and seven.

The Commission official said that additional funding for humanities and social science would be spread out across all six challenges, but that the Commission was still undecided about how to do this. “It would be important to have input from the humanities community on this, otherwise their voice will not be heard,” he warned.