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Social sciences and the humanities allied in Horizon 2020 funding quest

Europe’s social scientists and humanities researchers are combining forces to push for more funding through a European alliance.

The European Alliance for the Social Sciences and Humanities, which will have its first general assembly on 27 and 28 March in Brussels, was born out of frustration over the lack of an individual funding pot for social sciences and humanities research in Horizon 2020, the proposed follow-up to Framework 7. The European Commission has proposed that social science and humanities research would be funded as part of five other funding pots for grand challenges, which include climate change, health and ICT.

But the alliance members call for the establishment of a sixth pot called Understanding Europe for social sciences and humanities research.

Members want the alliance to achieve two goals: to improve the presence of their research in European policymaking, and to convince researchers in the fields that they need to sell their results better to policymakers and assert their relevance to all fields, even applied sciences.

“Not all colleagues in social sciences and the humanities are ready, able and willing to participate in these relatively applied research programmes,” says Rüdiger Klein, the executive director of Allea, the federation of all European academies, and a founder of the social sciences and humanities alliance. “Thus a lot of research potential is lying dormant, and many schools of thought barely make it into the public and political discourse.”

Researchers in the field agree that it is up to them to fight for recognition. Ann Katherine Isaacs, a historian at the University of Pisa, says that researchers must start to assert their relevance.

“Social sciences and humanities need to show why they are the essential experts on human lives, and hence why they are able to say something meaningful,” she says. “There are some big risks here: that people who are responsible for funding science think they already know the answers they want. But if they just want to make a model work, who asks if it’s the right model?”

Members of the alliance can be large social sciences and humanities university consortia, learned societies, and public and private funders. The alliance held a founding meeting last December during an Allea meeting in Amsterdam. Allea expects around 70 organisations to attend the general assembly in March.