November 2014 | 5

This edition of “ISSUES – The voice of SSH in Europe” focuses on the evolution and development of Work Programmes in Horizon 2020.  In particular we take a look at the process underpinning SSH research in Horizon 2020, with Peter Dröll and Paul Timmers from the European Commission sharing their insights. An example of programmatic workshops on different research areas that help to shape future Work Programmes is presented as well.

ISSUES also looks at the issue of monitoring the integration of Social Sciences and Humanities in Horizon 2020, and presents an example project from FP7.  Finally, a selection of recent SSH publications of policy relevance are summarised.


Horizon 2020 Work Programmes include a large number of different topics. In the case of the 2014/15 Work Programme for Societal Challenge 6 “Inclusive, innovative and reflective societies”, a total of forty-four topics were included on diverse issues ranging from fiscal policy in Europe to the cultural heritage of war. But how were these topics generated?  What are the most relevant factors for the uptake of topics into Horizon 2020 Work Programmes? And what is the process behind this? For answers to these questions, please read on.

The framework of the “Specific Programme”

It comes as no surprise that Horizon 2020 Work Programmes are developed through a rather complicated process where there are numerous influence factors for generating the individual topics of a Work Programme. The overall framework for the Work Programme content is the “Specific Programme” of Horizon 2020, which gives a general orientation on which issues shall be taken up in calls for proposals during the whole duration of Horizon 2020. It defines specific research areas and related objectives that must be targeted by the Work Programme. If a suggestion for a topic is to be successful, it should link to the contents of the Specific Programme. In the case of Societal Challenge 6, the aim of the funded research projects is to contribute to building inclusive, innovative, and reflective European societies. Thus, the content generation of calls for proposals is not only driven by scientific and academic factors, but also to a large extent by the policy context.

The generation of the first draft

The European Commission has the right of initiative for preparing the Work Programme.  This means that the European Commission prepares a first draft Work Programme, which will then be discussed and approved by the respective Programme Committee. The Programme Committee structure provides the forum for EU Member States and Horizon 2020 Associated Countries to monitor and advise on the implementation of Horizon 2020. The European Commission will normally commence the preparation of a Work Programme approximately one year before its publication. In the case of Horizon 2020, there will be four Work Programmes: three biennial Work Programmes (2014/2015; 2016/2017; 2018/2019) and a concluding annual Work Programme for 2020.The publication of the Work Programme will normally be in the summer prior to the commencement of the projects (e.g. Work Programme 2016/2017 is expected to be published in summer 2015 and the preparation has already started).

Each of the topics within a first draft of a Work Programme are normally produced by Scientific Officers within the European Commission’s Directorates-General (DG) responsible for administering Horizon 2020. This is mainly the DG for Research and Innovation, but can also include other DGs such as the DG for Communications Networks, Content and Technology. While the European Commission has no legal obligation to seek advice on the Work Programmes, in practice, scientific officers draw from a number of external and Commission internal sources for developing this first draft.

Commission internal and external influence factors

Important external sources are the Expert Advisory Groups, which have been established for the individual programme elements of Horizon 2020. The Expert Advisory Groups produce reports and recommendations that contribute towards defining the Work Programme. For example, the current report of the Advisory Group for Societal Challenge 6 “Resilient Europe” outlines recommendations for the Work Programme 2016/171.

In the case of Societal Challenge 6, a number of “Social Platform” projects have been funded to develop future research topics in a specific area and as such are an important external influencer. Results from these Social Platforms are used for defining research topics for calls for proposals2.

The research community can also proactively contribute towards developing the European research agenda in specific fields with the intention of influencing future Work Programmes. A good example of this is found in the “Vienna Declaration” on Social Innovation research topics, which resulted from a NET4SOCIETY co-organised conference in 2011.

To provide further direction and input to the development of the Work Programmes, the European Commission can also initiate targeted public consultations on future research themes. These provide opportunities to bring in for example SSH perspectives beyond Societal Challenge 6 and into other Work Programmes of Horizon 2020.  Additional sources of advice and recommendations used by the Scientific Officers when developing the Work Programmes include strategic workshops (such as the events organised by the Flash-IT workshop – see the article Future Research Needs in the Areas “Inclusive Societies”, “Europe as a Global Actor” and “Sustainable Urban Dynamics” in this ISSUES edition), conferences, publications, position papers, input from funded EU-projects, foresight processes and roadmaps, and strategic research agendas (e.g. of Joint Programming Initiatives or European Technology Platforms).

In addition to these external sources, the “Research DGs”, which are concerned with drafting the Work Programmes, liaise with the “Policy DGs” (such as the DGs for Education and Culture, Health and Consumers, Environment, or Agriculture) and collect their specific research needs as input for the Work Programme.

Discussions within the Programme Committees

Once a first draft is drawn up, the Commission will then commence a dialogue with delegates of Member States and Horizon 2020 Associated States. These discussions take place within the framework set out by the Programme Committee of the specific Horizon 2020 part (such as Societal Challenge 6), with Member and Associated States participating. Often, Programme Committee delegates comment on the Work Programme draft and provide suggestions for changes in the wording of the first draft topics.  They may also provide proposals and recommendations for new topics that have not been included in the first draft.  As part of this process, it is common practice for delegates to consult with their national ministries and other stakeholders, such as the relevant national research communities. This consultation with the Programme Committee can have several rounds, with the European Commission Scientific Officers producing more advanced drafts of the Work Programme, which are again subjected to evaluation and comment by the Delegates. During this phase, Work Programme drafts will normally remain confidential. However, in some cases the European Commission will take a decision to publish orientation papers that will often include the texts of consolidated Work Programme drafts.

After the Commission has produced a final draft version of the Work Programme, it will be submitted to the formal Interservice Consultation. In this step the Work Programme drafts are discussed with other Directorate-Generals, where further changes to the text can be suggested. Following this, the revised Work Programmes are referred back to the respective Programme Committees for formal approval, and once this approval has been voted on, the Work Programme is formally adopted by the European Commission and officially published.

As can be observed from the process set out above, the development of Horizon 2020 Work Programmes involve lengthy and somewhat complicated arrangements involving a number of different actors. An important point to observe however is that within this process it is essential that external input to the Work Programme be provided in advance of the compilation of the first draft, as subsequent to the publication of the first draft it is often the case that only smaller text changes are made before the Work Programme is finalised.

1The names and institutions of Advisory Group members for Societal Challenge 6 as well as their reports are listed here. Applications to serve as experts for Horizon 2020 (e.g. in Advisory Groups) are possible via the European Commission’s Participant Portal.

2Examples for Social Platforms are: FAMILIYPLATFORM (Family research), INNOSERV (Social services innovation), SPREAD (Sustainable lifestyles), SOCIAL POLIS (Cities and social cohesion)


Peter Dröll, Acting Director of Directorate B „Innovation Union and European Research Area” in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) talks to ISSUES about the Work Programme development in Societal Challenge 6.

ISSUES: In your view, what are the most important sources for generating the Work Programme topics for the 6. Societal Challenge "Europe in a changing world - inclusive, innovative, and reflective societies"?

Peter Dröll: The starting point for each Work Programme is Horizon 2020. It sets out the priorities agreed by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. When turning these priorities into operational Work Programmes, the Commission builds on external advice and societal engagement. For me, the two most important sources are the work of the Expert Advisory Group and the insights from a broad consultation of stakeholders. 

The "Strategic Programme" defines focus areas for a period of three years that will be addressed by Horizon 2020 calls. Could you please explain how it will be generated in the future and how it will influence the Work Programme development?

One of the novelties of Horizon 2020 is a two-year programming cycle preceded by a strategic programming process. It works as follows:  A strategic programming document describes the political context and synthesises, for each part of the work programme, the evidence gathered through foresight activities and the stakeholder consultation. It thus serves to identify priorities and guide the development of the Work Programme. We have used this process for the first Work Programme of Horizon 2020, are using it now for the 2016-17 Work Programme and this is also the way we intend to proceed in the future.

In a number of Horizon 2020 areas, such as Challenge 1 "Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing" or Challenge 5 "Climate Action.", the European Commission has initiated stakeholder consultations in the context of preparing the Work Programme 2016/17. Could this also be an approach for Societal Challenge 6 in the preparation of future Work Programmes?

The Commission relies for all Horizon 2020 Societal Challenges on a variety of tools to obtain stakeholder opinions. In Societal Challenge 6, we have summarised the ongoing work of EU platforms, projects and activities. The resulting report reflects the views of around 3000 stakeholders coming from the academic world, the research community, public authorities, industry, trade-unions and non-governmental organisations. This report complements in a very efficient and valuable way the work of the Challenge 6 Advisory Group. In short, stakeholder consultations are, and will be very important in the preparation of the Work Programmes.

In the context of embedding SSH in all Work Programmes, how does the cooperation between different Directorates-General or different units work?

We use the "family approach": In order to prepare and implement Horizon 2020, we have created a group of Directorates-General called the "research family". This group of DGs, chaired by DG Research and Innovation, structures our internal cooperation, allows us to identify issues and to act jointly. 

Horizon 2020 takes a new approach with regard to Social Sciences and Humanities and aims to embed them throughout the programme. Still, with Societal Challenge 6 "Inclusive, innovative and reflective societies" there is one area in Horizon 2020, that contains mostly SSH-driven research topics. Is this an approach that could also be a viable way for future framework programmes?

Horizon 2020 clearly states that Social Science and Humanities research will be "fully integrated" into each of its priorities, be it excellent science, industrial leadership or societal challenges. Indeed, solving the most pressing societal challenges requires the appropriate inclusion of Social Science and Humanities research. Thanks to this approach, the number and range of topics with SSH-relevance is considerably larger than in the 7th Framework Programme.

We have just started Horizon 2020 and we are determined to make it a success. Rather than thinking of the time after 2020, we are now striving to build on the lessons learned with embedding SSH into the Work Programme 2014-2015 and to ensure the embedding of SSH in the implementation of Horizon 2020 calls.


Paul Timmers, Director of Directorate H „Sustainable & Secure Society” at the European Commission’s Directorate-General „Communications Networks, Content & Technology” (DG CONNECT) offers his views to ISSUES on the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Societal Challenge 6 Work Programmes.

ISSUES: The Work Programme for Societal Challenge 6 "Inclusive, innovative and reflective societies" contains ICT-related topics on issues such as e-government. These kinds of topics were formerly part of the more technological oriented Theme "Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)" in FP7. Do you think the character of these ICT-related topics has changed, now that they are part of a more SSH-driven context in Challenge 6?

Paul Timmers: Horizon 2020 (H2020) brings together the previous EU research and EU innovation funding, such as FP7 and also the "Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme" (CIP). The ICT Policy Support Programme (ICT PSP) of the CIP aimed at stimulating smart, sustainable and inclusive growth by accelerating the wider uptake and best use of innovative digital technologies and content by citizens, governments and businesses. This instrument effectively demonstrated the use of ICT in different policy domains, such as cultural heritage, health or public services.

Today, the integration of both programmes under the same umbrella will enable to go all the way from understanding the societal issues, develop the appropriate technologies where needed and ensure their effective implementation. Furthermore, inside Societal Challenge 6, bringing together the different disciplines will strengthen the multi-disciplinary approach and increase the impact and take-up of the knowledge created.

The usage of ICT in domains such as the public administrations is not an end in itself, but a means. The modernisation of the public sector is a societal challenge, where the public sector needs to transform itself by becoming an agent for innovation and change, to for instance improve efficiency and increase user-friendliness and accessibility.

In your experience, is this context reflected in the submitted proposals in such a way that they have a more interdisciplinary character?

In areas such as public sector modernisation, proposals indeed need to also address economic, social, human, legal issues and look at the barriers that hinder its implementation. And, this needs a close cooperation between researchers and innovators from different disciplines.

This message has been delivered to National Contact Points and potential proposers on various occasions, including events where both ICT and SSH constituencies were represented. In addition, experts from the SSH areas have been engaged in the evaluation process. Results so far show that successful proposals have embedded the necessary expertise in their planned work appropriately.

In future, we will continue to encourage the multiple disciplinary approach in domains where this would bring particular value to the projects. This may be facilitated by bringing together the relevant stakeholders and communities to further discuss opportunities to work together in research and innovation topics under Societal Challenge 6.

Like SSH, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is a cross-cutting issue in Horizon 2020 and is taken up in different parts of the programme. How do you pursue the integration of ICT in the different Challenges?

While the development of key enabling, industrial, future and emerging technologies is prominent in the Excellent Science and the Industrial Leadership pillars of H2020, the Societal Challenges focus on the usage of ICTs as a possible enabler for addressing issues such as sustainable energy, demographic change, public sector modernisation or secure society. Other important aspects of H2020 such as innovation and the contribution to relevant Europe 2020 flagship initiatives including the Digital Agenda for Europe also help in integrating ICT in the different challenges, as technologies supporting various policy areas.

Do you believe that this approach is effective in promoting interdisciplinarity?

"Digital" triggers changes in the method of science, innovation, organisation and governance in many areas. These changes are sometimes gradual and evolutionary, often times transformative. Facilitating and requiring interdisciplinarity is just one manifestation. "Digital" is object of study in SSH, but also a change agent in the method of SSH (e.g. big data) or a transformative factor (e.g. social physics).

What are important results of European research on the topics of “Inclusive Societies”, “Europe as a Global Actor” and “Sustainable Urban Dynamics” – and what are future research needs?

These questions were addressed in a series of workshops organised by the EU-funded Flash-IT project in 2013 and 2014 in cooperation with the European Commission. The overarching aim of Flash-IT is to contribute to evidence-based policy making by facilitating the dissemination of results already achieved by FP7 funded projects in the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities theme. By organising the aforementioned workshops, Flash-IT sought to set out a diverse set of information sources suitable for informing the future Work Programme topics in Horizon 2020.

The workshop on “Building Inclusive Societies in Times of Crisis: Evidence and Future Research Needs” took place on 24 October 2013 at the Representation of the European Commission in Berlin, Germany. Approximately fifty stakeholder representatives from around Europe participated in this event which focused on three areas deemed essential for building inclusive societies: (i) care; (ii) employment; and (iii) education, learning and skills.

The workshop assembled a range of research contributions in order to facilitate a discussion on promising approaches with the potential to contribute to reforming European welfare regimes and building inclusive societies in times of crisis. Suggested future research topics included, among others, investigating the relationships among new roles and new actors in social services, and exploring the issue of transferability. A common discussion thread involved calls for more holistic approaches in various aspects, (for example, education should not be viewed as simply employment training).  The outcomes of the workshop discussion were captured in a report of the workshop which can be accessed here.

Two further Flash-IT workshops - “Europe as a global actor” (5 June 2014) and “Sustainable Urban Dynamics” (28 March 2013) involved similar approaches which elaborated a list of future research needs as a suggestion for upcoming Horizon 2020 calls.  More information on these two meetings, including the final conclusions and summary, is available on the following Flash-IT website:

Workshop „Europe as a global actor”

Workshop „Sustainable Urban Dynamics”

The most recent Flash-IT workshop on “Reflective Societies” and European Cultural Heritage took place on 17 October 2014 in Rome. The results of the workshop will contribute to define future research topics on European history, heritage and identities. More information on this event is available here.

The Flash-It project is an FP7 project funded by European Commission. For further information please visit the project website.

An important ambition of Horizon 2020 is to fully embed Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) in all programme pillars. This requires highly interdisciplinary projects – a challenge for programme managers and applicants alike. Elaborate instruments to monitor the integration of SSH are necessary in order to learn in how far this ambition is met and what measures could be adopted to improve the integration.

The Horizon 2020 Specific Programme sets out that the participation of SSH partners in funded projects and their budget share will form part of the basic monitoring indicators for the overall programme. How this data will be collected is still under discussion, although it is expected that project coordinators might serve as major sources of information. Information may also be captured if proposal and project review forms were adapted to include information on the disciplinary backgrounds of project participants, however, such an approach might go against the European Commission objective of keeping proposal and reporting forms as simple as possible.

To get a more accurate picture on SSH integration in Horizon 2020, it is probably necessary to monitor not only funded projects (including budget allocation), but also submitted proposals. This wider data collection would provide insights into the acceptance of the embedding approach among applicants. It would also highlight how highly interdisciplinary projects fare in evaluations – in comparison with more traditional proposals. In addition, a qualitative analysis of the degree of integration of SSH in projects or applications might also help to generate a better understanding of what works well and of the problems and difficulties encountered.

These and other suggestions for monitoring SSH are included in the Science Europe position paper “Humanities and Social Sciences in Horizon 2020 Societal Challenges: Implementation and Monitoring”. It remains to be seen, how the European Commission will finally approach the task of monitoring SSH integration. In any case, there is significant interest among SSH researchers to closely follow this issue. 

Research conducted under the Framework Programme supports the achievements of policy targets in various ways. On the other hand, results from research projects often shape policy and legislation actions. An example is the FP7 project VOICES - “Views, Opinions and Ideas of Citizens in Europe on Science”.

A key objective for the "European Year of Citizens" (2013) was to raise citizen's awareness of how they can benefit from EU rights and policies, and to stimulate citizen's active participation in EU policy-making. In support of this objective, the VOICES project set out to enable active participation of citizens in Research and Innovation policies.

The project network runs a Europe-wide public consultation initiative in the area of urban waste to pilot a methodology and process to involve European citizens in the definition of research priorities. As part of this initiative, the project network hosted 100 focus groups in science centres and museums across 27 EU member states to generate an enhanced understanding at a European level regarding citizens' opinions, hopes, fears and ideas about urban waste as a resource.

The results of the analysis were integrated with stakeholders’ views and presented to the European Commission. The Commission used these results to shape and strengthen EU research priorities, bringing the citizens' voices into the policymaking process.

The project outcomes are intended for use by a variety of stakeholders, for a range of purposes including policy, education and outreach, advocacy, research and public engagement.

The VOICES project was coordinated by Ecsite, the European network of science centres and museums, linking science communication professionals in more than 400 institutions in 50 countries.

Learn more about VOICES at the project website.

European Union Development Strategy in the Pacific

Produced by the European Consortium for Pacific Studies, this study analyses the current and future contexts for European Union engagement in development cooperation with the Pacific region. It proposes elements for a renewed EU development strategy for the region. The conclusions propose generating a better understanding of the contemporary Pacific and re-thinking EU-Pacific development cooperation.

The recommendations suggest that the European Parliament should give attention to the following areas: (i) Understanding sustainable development in local forms; (ii) Building self-sufficient communities and moving away from a culture of dependency; (iii) Recognising the importance of local community structures to ensure project success; and (iv) Developing selected regional research projects focused on fisheries, gender issues, policy-making processes, customary land matters, climate change and food security.  It is envisaged that the studies will contribute to a better understanding of the shared concerns that bind Pacific countries together. 

The full text of the report can be found here.

Levels of Trust and Legitimacy across Europe

The central idea behind the ongoing FP7 project FIDUCIA is that public trust and institutional legitimacy are important for social regulation. The research indicates that across most of the EU 27 Member States, people’s willingness to cooperate with the police is more strongly correlated with people’s perceptions of procedural justice and legitimacy than fear of crime and people’s perceptions of the effectiveness of the police in deterring crime.

Recommendations developed by the project suggest that:

i)                 European Member States need to implement policies that improve the fairness of the procedures used by justice authorities. While the meaning of fairness can vary according to different social, cultural and political contexts, it should consistently embody the legality of actions, the fairness of treatment, and the fairness of decisions.

ii)                Personal contacts with justice institutions play a key role in influencing trusting attitudes. The quality of relations between police and public may be as important as, or more important than, police competence. Therefore policies should be designed to improve the fairness of procedures in situations involving personal contact, and to train officers, judges and the personnel of justice institutions to apply principles of procedural justice in all aspects of their work.

The full text of the report can be found here.

How the Governance of Employment Systems Affects Social Cohesion: Lessons and Local Best Practices from Six European Countries

The FP7 project LOCALISE (July 2011 – June 2014) investigated how active inclusion measures (such as combining employment services with ‘flanking’ social services) are organised and practiced in six European countries: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the UK. The research addressed the question of how local active inclusion policies are organised in order to tackle the complex problems of long‐term unemployed individuals in different socio‐economic and institutional contexts.

The project found that at a local level, public officials can initiate platforms for the start‐up, expansion, or consolidation of inter‐organisational networks in order to better coordinate social and employment services. In this context, it is necessary to take into account local specificities in terms of disadvantaged groups, labour markets, and social structures. Furthermore, local peculiarities should be recognised through the appropriate involvement of different stakeholders and organisations. Where related networks or informal coordination structures already exist, it is of crucial relevance to build on such structures and integrate them into new strategies and plans. A clear responsibility for meetings schedules and communication is essential and should be ensured by the local authorities.

The policy implications and recommendations are summarised as follows:

i)              At the regional level, networks among employers, trade unions and other stakeholders should be reinforced and closely linked to the above‐mentioned local platforms. Public officials should act as stable brokers for triggering sustainable and effective coordination.

ii)             At the national level, administrative frameworks must be streamlined towards linking social and employment services more closely. This requires not only a legal basis for service integration, but also targeted resources and data‐systems.

iii)            It is crucial to achieve inter‐ministerial coordination between various policy fields affecting employment issues such as family policy, education policy, or social policy. Also systematic consultations with civil society organisations and NGOs during the policy‐making process are important.

iv)           At the European level, policy‐makers should ensure that EU policy initiatives and ESF funds trigger sustainable service integration structures down to the local level. This might be achieved by establishing local multi‐stakeholder observatories that serve not only as policy development platforms, but also as communication channels between policy practitioners and the EU.

The full text of the report can be found here.

25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain: achievements and challenges

Brussels, 5 December 2014

This conference, organised by the European Commission, aims to provide the floor for a critical analysis of the integration of Central and Eastern Europe in the EU since 1989 with the participation of representatives of the EU institutions and political actors of the transition period. It also addresses representatives of civil society, the research community and other EU institutions to discuss the knowledge gaps and challenges that European research and innovation should tackle.

More information is available here.

For more events, please visit the NET4SOCIETY website.