July 2014 | 4th edition

This fourth edition of “ISSUES – The voice of SSH in Europe” takes a closer look at first experiences with the integration (“embedding”) of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) in Horizon 2020. A further focus is on the social and economic impact of SSH research which was the topic of a recent NET4SOCIETY conference. Prof. Irene Hardill from Northumbria University and the Training and Skills Committee of the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) talks to ISSUES about SSH impact and gives concrete examples.

In addition, ISSUES highlights some of the new EU projects in the area of social innovation that are funded from the last SSH call for proposals in the 7th Framework Programme (FP7). It presents a new publication on the new EU member states’ performance in FP7 in the area of SSH as well as a selection of recent SSH publications of policy relevance.

Horizon 2020 is designed in such a way that Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) is fully embedded in all of the programme pillars of Horizon 2020. SSH is viewed as both a cross-cutting issue of relevance and as an essential element to maximize the societal impact of research. The question is how has this goal of “embedding” SSH actually been implemented, if at all, in the first Work Programmes of Horizon 2020? A newly published NET4SOCIETY report aims to shed light on this question.

The concept behind the integration of SSH research throughout the whole research framework programme is not completely new: to a certain degree, socio-economic aspects were a cross-cutting issue in the 7th EU Framework Programme (FP7). However, embedding SSH has now become a paramount ambition in Horizon 2020 thus the European Commission (EC) is currently in the process of putting in place several measures to ensure this. The inclusion of SSH experts in Horizon 2020 Advisory Groups and an enhanced cooperation of the different relevant EC units and Directorates are foreseen to ensure that SSH aspects are taken up in the research topics under the different Horizon 2020 sub-programmes. SSH relevant topics have been “flagged” on the Horizon 2020 Participant Portal to improve their visibility towards the research communities. Evaluation panels for these topics will include SSH experts. Finally the introduction of a monitoring system for the issue of embedding SSH has recently been announced.

The NET4SOCIETY “Report on SSH Integration in Horizon 2020” takes a closer look as to how SSH has been embedded in the first Work Programmes and in the Specific Programme that provides the overall framework for research under Horizon 2020 for the whole period of 2014 to 2020. It shows that the SSH aspects mentioned in the Specific Programme and Work Programmes are more likely to concern issues of behaviour, consumption and lifestyles, (risk) management and governance, public perceptions and user preferences, policy decision support, social/economic innovation and the development of business models and markets. The EC has identified (“flagged”) 37% of all research topics in the 2014/15 Work Programmes as SSH relevant. This relates mainly to the top-down programme parts of Horizon 2020, excluding, for example, the European Research Council. While this percentage indicates that a number of SSH aspects are taken up in the “Societal Challenges” or the “Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies (LEIT)” part of Horizon 2020, it has to be emphasised that the degree of integration varies considerably between different topics and different parts of the programme. In some cases, a mere reference to cost-effectiveness or business models was deemed sufficient to render a topic as SSH relevant. A difference in the phrasing of topics can also be observed.

Responses to the first Work Programmes, in relation to the inclusion of SSH, have been rather reserved to date. In an open letter to Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn, a number of European research associations have been critical of the first Horizon 2020 calls saying that they “have a narrow utilitarian approach to SSH and fail to mobilise the breadth of relevant SSH research for societal challenges1. They also raise the issue that the funding for genuine SSH driven topics on issues such as the European economies and societies (e.g. citizenship, identity and culture) or the role of Europe as a global actor has been reduced in comparison to FP7.

The chairs of the Science Europe Scientific Committees for the Humanities and for the Social Sciences also noted that the first Work Programmes failed to systematically facilitate the integration of SSH and fell short of the high-level objectives. Furthermore, a number of EU member states have expressed their concern with regard to the monitoring of SSH embedding. They urged that monitoring should take place both at proposal and project level with the inclusion of budget allocations. In this context, the German delegation of the responsible programme committee has provided the EC with concrete suggestions for adapting proposal submission forms in order to facilitate this monitoring process.

The NET4SOCIETY report draws up a number of recommendations to support the implementation of SSH integration in Horizon 2020. It stresses that the SSH aspects included should go beyond an ancillary role, for example, beyond improving the public acceptance of technologies. Similar approaches with regard to the flagging of topics and inclusion of explicit references to SSH in topic texts should be adopted for all programme parts. The report also recommends the establishment of further support mechanisms in order to foster interdisciplinary research (e.g. through the funding of networking platforms of synthesis centres) and to foresee extensive monitoring measures that also assess the degree of interdisciplinarity and integration of SSH into funded projects.

The NET4SOCIETY publication “Report on SSH Integration in Horizon 2020” is available now on: http://www.net4society.eu/public/SSHintegration.php


“Achieving Impact - Socio-economic Sciences & Humanities (SSH) in Horizon 2020” was the title of a two-day international conference and brokerage event which took place on the 26th and 27th of February 2014 in Athens, Greece.

The main focus of the conference was the impact of research projects in the field of Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities. Organised by NET4SOCIETY, the event brought together over 300 researchers, funders, administrators and policy makers from around Europe.

The conference aim was to demonstrate that SSH research strongly supports the Innovation Union flagship initiative in the Europe 2020 strategy. In this strategy, research, development and innovation policy is focused on the challenges facing our society, such as climate change, energy and resource efficiency, health or demographic change. Social innovation plays an important role as well in this context.

One of the key speakers of this event was Irene Hardill, Professor of Public Policy at Northumbria University (UK). Research impact has long been an important element for SSH funding in the UK, and against this background, Professor Hardill introduced examples from projects funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Apart from scientific impact, the UK research councils also expect SSH research to deliver wider economic and societal impact. The results of these projects are frequently used by policy makers and practitioners, and lead to improvements in services or business.

The conference participants learnt more about the broad framework of the Europe 2020 strategy and how Horizon 2020 supports innovation. Through practical workshops and panel discussions, the concept of impact was explored with a view to encouraging SSH researchers to become involved in all of the Societal Challenges in Horizon 2020. This was of particular relevance since SSH became a horizontal activity integrated into all three pillars of Horizon 2020.

The conference had three parallel sessions: (i) the European Social Model – its Sustainability for Future Generations; (ii) SSH contributions to a competitive Europe - Creativity and Culture; and (iii) Making sense of Social Innovation. During each parallel session, opportunities for the SSH Research and Innovation community were explored more closely, taking account of issues regarding users of research, interdisciplinarity, and international cooperation.

A report on the conference and its key findings, as well as presentations and videos from the conference sessions, are now available on the following conference home page: http://www.achievingimpact2014.eu/.


Professor Irene Hardill, Director of the Northumbria Centre for Citizenship and Civil Society at the Northumbria University and member of the Training and Skills Committee of the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), talks to ISSUES about ways of defining social and economic impact in SSH projects as well as categorising this impact. 

How would you define the social and economic impact in social sciences and humanities (SSH) projects?

There are a number of ways of defining social and economic impact in SSH projects. In the UK the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) which funds SSH projects recognises that impact has a number of dimensions, and for ESRC impact is delivered through funding world class social science research, and through the demonstrable contribution that makes to society and the economy, and to the lives of individuals, organisations and nations. Scientific impact, therefore – or the advancement of knowledge - is foundational to this wider economic and societal impact.

How can we measure the impact of SSH projects?

There are a number of ways of categorising and evidencing the impact of SSH projects. According to one widely cited typology, the impact of social science research can be categorised as conceptual, capacity building and/or instrumental (Nutley et al, 2007) (or some combination thereof):

Conceptual: contributing to the understanding of policy issues, reframing debates, changing the way a problem is framed.

Capacity building: through technical and personal skill development with the flow of tacit knowledge, such as capacity building within the academic community, and beyond amongst project partners.

Instrumental: influencing the development of policy, practice or service provision, shaping legislation, altering behaviour.

To demonstrate impact one needs a clear audit trail, and clear evidence of change that has followed. 

Can you give us two examples of social and economic impact achieved in any of the successful SSH projects?

The UK research councils have produced a series of impact case studies based on projects they have funded, which includes one about a project I undertook with Dr Sue Baines of Manchester Metropolitan University, which sought to understand why people give their time to others by undertaking volunteering1. The project produced a series of academic outputs on the role volunteering plays in people’s lives, but we have also delivered conceptual impacts by reframing policy and practice through working closely with our partner organisations where we undertook the fieldwork and in the community where the organisations are based.  Some of our fieldwork sites wanted to use our research outputs, to refine how they recruit and manage volunteers. So together we produced publicity material, and changed the way they recruit volunteers. We also helped the community bid for capacity building funds with which to grow the underpinning network of community organisations, and we worked with community organisations and the BBC to produce a short film about community building in an age of austerity.

A judiciously timed ESRC press release led to our work being picked up by a national organisation, the Disability Rights Commission, who approached us to provide case studies of organisations providing volunteering opportunities for disabled volunteers, along with the personal stories of disabled volunteers for their guidance booklet for the voluntary and community sector. At the national launch of their guidance booklet disabled volunteers who participated in our project attended and some spoke about what volunteering meant to them. The then Minister of the Third Sector launched a volunteering toolkit we developed at the House of Commons during National Volunteering week in 2007.

The second example was recognised for its impact in 2013 in the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize. The prize celebrates outstanding ESRC research and success in collaborative working, partnerships, engagement and knowledge exchange activities that have led to significant impact. Categories of impact include business, public policy, society, international and impact by early career researchers. 

This second example of impact relates to capacity building impact, and is found in the work of Professor Cathy Nutbrown, Head of the School of Education at the University of Sheffield University and a specialist in early childhood education. In 2013 her work was recognised by ESRC for its Outstanding Impact on Society2. One particularly impactful outcome of her work relates to capacity building with early-years practitioners. She held workshops on family literacy with 22 practitioners, who then shared their work with fellow practitioners resulting in around 300 practitioners getting involved; between them they reached 6,000 families to raise children’s literacy achievements.


Nutley, S., Walter, I. and Davis, H. (2007) Using Evidence. How Research can Inform Public Services. Bristol, The Policy Press


The FP7 Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities (SSH) work programme 2013 demonstrated strong commitment to the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy and the Innovation Union Flagship. The 2013 SSH work programme focuses on six Socio-economic challenges that Europe currently is confronted with as follows: growth, employment and competitiveness; social cohesion and inclusion; social, cultural and educational challenges in an enlarged EU; sustainability and environmental challenges; demographic change; migration and integration; quality of life and global interdependence1. It included two calls for proposals with a combined indicative budget of EUR 98 Mio. Euro.

This article highlights themes and projects of the final calls in the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for Socio-economic sciences and Humanities that mark the transition between FP7 and Horizon 2020. The call FP7-SSH-2013-1 (Collaborative large scale integrating research projects) supported six projects, while the call FP7-SSH-2013-2 (Collaborative small or medium scale focused research projects as well as Coordination and Support Actions), supported a further twenty-six projects.

Projects funded from these calls have recently started – and will soon produce their first results.

Bridging towards Horizon 2020 through Innovation – Social innovation

An important objective of the 2013 SSH work programme was to support broader aspects of innovation, and particularly enhance our understanding and capacity for social innovation. Specific topics included: “Economic underpinnings of social innovations”, “Social innovation – empowering people, changing societies?” and “Social entrepreneurship for innovative and inclusive societies”.

Three FP7-projects dealing with social innovation (SI), are described in more detail below:

The concept of social innovation, is defined by the Bureau of European Policy Advisers  as new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations. They are innovations that are not only good for society but also enhance society’s capacity to act. Social innovations are aimed at improving well-being and cover wide-ranging fields from new models of child care to web-based social networks, from the provision of domestic health care to new ways of encouraging people to exchange cars for bicycles in cities, and the development of global fair-trade chains1.

The Innovation Union flagship initiative of the “Europe 2020 Strategy“ refers directly to the importance of social innovation: ”We must champion social innovation. We must develop a better understanding of public sector innovation, identify and give visibility to successful initiatives, and benchmark progress2.

Spotlight on three social innovation projects from FP7 – 2013:

1. Social Innovation – Driving Force of Social Change (SI Drive)

How do social innovations work and how do they change society? These are the themes of the research project “Social Innovation – Driving Force of Social Change (SI Drive)“, an EU Seventh Framework funded project that is seeking to map and compare European and global approaches to social innovations and priorities, identifying good practice and lessons learnt. SI-DRIVE involves 15 partners from 12 EU Member States and 11 from other parts of the world.

The question for the SI-DRIVE project is how public policies can support the actions and activities by citizens and organisations that underpin social innovation and help social innovations scale up to achieve systemic change. 

The project is guided by the following four objectives and expected outcomes:

1.    To determine the nature, characteristics and impacts of social innovation as key elements of a new paradigm of innovation
2.    To map, analyse and promote social innovations in Europe and different world regions to better understand and enable social innovations and their capacity for changing societies.
3.    To identify and assess success factors of SI in different policy areas, supporting reciprocal empowerment in various countries and social groups to engage in SI for development.
4.    To undertake future-oriented policy-driven research, analyse barriers and drivers for SI; develop tools and instruments for policy interventions.

  • Coordinator: Antonius Schröder, Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany
  • EU contribution: 4.9 million Euros
  • Duration: 1 January 2014 – 31 December 2017

For further information: http://www.si-drive.eu/

2. Enabling the flourishing and evolution of social entrepreneurship for innovative and inclusive societies (EFESEIIS)

The EFESEIIS project aims to produce new knowledge enabling Member States, non-Member States and the European Union to fully understand the conditions under which social entrepreneurship starts, develops and contributes effectively and efficiently to solving societal challenges in a sustainable way. The EFESEIIS project has four main objectives: (i) to construct an Evolutionary Theory of Social Entrepreneurship; (ii) to identify the features of an “Enabling Eco-System for Social Entrepreneurship”; (iii) to identify the “New Generation” of social entrepreneurs: its features, needs and constraints as well as their contribution to Social Innovation; and (iv) to provide advice to stakeholders on how to foster Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation.

  • Coordinator: Enrico Testi, Università Di Firenze, Italy
  • EU contribution: 2.5 million Euros
  • Duration: 1 December 2013 – 30 November 2016

For further information: http://www.fp7-efeseiis.eu/

3. Boosting the Impact of Social Innovation in Europe through Economic Underpinnings (SIMPACT)

SIMPACT aims at advancing the understanding of the economic dimensions of social innovation. It investigates how social innovations can enable the most vulnerable in society to become economic assets, integrating critical analysis of current and previous work with future-oriented methodologies, new actionable knowledge and continual stakeholder participation.

SIMPACT’s multidisciplinary mixed-method approach advances knowledge and the state of the art by: (i) elaborating a theoretical model of the economic dimensions of social innovation; (ii) looking closer at successful and less successful cases and thereby generating new empirical knowledge on the economic dimensions of SI; (iii) analysing factors for the economic impact of social innovations; (iv) developing indicators to measure social innovations and methods to evaluate social and economic impact; (v) enhancing modes of public policy production, instruments and guidelines; and (vi) generating foresight knowledge.

  • Coordinator: Judith Terstriep, Westfälische Hochschule Gelsenkirchen, Germany
  • EU contribution: 2.5 million Euros
  • Duration: 1 January 2014 – 31 December 2016

For further information: http://www.simpact-project.eu/


2 Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative. Innovation Union, SEC(2010) 1161, p. 3



What are the reasons for the lower success rates of proposals from new EU member states (“EU-13”) in the area of Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities (SSH) in FP7? And what can be done to improve upon these success rates in Horizon 2020? NET4SOCIETY has analysed reasons for the low participation and success rates of EU-13 and produced a report with recommendations for national policy makers and National Contact Points to improve their support for EU-13 applicants and increase the levels of inclusion of researchers from these countries.

The report is available here: http://www.net4society.eu/public/international-cooperation.php


Research and Innovation on Sustainable Urban Dynamics.

This publication identifies potential research subjects to be covered under the Societal Challenge 6 – Inclusive, innovative and reflective societies, under the item 6.1.4: ‘The promotion of sustainable and inclusive environments through innovative spatial and urban planning and design.’

Potential research subjects include: (i) measuring and forecasting housing needs; (ii) demographic and ethnic integration and cohesion in urban areas; (iii) functionalities, sharing (consumption) and lifestyles; (iv) export of EU urban best practices in third countries;  (v) economic, social and environmental city resilience; (vi) urban regeneration including artistic assets; (vii) welfare city visions; (viii) urban tools to attract and retain people; (ix) urban socio-ecological transition; and (x) cross-cutting urban issues.

Along with these 10 stakeholders-based urban subjects to be addressed in the coming years, the publication also provides a list of the EU urban research projects funded in the 7th EU Framework Programme (Social Sciences and Humanities; Sustainability and Environment; Transport and Energy; ICT; Smart Cities; and Security).

EU Social Platforms: A review on an experiment in collaborative research design.

The objective of this review of four social platforms funded under FP7 is to facilitate decision making on the future use of such platforms in new multi-annual research framework programmes of the European Union.

The platforms represent a new way of bringing together researchers and stakeholders from civil society to work on urgent and complex socio- economic (policy) issues in a participatory manner.

The four distinct topics dealt with by the social platforms were:

1.         Cities and Social Cohesion (SOCIALPOLIS)

2.         Families and Family Policies (FAMILYPLATFORM)

3.         Sustainable Lifestyles 2050 (SPREAD)

4.         Innovative social services (INNOSERV)

This publication presents the origin, description and assessment of the four Social Platforms, followed by their subject areas, partners and first adaptations. Specific attention is given to the findings from the four social platforms. Key conclusions and recommendations are provided at the end of the publication.

Adult and continuing education in Europe: Using public policy to secure a growth in skills

Public policies must respond to two strategic challenges: (i) to encourage the propensity to invest in adult and continuing education; and (ii) to guarantee the reduction of educational exclusion. Adult and continuing education has the dual function of contributing to employability and economic growth, on the one hand, and responding to broader societal challenges, in particular promoting social cohesion, on the other. Companies and families support important investments that ensure important growth in both skills and the ability of the European population to innovate. As an outcome of this commitment, Europe today has a wealth of organisations specialising in adult and continuing education. The sector has grown in importance, both as an increasingly significant player in the economy and in view of its capacity to respond to the demand for learning by the knowledge economy. This book demonstrates that adult and continuing education has a critical role to play in ensuring Europe copes with the ongoing phenomenon of education exclusion, which, repeated year after year, generation after generation, undermines social cohesion and the growth of employment.

Co-creating European Union Citizenship: Policy review

2013 was designated the “European Year of Citizens”. In the midst of a major socio-economic crisis, accompanied by solid trends of declining support for the European Union and the resurgence of nationalisms in many EU member states, EU citizenship offers a counter model capable of reinforcing citizens’ resilience and their sense of belonging to a community of Europeans. Yet, while the citizenship status promises an important set of rights and opportunities for all EU citizens, challenges continue to persist. This Policy Review critically discusses the advances in the “co-creation” of European Union citizenship over the past twenty years, while highlighting the manifold remaining obstacles to the exercise of citizenship rights in the EU. It draws upon the key research findings of 15 EU-funded social sciences and humanities research projects with a bearing for understanding the genesis and evolution of EU citizenship.  On the basis of a sound synthesis of these findings, the review formulates a set of policy implications highlighting, among others, the need to increase the involvement of citizens in EU policy-making and to reinforce the social dimension of EU citizenship.

All publications can be downloaded here: http://ec.europa.eu/research/social-sciences/index.cfm?pg=library