17 November 2014
At its 27th Rectors’ Assembly on 14 and 15 November at the University of Milan, the League of European Research Universities (LERU) presented a new brochure which showcases some excellent examples of high quality interdisciplinary Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) research undertaken at the LERU member institutions.
The brochure results from and is a perfect illustration of the different papers on SSH which LERU has published over the last two years: (1) ‘Social Sciences and Humanities: essential fields for European research and in Horizon 2020’ (June 2012); (2) ‘The future of SSH in Europe: collected LERU papers on the SSH research agenda’ (September 2013, which collects a.o. the notes on essential SSH research for each of the Horizon 2020 Societal Challenges) and (3) ‘Roadmap to improve the position of SSH-research in the European Research Area and in Horizon 2020’ (December 2013).
Emphasizing the necessity of Social Sciences and Humanities research for finding efficient, effective and long lasting responses to many problems society faces, will also be an important message in the “Leiden Statement” on SSH research, which will be signed and published by seven global research-intensive university networks (AAU, AEARU, GO8, LERU, RU11, Russell Group and the U15 Canada) later this week at the global meeting on SSH at Leiden University.
Saying SSH is crucial is not just lip service. Introducing a new technology that will affect people’s lives or society, without analyzing whether people will actually want to use it, does not make much sense. It is also important to study the habits and traditions the technology will impact to avoid unwanted side effects. Involving SSH disciplines such as history, sociology, psychology, religion or economics, to name a few, in the development of any such technology should therefore be a given and should happen from the very beginning of the research project.
But LERU also wants to stress that SSH research is not only essential to support solutions that originate from other, non-SSH disciplines. SSH research as such is indispensable to address many problems society is facing at the moment. Creating a stable financial market, facing religious extremism, working towards a stable multi-cultural society where people understand and respect each other, are just a few examples of challenges Europe needs to deal with and for which research in Social Sciences and Humanities holds the key.
The new brochure shows the tip of the iceberg of the excellent interdisciplinary SSH research that is already happening in the LERU member institutions. “We want to demonstrate that SSH research from our universities is already contributing in many different ways to addressing societal issues”, says Kurt Deketelaere, Secretary-General of LERU. “It is however clear that there is still much work to be done for better supporting interdisciplinary research, not only by the universities themselves (e.g. in how they evaluate their researchers), but also by research funders and research publishers”, emphasizes Deketelaere.
Wim van den Doel, Chairman of the LERU SSH community and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Leiden University adds to this: “The EU research funding is trying to support interdisciplinary research and including SSH, which is applaudabel. It is however clear that for the embedding of SSH research in H2020, there is still a long way to go. At the moment Social Sciences research it is still too often an ‘add on’, only necessary to check how the public would respond to a certain technology. Humanities research and other aspects of Social Sciences research are often not integrated at all, while they are crucial, not only to address the problems society faces, but even to identify where the actual problem lies.