Success for social science in Europe

31 January 2011

The largest joint initiative between European funding agencies in social sciences announces its successful grants. The Open Research Area Scheme (ORA) is a new way of funding for the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) in international research. In total 15 collaborative projects will receive support that will advance our understanding of society and provide positive benefits not just for the countries involved but for the European Union as a whole and beyond.

All projects will address a range of important social and economic issues both within the UK and Europe. The projects will address issues such as climate change, children’s welfare and the uncertainty of economic markets.

In one project researchers from the UK and the Netherlands will address questions on public attitudes to climate change. Professor Brigitte Nerlich of the University Nottingham believes dealing with the problems presented by climate change depends on both understanding people’s changing opinions as well as the bigger picture around climate change. Public debates about climate change have been marked by slow periods of agreement and concern but also by sudden peaks in attention and disputes. The researchers will focus on patterns of interest and engagement, doubt and denial, as well as the players involved and understanding what the role of language is in this process.

In another project academics from the UK, France, Germany and Netherlands will critically review children and their welfare as a major priority in government policy within the UK and across Europe. This is a very dynamic area of policy and existing and emerging approaches are filled with uncertainties and may even be creating new social divisions among families. “There is a need to look behind child-centred approaches which promote investment in children, to take an overview and see their strengths and weaknesses”, commented Professor Mary Daly of Queen’s University Belfast. A number of child-centred and parenting programmes in each country will be reviewed and studied to find out how these programmes work and why there is a move to more child-centred approaches within these countries.

Researchers from the UK and France will study why markets are constantly in a state of uncertainty and flux. Professor Wojciech Charemza, University of Leicester, aims to develop new methods of forecasting where extreme scenarios are not treated as glitches, but as essential functions of economic processes. Before the recent global financial crisis the common practice was to assume that the economy was developing in a stable manner where extreme events were uncommon and regarded as rare shocks. Professor Charemza wants to ensure these drastic events receive attention in future economic predictions.

Paul Boyle, Chief Executive of the ESRC, said: “The success of the ORA scheme is a testament to the close working relationships which have developed in recent years between the ESRC and its partner agencies in Europe. Together we have demonstrated that national research funding agencies working in partnership can make significant strides towards the establishment of bureaucracy free methods of undertaking international research, without the need for excessive restrictions.”

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Notes for editors

  1. Open Research Area in Europe for social science- guidance and call reference.

  2. The agencies are currently working together to further simplify and streamline the submission and review process.  Following this, details of the next round of the ORA scheme will be announced in late spring or early summer 2011.

  3. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total expenditure in 2009/10 was about £211 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. 

  4. The ANR (French National Research Agency) is a research funding organisation. It was established by the French government in 2005 to fund research projects, based on competitive schemes giving researchers the best opportunities to realize their projects and paving the way for groundbreaking new knowledge. The role of the Agency is to bring more flexibility to the French research system, foster new dynamics and devise cutting edge-strategies for acquiring new knowledge. By identifying priority areas and fostering private-public collaborations, the ANR also aims at enhancing the general level of competitiveness of both the French research system and the French economy. Since its creation, the Agency’s budget has been growing, stabilising at around €820M in 2009. 6036 applications were received and evaluated in 2009, and 1334 of them were funded. ANR funds are available in all scientific fields, for both fundamental and industrial research and for public research organisations as well as private companies (through private/public partnerships). With a peer review process matching the highest international standards, ANR’s general goal is to fund excellent research, while also facilitating innovation and interdisciplinary work and developing European and international collaborations.

  5. The DFG is the central, self-governing research funding organisation in Germany. Its mission is to fund and promote all fields of science and the humanities. It does so by relying on its statutory bodies and its Head Office, which shape the work and structure of the DFG. In an international context, the DFG is a member of several scientific and science policy associations, thus contributing to international dialogue, cooperation among researchers, and to the formation of a European Research Area.

  6. The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) stimulates and finances research in every conceivable scientific discipline and facilitates innovations. It also strives to cultivate enthusiasm for scientific research and its results and to communicate this to a broad public. In addition to this, NWO is playing an increasingly pivotal role within Dutch science. This pivotal role between industry, society and research not only facilitates cooperation, but also the dissemination and application of fundamental research results.

  7. Professor Brigitte Nerlich, University Nottingham. Project title: From Greenhouse Effect to Climategate: A Systematic Study of Climate Change a Complex Social Issue. (RES-360-25-0068)

  8. Professor Mary Daly, Queen’s University Belfast. Project title: Governing 'new social risks': The case of recent child policies in European welfare states. (RES-360-25-0062)

  9. Professor Wojciech Charemza, University of Leicester. Project title: Probabilistic approach to assessing macroeconomic uncertainties (RES-360-25-0003)

  10. Professor Rachel Griffith, Institute for Fiscal Studies. Project title: Developing Robust Methods for Evaluating Policies in the Markets for Food and Nutrition. (RES-360-25-0009)

  11. Professor Steve Woolgar, University of Oxford. Project title: NESSHI The 'Neuro-turn' in European Social Sciences and Humanities: Impacts of neurosciences on economics, marketing and philosophy. (RES-360-25-0018)

  12. Dr Paul Geissler, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Project title: Memorials and remains of medical research in Africa: An anthropology of scientific landscapes, ruins and artefacts. (RES-360-25-0032)

  13. Professor Paul Dolan, London School of Economics and Political Science. Project title: Going for Gold? The intangible effects of the 2012 Olympic Games in London and Paris. (RES-360-25-0036)

  14. Professor Philip Cooke, Cardiff University. Project title: Territories and technologies in an unstable knowledge economy: An evolutionary framework of regional resilience. (RES-360-25-0044)

  15. Professor Denis Mareschal, Birkbeck College. Project title: Grounding early time perception in infant motor activity. (RES-360-25-0056)

  16. Dr Julie Smith, University of Cambridge. Project title: National Parliaments after the Lisbon Treaty: Domestic Watchdogs or Autonomous Players? (EU-ParlWatch). (RES-360-25-0061)

  17. Dr Ismael Rafols, University of Sussex. Project title: Mapping the Dynamics of Emerging Technologies. (RES-360-25-0076)

  18. Dr Kataryna Wolczuk, University of Birmingham. Project title: Exploring the Role of the EU in Domestic Change in the Post-Soviet States. (RES-360-25-0096)

  19. Professor Paula Niedenthal, Universite Blaise Pascal LAPSCO. Project title: The Body in Embodiment: Specifying the Role of Peripheral Input in Grounded Cognition. (ORA-10-108)

  20. Marzena Watorek University of Paris. Project title: Varieties of Initial Learners in Language Acquisition (VILLA): Controlled classroom input and elementary forms of linguistic organisation. (ORA-10-121)

  21. Dr Gitta Jacob Freiburg University. Project title: Emotional dysregulation and threat bias in borderline personality disorder: Changes in brain activation and information processing during the course of psychological treatment. (ORA-10-132)