F2. Allow CSOs to help shape the research agenda

By allowing CSOs to influence the research agenda, funders can ensure a better fit between CSO needs and requirements and the content of the research. Early inclusion of CSOs is furthermore useful to achieve certain policy goals, such as ensuring a strong link between societal needs and EU-funded research.

In order to achieve CSO input into agenda setting funders can:

  • Include CSOs when developing the research agenda and calls for proposals

  • Ensure CSO representation in the proposal evaluation stage

In cases where CSOs are part of the agenda setting, it is important to clarify the funders' expectations to ensure that CSOs are in agreement with their intended roles, and are capable of fulfilling their tasks in shaping research agendas.

Guiding Questions

Funders who are considering encouraging the involvement of CSOs in research projects should consider:

  • Is it necessary to actively encourage participation by groups outside the community of 'usual' EU funding applicants, for example to attract smaller civil society groups or those with specialist interests?

    • Is sufficient time allowed for building relationships between the CSO representatives and those involved in the strategic funding decisions?

    • Are appropriate briefing mechanisms in place in order to ensure that the CSO representatives are able to take a full and active role within the agenda setting and/or proposal evaluation processes?

Example: Voices project as an example of agenda setting through public engagement

The VOICES (Views, Opinions and Ideas of Citizens in Europe on Science) project, although not one of the case studies of the CONSIDER project, is a good example of civil society engagement for the purpose of setting research agenda. It explored citizens' views on urban waste as a resource and its results were fed into the development of the next work programme in the Horizon 2020 funding programme. VOICES interacted with citizens using more than 100 focus groups and made extensive use of CSOs, in particular science museums, as means of communicating with citizens.

'The first port of call I would make in terms of who the facilitators would be is to look to the ECSITE network, and the kinds of science museums and science communicators who I think provide a fantastic job in mobilising that process'. (Richard Watermeyer, Cardiff University, evaluator of the VOICES project)