Overview of guidelines to policmakers.
Who is a policymaker?
Policymakers are individuals involved in decision making or policy formulation. There are policymakers within different sectors encompassing nation-states/governments, political economic unions such as the EU, institutional/organisational levels as well as other sectors including business and industry. Policymakers make decisions/formulate policies on different aspects, be it health, business, ICTs. Anderson1 defines a policy as 'a guiding principle used to set direction… It can be a course of action to guide and influence decisions. It should be used as a guide to decision making under a given set of circumstances within the framework of objectives, goals and management philosophies as determined by senior management'. For purposes of this document, we concentrate on EU policymakers. These are in a position to ‘set direction’ on CSO participation in research by either setting policy regulations and formulating appropriate policies with clear guidance on CSO participation for CSO involvement in research. However, the guidelines are generally valid for research policy makers on national and other levels as well.
Why would policymakers be interested in including CSOs?
There is currently a strong call for and promotion of public participation in research. One good example of such a promotion is through EU research funding programmes such as the EU’s Horizon 2020. The political driver behind European research funding is the European Research Area.
Inclusion of CSOs aims to promote broader societal debate on aspects of research that affect the public. This call for civil society inclusion is most obviously plausible in the case of research into social challenges but applies as well to research for industrial leadership and excellent science. These programmes are intended to ensure that the desired broader societal participation is realised through for example and most notably though the funding scheme for the active participation of Civil Society Organisations in Research called 'Research for the Benefit of Specific Groups Civil Society Organisations BSG-CSO'.
Reason for promoting CSO involvement include:
the status of CSOs representatives of societal groups with the capacity to ensure that public interests are taken into consideration during the process of research,
increased accountability for the use of public funds in research,
transparency in research in the sense of communicating purpose and outcomes to the public,
increased legitimacy of research methods and outcomes,
higher acceptance of resulting technologies, products and services,
improved knowledge base of research leading to higher quality research.
From a policy perspective each of these may constitute a reason for including CSOs in research. It is important to see, however, that these aims are not identical and may call for different ways of implementing and evaluating CSO inclusion. It is therefore important for policymakers to be clear on what they want to achieve by including CSOs in research (see recommendation P1: Clarify objectives when encouraging CSO participation).
Recommendations to policymakers: