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Social Sciences and Humanities: A New Agenda for Europe's Challenges

Why aren’t decision makers getting relevant answers to social problems? This was one of the key issues debated at the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) conference organised in Bratislava on November 15-16, 2016.

Hundreds of researchers, representatives of universities and research institutes, policy-makers, business representatives, NGOs and civil society groups gathered at the SSH conference to discuss the role of SSH in the European interconnected research agenda in order to effectively address the challenges that Europe is facing today. The scientists stressed that there was a number of scientific researches predicting the migrant crisis as well as the issues with radicalisation, extremism and failed integration policies, but clearly there is a problem in communication between the scientific community and the decision makers.

European Alliance for Social Sciences and Humanities

One of the possible solutions could be provided by the European Alliance for Social Sciences and Humanities (EASSH), with the goal to engage with policy makers to ensure that frameworks and processes for multi-national and European research programmes support the best research. It also works to ensure that these programmes can create a dialogue between SSH research and civil society, policy makers, and practitioners to ensure influence of research in the real world. 

Albanian researcher Edvin Zhllima from the Agricultural University of Tirana, one of the group of researchers from Albania and Serbia supported by PERFORM to attend the conference, appreciates valuable experience on what research organisations are doing to achieve cooperation, how they organise networking and what is high on their research agenda today. He believes that EASSH could serve as a good domain for knowledge and networking exchange for Albanian researchers.
"There are innovative ways of establishing networking for research activities where Balkan researchers can interact."

Revising the system of financing

General consensus among the participants was that the current system of financing has to be revised in order to relieve the scientists from the burden of bureaucracy and establish a system of project managers or agencies that would deal with most of the administrative work regarding the process of applying for research funds.

Dr Aleksandra Pavicevic from the Institute of Ethnography of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts talked about the issues that humanities are facing, pointing out that the system does not fit the nature of social sciences, especially humanities, and that the European challenges do not necessarily coincide with local challenges.
“I feel that Serbian science is not ready to fully rely on European funds. This especially applies to humanities that need to be protected as they are a part of cultural heritage and an important segment of cultural and social policy of the Republic of Serbia”, she added. 

Position of young researchers

Another goal of the conference was to discuss the strategies on enhancing the inclusion of young scientists in research, academia and innovative professions. The Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU listed as one of its priorities improving the position of young researchers and to that end supported the writing of the Bratislava Declaration of Young Researchers.

“My general impression is that junior scientists are more inclined to the values of pluralism, multiculturalism and interdisciplinarity. All young scientists unanimously stated mobility as a priority, but agreed that the position of researchers has to be more secure”, said Ksenija Milenkovic, a young researcher from Serbia.

Networking and cooperating

Prof. Darko Gavrilovic from the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Novi Sad welcomed the fruitful exchange with colleagues at the conference -
“It gave me an idea for a project that could contribute to the strengthening of research cooperation in the region as well as to the competitiveness of scientists from the region in international scientific journals”. 

 “We need events like this to connect with our colleagues in wider European circles and discuss the latest on research projects, new techniques and emerging subjects as well as launch new collaboration ideas”, said Alba Cela, Deputy Director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS).