Guest commentary: Science Europe participates at the Connect.Collaborate.Create. Conference

Science Europe was delighted to be invited to participate in the ‘Connect. Collaborate. Create.’ (CCC) Conference to discuss stakeholder participation in research and research processes. Science Europe’s current work is framed according to three strategic priorities : ‘Shape European research policy developments’, ‘Contribute to the evolution of research culture’ and ‘Strengthen the role and contribution of science in tackling societal challenges’. The broad topic of public engagement cuts across all three of these priority areas and challenges the organisation and our members to consider stakeholder participation from the viewpoints of: research quality, impact, and research as a common good.

Speaking on the panel entitled: “When funding agencies do stakeholder participation: Aspirations and ethical implications” gave us an opportunity to reflect on how stakeholder participation in research processes can improve the quality of outcomes, what efforts are needed in terms of training and guidance to support these types of engagement effectively, and what implications viewing research as a public good has on the need for broader participation. These are discussions that Science Europe would like to take forward in its activities with both its funding and performing member organisations. The panel discussion highlighted the role that stakeholder participation can play in supporting and improving public trust in research – a very important and timely consideration in our current social and political climate. The panel discussion emphasised the responsibility of enabling stakeholder participation that public research organisations (such as Science Europe members) may have because of their publicly funded nature. Another important role that research funding and performing organisations may take in promoting stakeholder participation that was raised during the panel is that of appropriately recognising and rewarding public engagement activities in research assessment processes: here, links to the growing reform of research assessment movement ( CoARA ) will be vital. All of these points will offer topics of future discussions and actions within Science Europe.

Indeed, building on the momentum of the conference and the rich conversations we enjoyed during it, we will work with partners to propose a Participatory and Citizen Science themed Working Group as part of CoARA. The group would consider some of the crucial questions that participatory processes raise for research assessment, such as how to incentivise researchers to embrace such methods; how to appropriately weigh and assess the variety of outputs that results from these projects, and how to properly recognise citizen participation in research and ensure mutual benefits from such research. For Science Europe, these conversations will form part of a new portfolio of activity on Science and Society whose focus includes citizen science, science communication, artificial intelligence, and the overlap of these issues with research ethics, integrity, and assessment.

Overall, it was great to see the breadth of activities and impact of two important European projects: PRO-Ethics and COESO across the sessions and workshops of the conference, and Science Europe will be referring to the evidence and policy guidance established in both as our own activities on the topic take further shape.

By James Morris and Claire Salinas, Science Europe

Photos Emilia Da Silva Rosario - Ereb Studio
Published: 23.11.2023