Innovative consultations give citizens a voice on EU research policy

For the first time, the European Commission has conducted a Europe-wide citizen consultation to inform EU research policy and give citizens a voice in EU-policymaking.

The VOICES project is a year-long consultation process that has been led by Ecsite, the European network of science centres and museums. In each of the 27 Member States, science centres and museums conducted, in total, 100 focus groups to find out 1,000 citizens’ opinions, hopes, fears and ideas on urban waste as a resource. The results have helped to shape Horizon 2020, the European Commission’s next work programme on research and innovation.

It is the first time that direct citizen consultation to inform government policy has been run on this scale using qualitative methodology. The aim is to mainstream this process to inform other research areas. Country reports for each of the 27 Member States are now available and a final European report summarising the key findings is due to be published shortly.

The results have been used to shape EU research priorities but are also of value to many other stakeholders, including industry, researchers and educators, working with urban waste management issues.

At the heart of the VOICES project is the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). This means engaging the public more in research and innovation (R&I), making R&I more socially responsive and encouraging shared responsibility for R&I agendas, practices and outcomes. As powerful spaces for public engagement, science centres and museums are seen to have a key role in RRI.

RRI is also the focus of a new European project to create tools aimed at raising awareness, training, disseminating and implementing RRI in 30 countries. VA (Public & Science) is part of the European consortium responsible for delivering the RRI Tools project, which will involve collaborative input from a range of stakeholders, including researchers, civil society, industry, education and policymakers. The project will start in January 2014.

To find out more about the VOICES (Views, Opinions and Ideas of Citizens in Europe on Science) project and access the reports, visit More information about the RRI Tools project will be available in early 2014.

Helen Garrison

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