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Published August 31, 2023 | Version Version 1.0
Project deliverable Open

D5.2 VERITY Policy Brief. Bringing Science Closer to Citizens

  • 1. Trilateral Research
  • 2. Science Business

Description

Societal trust in the research system and confidence in its outcomes is vital to ensure the EU’s contribution to attain the Sustainable Development Goals and to achieve the European Green Deal targets. It is equally important for the uptake of innovation in society and for making further steps towards engaging citizens in R&I policies. 

In recent years, vocal minorities advocating climate change denialism and vaccine scepticism have raised concerns about levels of public trust in scientific institutions and growing resistance to science-based recommendations. Some speculate that the fault lies with the relationships between government, science, and industry, which give the impression that science is no longer independent. In the EU overall, half of respondents (50%) of a survey on perceptions of science and technology agree that ‘we can no longer trust scientists to tell the truth about controversial scientific and technological issues because they depend more and more on money from industry.’

At the same time, the ecosystem of trust is shifting; authority is moving away from experts and institutions and towards private companies, social media platforms, and influencers, all of whom wield influence and audiences. This transition from institutional trust to distributed trust demarcates the transition from ‘science for society’ to ‘science with and for society.’ These changes mean that citizens are increasingly, albeit informally, included in the ecosystem of trust in one of two roles: as communicators of (mis)information or audiences with the power to promote certain messages as valid; as participants in citizen science at ‘different stages of the process and at different levels of engagement, from shaping research agendas and policies, to gathering, processing and analysing data, and assessing the outcomes of research.’ 

As such, the VERITY project recommends rebuilding the relationship between science and society by redefining the ecosystem of trust as a conceptual space within which societal trust in science is constructed, negotiated, enhanced, or reduced, as well as science society co-creation and open science are sought. To that end greater citizen and societal engagement in research and innovation is needed, via science-society co-creation, improved transparency and scientific communication, and citizen engagement initiatives. Initial findings of the VERITY project reveal a disconnect between citizens’ perception of science as an enterprise and scientists as researchers; some trusted individual scientists but were suspicious of conclusions reached via the scientific method, while for others, this trend was reversed. Actively including citizens in the scientific process can boost transparency, understanding, and trust, messages which participants can then disseminate using their role in the ecosystem of trust. 

Bringing science closer to citizens through active citizen and societal engagement in research and innovation is one of the priority areas for joint action under A Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe and in the ERA Policy Agenda for the period 2022-2024. One of the aims of the Horizon Europe programme is to ‘engage and involve citizens, civil society organisations and end-users in co-design and co-creation processes and promote responsible research and innovation.’ However, it also brings new challenges to the ecosystem of trust. Therefore, this brief is primarily aimed at EU institutions including the European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, and all actors working on science society co-creation and in the field of citizen engagement. These actors also include EU member states and their communities that initiate such programmes and so-called ‘brokers’ (moderators, facilitators, communicators) who promote two-way communication and exchange. This brief seeks to inform EU policymakers and officials involved in the implementation of the European Research Area Policy Agenda 2021-2024 and EU Missions related to citizen engagement activities.

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D5.2. Policy Brief_WATERMARK.pdf

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Additional details

Funding

VERITAS – deVEloping scientific Research with ethIcs and inTegrity for shAred benefitS 101058623
European Commission