emerging trends in socio-economic sciences and humanities in

The METRIS Report: Future
Agendas for Social Sciences
Monitoring Emerging Trends in Research in Socio-economic Sciences and
Humanities In Europe
Poul Holm
Trinity College Dublin
EU Framework context
• Mission-oriented / Diffusion-oriented
• Research priorities / Grand challenges
• Targeted SS(H)
– (these) “targeted socio-economic research
activities aim at elucidating decision-making in
future by developing a shared knowledge
base on the challenges facing Europe”
(Council decision for TSER Programme 1994)
Anneli PAULI
Chapter 1
• METRIS: The primary purpose to identify
important emerging trends in SSH research
– not an exercise in mapping aimed at an exhaustive
– Rather, an exercise in judgement, and as such was
conditioned by the composition of the expert group
Priority areas FP7 +
– Growth, employment and competitiveness in a knowledge
– Combining economic, social and environmental objectives in a
European perspective
– Major trends in society and their implications
– Europe in the world
– The citizen in the European Union
– Beyond FP7: cross-cutting trends
– recommendations for further action
– The report does not cover the important contribution of SSH to the other
nine themes of FP7 although overlapping interests may be identified
Chapter 1
How do we identify a trend?
By means of informed guesswork which identifies
• Major trends in society:
– Socially/politically recognised problems
– To which degree are they being picked up by research?
• Major trends in research
– Academic problems
– Are they socially relevant?
Chapter 3
Growth, Employment and Competitiveness
in a Knowledge-Based Society
• The study of innovation will remain high on the agenda
– in particular analyses focusing on the institutional and social
dimensions of innovation and creativity
• The emphasis placed on the role of intangibles in the socalled knowledge economy will increase researchers’
interest in
human, social and cultural capital
in the experience economy
in measures of value
Social welfare as a productive factor
• With the current economic crisis issues of financial
stability and economic governance are also coming back
to the fore.
Chapter 4
• How are societies kept together?
• Research will maintain a focus on issues of
constitutionalism and formal citizenship
• New focus on the proliferation of different types of
– religious, sexual, scientific, biological citizenship
• New forms of participation in the public sphere, and new
participant subjects – such as corporations
• Researchers increasingly understand citizenship by
analysing its limits or its confines and by looking at noncitizens
Chapter 5
Combining Economic, Social and
Environmental Objectives
• How can we achieve multiple goals at one time?
• A growing engagement of the SSH with the study of the
environment in its various dimensions
– biodiversity, landscapes, or conservation
– socioeconomic consequences of climate change
• New approaches to social cohesion and to the analysis
of social inequalities
– new emphasis on globalising trends
• Alternative models of growth and alternative theories of
• Studies of risk and risk-management
Chapter 6
Europe and the World
• What is the role of Europe in the world?
– EU support plays a significant role relative to the
support at national levels
• Europe’s place in multilateral frameworks
• European identity and the social and political
dimensions of memory
• The markets for education and research of a
knowledge-based economy
• Global circuits of cultural and immaterial
Chapter 7
Beyond The FP7 Rubrics: A Few Examples
• How are the SSH transforming itself and society with
new research questions?
• The ‘iconic turn’
– the role of images, visualisations and iconic languages
delineates a complex ecology of the visual
• New approaches to space and spatiality
– The importance of physical space and the rethinking of many
territorialised concepts
• A renewed interest in affects and emotions
• The erosion of the traditional boundaries of scientific
Cross-cutting themes for coordinated
• The future of and new forms of social welfare
• A new research agenda on migration breaking with methodological
• Interdisciplinary research on innovation
• Sustainability research on the ‘post-carbon’ city
• New approaches to value and valuation in the context of knowledge
• Space, landscape and virtuality as new socio-political environments
• Time and memory as social formations and as political issues
• The technologisation of research in the social sciences and the
• The iconic turn and the analysis of iconospheres
• New approaches to governance and regulation
= amenable to FLA
Design has supplanted tradition
• We question, redefine and reshape processes
and products by choosing elements of disparate
origin and context
• Design-thinking provides us with hitherto
unknown freedom, room for creation and
widening horizons
• The flipside is a constant fear that we ourselves
and what we believe in may be made redundant
and emptied of meaning and purpose
= not amenable to FLA
“most authors discussing
scenario analysis recommend
the use of multiple scenarios.
The future is uncertain, and
analysis of just one scenario
does little to communicate
much about the range of
opportunities and challenges
liable to confront us.” (p.72)
“Social scientists’ foresight has been poor at key junctures, and social science’s
influence a mixed blessing. Social scientists did not foresee the fall of the Berlin
Wall in 1989, which was afterwards prominently interpreted as ‘the end of history’ –
the final victory of constitutional democracy and free markets. As the current
economic crisis was unfurling in October 2008, Alan Greenspan, recognized as ‘the
maestro’, and the chair of the US Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, conceded that
his free-market conception of shunning regulation was deficient. ‘Yes, I found a
flaw’, he said in a congressional hearing: ‘That is precisely the reason I was shocked
because I’d been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it
was working exceptionally well.’ His social science map no longer provided guidance.
In Malawi, the World Bank has undertaken self-criticism for pushing private markets,
opposing government regulation and fertilizer subsidies aimed at promoting cash
crops for exports – a policy that resulted in food shortages. More broadly, from Marx
and Myrdal to the Washington consensus, development theories have been only
modestly successful.
Furthermore, part of the diagnosis of the present global economic predicament is that
social scientists were instrumental in constructing – or misconstructing – both the
toxic ‘financial instruments’ and flawed institutions. More than that, social
scientists, sometimes for opportunistic reasons, did not understand how their own
creation worked or monitor how it unfolded. In short: if it is not good when the
social science models of the world are misconstrued, it is even worse when its
models for the world lead to misconstruction of the world itself.”
World Social Science Report, pp vi
• “The quest for relevance in the social sciences
triumphed during the mid-twentieth century, celebrating
planning, social engineering and foresight. Its latest
embodiment is the belief in evidence-based policy.
Yet, it is often difficult to discern which kind of evidence
counts in a given situation, whose evidence is to be
used, and for what purpose....”
• “Shifting from relevant knowledge to socially robust
knowledge includes multiple, even contradictory,
Helga Nowotny, in World Social Science Report, pp 320-1
• Politicians like choices
• And researchers may provide evidencebased foresights in restricted set-ups
• What works in the class-room, what incentives work in which
environments, etc.
• But social innovation is endlessly surprising
– And defeats foresight and politics!
• So good SSH for politics must prepare us
– to navigate more often than manage the future
– To embrace innovation more often than predict
Tourism, ICT
Knowledge Transfer
Value systems
Coping with change
Social cohesion
Cultural acceptance

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