The aim of the Science with and for Society (SWAFS) programme is to build effective co-operation between science and society, to recruit new talent for science, and to pair scientific excellence with social awareness and responsibility.
The European Commission’s view is that the strength of the European science and technology system depends on its capacity to harness talent and ideas from wherever they exist. This can only be achieved if a fruitful and rich dialogue and active cooperation between science and society is developed to ensure a more responsible science and to enable the development of policies more relevant to citizens. Rapid advances in contemporary scientific research and innovation have led to a rise of important ethical, legal and social issues that affect the relationship between science and society. Improving the co-operation between science and society to enable a widening of the social and political support to science and to technology in all Member States is increasingly a crucial issue that the economic crisis has greatly exacerbated. Public investment in science requires a vast social and political constituency sharing the values of science, educated and engaged in its processes and able to recognise its contributions to knowledge, to society and to economic progress.
SWAFS will be instrumental in building capacities and developing innovative ways of connecting science to society. It will make science more attractive (notably to young people), raise the appetite of society for innovation, and open up further research and innovation activities. It will allow all societal actors (researchers, citizens, policymakers, business, third sector organisations, etc.) to work together during the whole research and innovation process in order to better align both the process and its outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of European society. This approach is known as Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).
RRI is an inclusive approach to research and innovation, to ensure that societal actors work together during the whole research and innovation process. In general terms, RRI implies anticipating and assessing potential implications and societal expectations with regard to research and innovation. In practice, RRI consists of designing and implementing research and innovation policy that will:
- Engage society more broadly in its research and innovation activities;
- Increase access to scientific results;
- Ensure gender equality, in both the research process and research content;
- Take into account the ethical dimension; and
- Promote formal and informal science education.