Science for Citizens: how science meets regions and cities
This session brought together projects from various backgrounds, with one crucial question in common: how to involve citizens as key stakeholders in evidence-based policy-making, in order to create ownership and carry out effective reform.
Marzia Mazzonetto, project manager of EU-Citizen.Science - funded by Horizon 2020 "Science with and for Society"(SWAFS) - gave several examples of how citizens can be the source of scientific evidence to underpin policy measures on important issues such as air pollution. Nhien Nguyen (SeeRRI project) and Nikos Zaharis (TeRRItoria) tackled the problem from the angle of responsible research and innovation, emphasising the importance of involving all actors in the "quadruple helix" in transition processes. Jakub Jackowski, from the marshall's office of the Polish Wielkopolska region, emphasised that even if scientific facts are available to support a policy initiative (in this case, the move from coal-based energy production to hydrogen) we still need to get citizens on board in order to accept this change. Building systemic cooperation between academia and decision-makers will help solve societal problems, on the condition that citizens are on board.
In the field of research and innovation specifically, developing territorial Responsible Research and Innovation should involve the quadruple helix – citizens, decision makers, academia and industry - in order to forge strategies tailored to local contexts. This will strengthen regional competitiveness and sustainability. It is also the way to face the transitions affecting European society. The increasing social weakness of science, delocalization of industrial production, the impact of climate change, the emergence of digital technologies, and the effects of national and international migration flows are difficult to manage for local governments. RRI has the capacity to support governance through scientific processes in uncertain and ambiguous periods.
Take away message
Citizens need to be involved in evidence-based policy processes more actively. This is the only way to guarantee these processes succeed, rather than pushing ahead with innovation strategies and societal reforms over the heads of people.
Citizens provide the "missing link" in evidence-based policy: involving them actively means strengthening the uptake of scientific results and innovative solutions in society. This can have a tangible impact on policy-making, and often involves authorities wishing to solve problems in partnership with local communities.
Marzia Mazzonetto: "Citizen science represents a great opportunity to bring citizens and researchers together, to share research questions and to address community needs".
Nikos Zaharis: "Developing a Territorial RRI means facing the broad transitional processes that are affecting European society, and that are difficult to manage for local governments. RRI has the capacity to support governance through scientific processes in uncertain and ambiguous periods".
"Regions could work together on identifying a set of core principles and a roadmap to achieve an RRI ecosystem. RRI gives all the actors involved a voice. The quadruple helix – citizens, decision-makers, academia and industry – must be engaged to create RRI strategies tailored to local contexts".
Jakub Jackowski: "Every change, no matter how small, that influences society must be done with the involvement of people. They have to understand the importance and reasons behind these changes and how they will affect their life. Only then will they be able to really participate in the process".