PART II: How can research funders (in particular the European Commission) better support SSH in Southern and Central & Eastern Europe?

4. Bring theory-driven, critical, reflexive and transformative research to the forefront of knowledge production with greater inclusion of SE/CEE know-how

While theory-driven research may not always provide immediate solutions to pressing social, economic or environmental problems, it can help address them more effectively in the medium- to long-term. Theory-driven research should be encouraged with a recognition that the speed and nature of outputs differ between SSH and STEM. Increasing the number of funding opportunities for critical, reflexive and transformative research, allowing experimentation outside the institutional agendas of the ‘Western/Nordic mainstream’, and bringing together different ways of knowing (e.g. local or traditional knowledge from SE/ CEE) will help develop solutions to current and future socio-ecological challenges, which are better tailored to different contexts and more likely to succeed.

5. Design and implement new grant schemes targeting the promotion of long-term, inclusive SSH research in SE/CEE countries

There is a need to overcome the short-term logic of project-based funding and seek a more profound and longer-term vision, in order for SSH to deliver its unique offerings. Targeted grant distribution schemes – focused for instance on improving working conditions and supporting permanent, well-paid positions – can help provide stability to SE/CEE researchers and institutions, aiding participation in collaborative international research. Additionally, novel mechanisms of grant distribution schemes that seek to maximise equality and diversity, rather than solely productivity, should be explored for both individual and collective grants. Examples of such schemes include (i) allocation of funding by random selection instead of competition (which often uses metrics that reproduce inequalities), and (ii) more schemes for SSH-STEM collaborations.

6. Launch situated, thematic calls and include reviewers from different geographies and disciplines

As outlined above, SE/CEE countries have specific challenges and particular historic conditions when it comes to climate, energy and mobility that are often neglected in funding calls. Sub-programmes aimed at widening participation via situated calls on relevant local challenges can support SE and CEE researchers to collaboratively advance solutions to local problems. Simultaneously, more reviewers from SE/CEE regions and across a greater number and wider variety of SSH disciplines should be involved – through processes similar to gender quotas – to help build inclusive research and innovation capacities for SE and CEE countries that are currently at the ‘periphery’.

7. Promote Open Science responsibly, with mechanisms to reduce barriers for SE/CEE authors and journals

Paying to publish Open Access (which is now often a funder requirement) can be a serious financial burden in most SE/CEE contexts. We wholeheartedly support the aim for knowledge production to be steered toward Open Science, but propose that this needs to be accompanied by the democratisation of knowledge production, which involves challenging the power of (usually nonSE/CEE) publishing companies and supporting the greater inclusion of authors from SE/CEE. Given that the publishing market is dominated by companies who may have less familiarity with CEE and SE contexts and research interests, this calls for acknowledging and legitimising SE/CEE authors’ contributions and for supporting their publishing (e.g. organising thematic issues in journals). We also call for a wider variety of open access knowledge exchange outputs to be evaluated and valued by reviewers, especially those aimed directly at policy makers, planners, civic groups, NGOs, and community members.