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Towards a Definition of Socio-Economic Research for the RESPECT Project
A draft working paper by Ursula Huws, RESPECT Project Director

Introduction
The term ‘socio-economic research’ is in widespread use in the
European Commission’s work programmes and elsewhere. In the
Fourth Framework Programme, for instance, there was a programme entitled ‘Targeted Socio-Economic Research’ (TSER) and in the Fifth Framework Programme there were numerous calls for proposals to carry out socio-economic research related to
Information Society Technologies (in the IST Programme) and to other issues of relevance to EU policy. At national level, there are also economic and social research funding councils in most
European Countries. However, nowhere in this documentation, as far as I can tell, is any definition offered of ‘socio-economic research’. For the purposes of the RESPECT project, however, it is necessary to have some sort of functional definition. This short discussion paper is designed as the first step towards the development of such a definition. As the project develops, this definition will be tested in relation to the actual practices of socio-economic researchers, whose activities, qualifications and professional affiliations will be profiled as part of the project’s work.
In the meantime, a brief survey of projects described as socioeconomic research projects indicates that they cover a very broad range in relation to the backgrounds and qualifications of the researchers, the methodologies used and the subject matter addressed. It is clear that drawing a clear boundary around these projects that will distinguish them from other fields of endeavour, is likely to be extremely difficult, if not impossible. The word
‘society’ (and hence the prefix ‘socio-’) applies in its broadest sense to all human activity. There will therefore inevitably be...

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