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phase project of the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia, 2019-2022,
supported by the Centre for Culture and Governance in Europe, University
of St. Gallen


social sciences and humanities (SSH) in many parts of Europe have been
experiencing serious difficulties over the past decades – at the level
of both secondary and tertiary education, in terms of sustainable career
prospects as well as growth of research opportunities. A major factor
feeding into these developments is the chronic underfunding of the field
– a trend common to many European states, one that follows the growing
global appetite for STEM instead of SSH-oriented curricula, which in
turn responds better to economic growth and labour market needs. In many
countries this diminishes the incentives among students to enrol, even
less pursue an academic career, in SSH, whereas in Southeast and Central
Europe it boosts the rates of academic emigration instead: scholars
with stronger SSH records find less and less motivation and/or enough
opportunities to seek career development at home. Accordingly, the
overall quality of local academic environments deteriorates, as there
remain fewer professionals to contribute to its advancement. This is a
vicious circle indeed: underfunding and depressed research environment
lead to increased de-motivation and emigration, which affects negatively
the quality of academic output, which then brings more underfunding and
less incentive to pursue academic career. In brief, the social sciences
and humanities are facing a complex challenge, the successful
overcoming of which may be decisive for their health in the mid to
long-term future.

Evaluation systems and potential flaws

project builds on the hypothesis that the variety of local SSH
evaluation systems and, most importantly, performance-based funding
mechanisms harmonised with the systems in question operate as a hidden,
yet very substantial, factor underlying these negative trends. Thus,
very often there is a lack of sufficient separation between STEM- and
SSH-related criterial sets; the overemphasis on scientometrics based on
commercial services such as Scopus or Web of Science has been pushed to
the limits of a significant or full exclusion of non-English language
publications; functional criteria filters for publications in languages
other than English or for specific academic genres (such as academic
translations, critical primary source editions, etc.) may be lacking
altogether. We suggest that identifying these and other potential flaws
would be a major step towards improving the global health of Europe’s

To accomplish this task, we propose to:

  1. Provide
    a detailed comparative analysis of the current evaluation policies in
    both minor and major non-English-speaking countries (a) such as e.g.
    Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Slovenia, the Baltic States,
    Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, as well as (b) those
    somewhat better positioned with regard to research funding, such as
    e.g. Holland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and juxtapose these with the
    situation in countries like Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and Spain.
  2. Identify
    and examine in detail the specific financial mechanisms in charge of
    SSH funding, i.e. the normative documents and guidelines providing
    strict criteria sets and/or even precise mathematical formulae used as
    technical means for performance-based SSH budget calculations.
  3. Align
    the best practices in (1) and (2) above and, hence, devise improved or
    alternative evaluation matrices which allow for better linguistic
    representation and provide appropriate quality filters for research in
    the field.

Depending on the findings following each one of
these three stages, we expect to be able to outline performance-based
funding approaches which are both more balanced and healthier in view of
the specifics of SSH research.

Planned Outcomes

Upon successful completion, the project will provide (1) a detailed web-based interactive map of SSH evaluation criteria
and performance-based funding mechanisms across Europe’s
non-English-speaking countries. Further on, (2) this will facilitate the
completion of an extensive pack of specific policy support
guidelines – ones that secure a brighter, more inclusive and fertile SSH
future. On the solid basis of all this, we expect (3) to build a
dynamic primary network of scholars across the Continent to facilitate,
later on, the launch of a grander initiative: an EC-funded permanent European SSH Evaluation Observatory
with the primary task of regularly updating the ‘map’ of SSH funding in
diverse corners of Europe. We believe this will prove to be of vital
benefit to research networks, teams, and institutions across the

How to apply

CAS Sofia is looking for committed SSH national experts to join the team. Their primary tasks will include:

  • Providing detailed insight into the evaluation matrices and funding mechanisms of the respective professional home country;
  • Taking
    part in a series of workshops (max. twice a year over a period of three
    years, 2020-2022; travel and accommodation costs will be covered by
  • Taking part in the preparation of a follow-up project for the establishment of a permanent European SSH Evaluation Observatory.

If interested, please complete the APPLICATION FORM and send it along with your CV to Mr Dimiter Dimov, dimov@cas.bg , not later than 15 May 2020.