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4. March 2013 13:45

ESF-COST reveals broader significance of Cultural Literacy

Cultural literacy studies remain important in handling the broader challenges facing Europe today.

Literary and Cultural Studies (LCS) research makes a key contribution to analysing European identities and cultures and has a significant role to play in enhancing the essential responses to a range of broader issues facing Europe today. This is a key finding of a new Science Policy Briefing (SPB), Cultural Literacy in Europe Today, published today by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) and the European Science Foundation (ESF).

In the last decades of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st, the contribution made to European science, society and intellectual cultures by work produced by scholars trained in literary studies has increased significantly and has witnessed radical changes. Designating this research field as ‘literary and cultural studies’, or LCS, gives it a name and an identity.

In 2009, the ESF-COST project Cultural Literacy in Europe Today was set up with the aim of exploring the specificity, reach and contribution of LCS research. This most recent Science Policy Briefing focuses on its broad societal resonance, highlighting the relevance of LCS research to policy-makers and to society in general

SPB48 has also provided four recommendations to demonstrate the added value that the knowledge and expertise of LCS researchers offers:

  • Recommendation 1: Create a Cultural Literacy conference series

A biennial Cultural Literacy conference should be created to present new research developments, urgent debates, and general issues such as interdisciplinarity and communication or the future of the field.

  • Recommendation 2: Inaugurate a European Forum for LCS research

A pan-European Forum should be created to develop methods for integrating LCS research on two levels: into the explicitly interdisciplinary strategy of the proposal for Horizon 2020 and into national research strategies. This Forum should also include representatives of governmental institutions concerned with societal challenges such as migration, demographic change, health, equality and education, and representatives of the major European research funding agencies.

  • Recommendation 3: Develop flexible funding instruments

European and national funding and policymaking agencies should be invited to introduce flexible funding instruments that respond more productively to the profile of the LCS community. An organisation like COST, which focuses its funding on research networking, would be an ideal partner for this development.

  • Recommendation 4: Embed Cultural Literacy in higher education

Higher education models providing students from non- LCS programmes with access to LCS curricula would be promoted. Exposure to LCS studies should also be achieved through guided but essentially student-led events such as short conferences, at which LCS and non-LCS undergraduates and postgraduates would debate issues of concern to them.

Professor Milena Žic-Fuchs, ESF Standing Committee for the Humanities said; ‘We raised a concern many years ago about what was happening in and to literary studies and it is important that both ESF and COST continue to recognise the importance of Literary and Cultural Studies. This latest report has provided clear recommendations in trying to demonstrate what the knowledge and expertise of LCS researchers offers and we look forward to seeing these proposals come to fruition’.

The impact of LCS researchers and their research depends on continuing the work of this ESF–COST synergy into further activities of networking and visibility. Cultural literacy is already active in many areas but it is not sufficiently recognised. This project has been the first step in making it so.  

Notes to editors
For more information, please contact:  
Tom Reast 
+44 203 1764721 

About ESF 
The European Science Foundation (ESF) was established in 1974 to provide a common platform for its Member Organisations to advance European research collaboration and explore new directions for research. It is an independent organisation, owned by 67 Member Organisations, which are research funding organisations, research performing organisations and academies from 29 countries. ESF promotes collaboration in research itself, in funding of research and in science policy activities at the European level. Currently ESF is reducing its research programmes while developing new activities to serve the science community, including peer review and evaluation services.

About COST
COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is an intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology, allowing the coordination of nationally-funded research on a European level. It contributes to reducing the fragmentation in European research investments and opening the European Research Area to cooperation worldwide. As a precursor of advanced multidisciplinary research, COST plays a very important role in building a European Research Area (ERA). It anticipates and complements the activities of the EU Framework Programmes, constituting a “bridge” towards the scientific communities of emerging countries. It also increases the mobility of researchers across Europe and fosters the establishment of scientific excellence. COST is currently managed by the ESF.