Nataliya Borys: You have been re-appointed to Horizon 2020 advisory groups for Societal challenge and for Gender. When did you start to work in Horizon 2020 advisory groups? Why have you accepted to be the part of it?
Andrea PETŐ: I have been working in different EU-funded framework programs (5,6,7 framework programs) and also as an evaluator of different projects submitted to EC Directorate General Research. I guess that was the reason I was asked to join the Advisory Group on Societal Challenges in 2014 and now in 2016. The work of the European Commission looks like a black box from outside. I was interested to see and explore these processes. As a feminist I was wondering if critical interventions are possible in the field of European research policy.
Nataliya Borys: What is the aim of the Horizon2020 Advisory Group for Gender? When was this group created for the first time?
Andrea PETŐ: The integration of gender in the different framework programs is not a success story but as a process of doing tedious work. As a result of lot of lobbying, each Advisory Group of Horizon2020 has, at least one person who is a gender expert and these gender experts are forming their own Advisory Group and they are having their own strategic meeting separately. As the appointment of members of the Advisory Group is very political and a result of harmonization of different interests (national, sectorial, personal) the members are really representing different interests and approaches. The common characteristic of all these experts is that they are all senior experts.
Nataliya Borys: Recently you participated in the workshop in Novy Sad (Serbia) about Gender in research and application in projects: special focus on Horizon 2020 projects. Should such workshops be necessary? What was the aim of it?
Andrea PETŐ: The COST funding is a powerful instrument for disseminating ideas and results of European research. The http://www.genderste.eu/ is a program which aims to integrate gender more in research and innovation. Its members represent government bodies, research organizations, universities, non-profits, and private companies from 40 countries, in Europe and beyond, as well as international organizations. The training in Novy Sad was the one in the row of training organised by the Edith Stein Training School https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEDZplYfKUY for those who do not know anything about gender. That is a good start that there are more than 40 participants from Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Romania who at least wanted to know what gender is and how can they use gender analysis in their own work.
Nataliya Borys: What can you suggest to Ukrainian scholars, who, for the first time, can participate in programs of Horizon2020 with gender topics? How to proceed? How are the keys to succeed in these projects?
Andrea PETŐ: Gender is a cross-cutting issue which means that every project should address the gender dimension of the proposal. If they think it is not relevant they need to explicitly address why is not relevant. Among the evaluators there is a specialist who flagged that he or she is a gender expert too, so giving such explanations is not easy. Previously EC was more supporting to big consortiums for research. To be a part of these networks scholars need to be a part of international networks and have a supporting university administration because the financial arrangements are tailored for rich and well-functioning higher educational institutions. It is not enough to have fluent in academic English and having cutting edge ideas in your profession you need to have a supporting, well organized and financially well off institution. Now due to complain from the members’ states who looked at the charts showing how research money has been distributed, the priorities are moving towards financing smaller projects. Here small countries might have a bigger chance.
Nataliya Borys: How to write a competitive proposal in gender topics for Horizon 2020? What do you suggest?
Andrea PETŐ: The EC is offering consultancy for projects and also every country has a contact point for EC research funding. My suggestion is to use these opportunities and lobbying possibilities for your own research projects.
Nataliya Borys: Do you think that « fashionable topics » exist in European research?
Andrea PETŐ: The refugee crises found the EC decision-makers totally unprepared. No matter that migration studies and human rights scholars for decades have been working on this, at the recent meeting of our Advisory Group the statement about European unpreparedness was made. This shows that there is a serious gap between the present state of art of the scholarship and the EC decision makers. That is the gap what the Advisory Board is expected to fill in and I hope we will be doing a good job.
Nataliya Borys: The majority of eligible applications were submitted from the five biggest EU member states: Italy, Spain, UK, Germany and France. How can you explain it? What to do with “small” countries, as Ukraine or Hungary, who do not have financial resources, and no experience to write such highly competitive proposals?
Andrea PETŐ: The inequality in resources is a serious issue. Hungary is just ahead by Poland as far as EU research funding is concerned because CEU, my university is alone attracting as much funding as whole Poland. CEU has around 1000 faculty but because there is a big and well-staffed research support office it is very successful. The applicants do not need to deal with the administration and budgetary aspects of the projects because there are university administrators who are assigned this task in the early phase of preparing the project. The university is also advancing the funds till the funding is being transferred from the EC which takes time. As I see from inside in early phase of writing the calls there are serious negotiation activity happening for prioritizing certain research areas which will get funding later. My suggestion is to learn the rule of the game and form alliances and lobby.
Nataliya Borys: From 2014 Switzerland participates partially in the Horizon 2020 after the adoption of the mass immigration initiative in a popular vote on 9 February 2014. Quite unusually the EU decided “to punish” Switzerland by not allowing them to participate in European research programs. What do you think about these quite surprising measures?
Andrea PETŐ: The European Union project is not a menu card that you can order a la cart. Member states need to take what is in the whole package. Research programs are redistributing EU taxpayer’s money in order to develop the EU as a whole. This ban on Switzerland has a symbolic meaning to draw the line. I am curious to see what will happen if the Brexit will happen as in England writing EU application developed to be a major business and most of the research funding of universities in the UK is EU money.
Nataliya Borys: It seems that humanities (history, gender studies), as science, is the smallest part of Horizon 2020. Is there any place for gender in Horizon 2020? Do you know which percentage gender projects take among others? What do you think about this tendency to privilege exact sciences?
Andrea PETŐ: Originally the EC did not even want to make a special program on humanities and social sciences but there was European wide protest, mobilization and collecting signatures which actually achieved two things. First, there is a minuscule separate program as far as funding is concerned for humanities and social sciences. It is one of the smallest as far as funding is concerned but it is there so it is the responsibility of the Advisory Group together with the members states what kind of project they will support from that. Second the social relevance became a horizontal issue for all research programs. This means that every project proposal should address what is the societal impact. Of course researchers in STEM do not necessary have the expertise to address that and fill in that section of the application so then comes the expertise of the different companies who are making money with writing up applications. Ideally, this will foster the collaboration between social sciences, humanities and STEM in the long run.
Andrea PETŐ is a Professor at the Department of Gender Studies at Central European University (CEU), Budapest, Hungary and Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Her research areas include European Comparative social and gender history, gender and politics, women’s movements, qualitative methods, oral history, Holocaust. Some of her courses at the CEU cover the following topics: Gendered Memories of Holocaust, Memory Bandits, Qualitative Methods in Social Science Research: Oral History, Interrogating Archives and others. She has been reappointed as a member of the Horizon 2020 Advisory Group for Societal Challenge “Europe in a changing world – Inclusive, Innovative and Reflective Societies” for another 2 years (2016-2018) and to the Horizon2020 Advisory Group for Gender by the European Commission.
 Please check the complete list of her courses at https://people.ceu.edu/andrea_peto