At present, almost every country within the European Union has its own OSH research programmes. Although numerous joint activities have been launched in recent years by the institutions responsible for OSH within Europe, no network exists in which the OSH research programmes in the EU are co-ordinated. The NEW OSH ERA is a joint, co-ordinated project involving a total of 18 participating bodies from 10 countries and funded under the Sixth EU Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Its purpose was to analyse the national programmes systematically, to initiate co-ordination at European level, and investigate the scope for joint calls for proposals. For this purpose, a virtual network was created with the support of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in Bilbao. The network makes provision for a sustainable common knowledge base for prioritizing research in occupational safety and health. The focus here lay upon emerging risks, since these will have a major influence upon future research priorities. The contribution made by the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) was focused upon introducing the research conducted by its institutions, and in particular its funding of third-party research, into the project as a whole.
Altogether, the project was implemented in four phases. The countries involved used several questionnaires to exchange information on their national research programmes. An overview was published on the extranet of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in Bilbao. In it, the particularly successful (good-practice) examples were identified and characterized. In the second phase, the parties to the project identified duplication and gaps within these programmes. A system for the identification of new challenges for OSH research was developed from the overall picture. Problem areas for joint transnational research activity were identified. In the third phase, specific transnational training programmes for programme managers were developed and made available. Tools were developed for the evaluation at transnational level of calls and the resulting proposals. In the final phase, a joint call for proposals was prepared and an action plan presented for a sustainable network. All activities were supported by comprehensive project management and co-ordination measures and by workshops and conferences.
The four project phases were all completed to schedule. In Phase 1, the following research priorities were defined: mental health risks associated with organizational changes and new work and employment patterns, and stress-related diseases; combined exposure to multiple risk factors; safety in the context of nanoparticles and ultrafine particles; complex human-machine interfaces. In a systematic comparison of the administrative procedures followed by the bodies funding research during awarding and management of projects, common aspects were defined which were used in the "Memorandum of common understanding" formulated in Phase 2. The mission and vision and the strategies for future co-operation were also agreed in this paper. All documents are available to the public on a joint Internet platform at www.newoshera.eu. Phase 3 led to a procedure for joint calls for proposals and corresponding co-ordination of contract documents. For the first joint call for proposals, an electronic proposal system for project submission and evaluation was developed and agreed. In Phase 4, calls for proposals were then issued for proposals on the following subjects: management behaviour and corporate culture with reference to the mental well-being and health of the employees; restructuring measures and changes in the world of work with reference to the mental well-being and health of the employees; and work-related psychosocial factors and health disorders. Finally, a two-stage selection procedure was followed in which four project consortia were formed based upon a virtual common fund (i.e. each funding party funds, in a project consortium comprising at least three international partners, the partners from its own country and under its own national conditions). In addition, a forum event was organized and held on the subject of emerging risks at the workplace. New topics for further calls for proposals were identified by workshops on psychosocial risks at the workplace, the integration of human-system interaction and OSH, and the opportunities and risks presented by nanotechnology; and also by a panel discussion.
In the final phase, preparations were also made for continuation of the NEW OSH ERA network: further calls for proposals are to be conducted by the newly created funding consortium itself. Scientific support in the identification of topics is provided in a forum on the subject of emerging risks, which is organized each year by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in Bilbao with the involvement of the PEROSH Group (Partnership for European Research in OSH).
-cross sectoral-Type of hazard:
questions beyond hazard-related issuesCatchwords:
cooperationDescription, key words:
emerging risks, programme of OS&H research, invitations to tender for research, OS&H research network, joint invitations to tender, research priorities