Preparatory Phase for Nordic Centre of Excellence in Societal Security

This is a call for proposals focusing on preparatory work for establishing one or more Nordic Centre of Excellence within the Nordic Societal Security Programme.

Background of the Programme

The Nordic countries have cooperated closely in the area of societal security for decades. In recent years, this tradition of practical and problem-focused cooperation across national borders, to ensure the safety and security of the countries’ inhabitants, has been strengthened through several political initiatives (e.g. Nordic Declaration at Haga in 2009 and the 2011 Nordic Declaration of Solidarity). An expert group was assigned the task of exploring the prospects for Nordic research cooperation in the field of societal security. Based on the recommendations from that group, the Nordic Societal Security Programme was established by NordForsk and national funding agencies in the Nordic countries.

The programme is funded through a common pot provided by NordForsk, consisting of contributions from all funding partners. NordForsk administrates the Programme in cooperation with a Programme Committee, formed by representatives of the organizations financing the programme. Consultations on the financing of the programme are in progress and expected to be finalized in 2013. The following financiers have already made commitments to the programme and are participating in the Programme Committee: Direktoratet for samfunnssikkerhet og beredskap (DSB) (Norway); Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap (MSB) (Sweden), Icelandic Centre for Research (RANNIS) and NordForsk.

The Programme Committee has decided to establish one or more Nordic Centres of Excellence (NCoE) for research on Societal Security.  As a first step, the Programme Committee has decided to launch a call for proposals focusing on preparatory work for establishing the NCoE.

Participation in the present call for the preparatory phase is not mandatory for participation in the open NCoE call to be announced in autumn 2013, with deadline early 2014.

Objectives of the Programme

The aim of the multidisciplinary research programme for Societal Security is to develop new knowledge about and solutions for the many aspects of societal security affecting the Nordic countries. Societal Security comprises the ability of a society to sustain vital societal functions and secure populations' life, health, needs and basic values under extraordinary stresses, known as crises. The programme shall address questions of vulnerabilities, resilience and capabilities for crisis management related to prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. The research funded by the programme should add value to work already done in the Nordic countries within Societal Security.

Objectives of the present call

The objective of this call is to facilitate the consolidation of prominent research groups with participants from at least three Nordic countries within Societal Security and to support their preparatory work, aiming at preparing full proposals for a Nordic Centre of Excellence (to be submitted early 2014).

Who can apply for this call?

The main applicant should be an established senior researcher based at an institution, organization or other entity that has research as its primary objective, in one of the Nordic countries. The proposal must include participation from at least three Nordic countries. Participation from countries outside the Nordic region is encouraged.

(Please note that for the future NCoE proposals to be submitted in early 2014, the main applicant (legal entity) must be an organization in one of the programme’s co-funding countries.)

Thematic framework of the call

The Nordic countries are increasingly dealing with complex, dynamic systems, emerging risk, and human actions. The task at hand is more about assessing uncertainties rather than probabilities in a strict sense. We need to address the challenges of managing the unexpected and the unknown. The difficult but increasingly widely embraced concept of “resilience” may capture the essence of what is required to meet the grand challenges relating to societal security in the future.

Research is needed on the various components of the concept of resilience in a human, socio-technical, societal, organisational, political and transnational context. A working definition of resilience that fits the present thematic focus is: Resilience is the capability of a social system (e.g. an organisation, city, or society) to proactively adapt to and recover from both expected and unexpected disturbances. Hopefully, researchers will be inspired to deconstruct the concept in order to identify more specific areas for scientific inquiry. Such analytical activities would help to underpin and give direction to research in the field, which is often mission-oriented and applied.

The programme should employ a multidisciplinary approach and focus on cross-sectoral and transboundary issues and consequences for the Nordic countries. The proposal could address issues related to:

  • Prevention
  • Capacity-building for response and recovery
  • Communication
  • Learning

Generic and problem-focused research topics can be examined in various empirical domains, to which expert knowledge and contextual aspects may be added. Traditional but still important domains include the societal effects of the vulnerabilities in interdependent critical infrastructures and critical societal functions. Examinations of new stressors to these systems and functions may be appropriate for a resilience management approach. New stressors (hazards and threats) of increasing relevance are related to climate change and extreme weather, including space weather, new infections affecting humans, animals and plants, or other natural hazards. Priority should be given to topics that cross sectors and geographies, such as energy grids, transportation arteries, telecommunications or financial flows. Cross-border efforts between the Nordic countries will be required to address the sources, consequences and management of disasters in these areas.

The thematic framework guiding this research programme is described in further detail in NordForsk Policy Paper on Societal Security in the Nordic Countries.

Financial framework

The present call for proposals will fund planning grants for preparatory work (e.g. research collaboration; workshop and mobility facilitation), aiming at developing further a NCoE proposal within this programme (to be submitted in early 2014). A maximum of five planning grants, each of 100 000 NOK, will be granted as a result of this call. For financial framework of the planned NCoE, kindly refer to the NCoE concept.

Procedure for submitting proposals

Proposals must be submitted by e-mail to using this application form. Proposals must be submitted in English. No attachments are to be included unless specifically requested in the application form. The application form is based on the eligibility criteria and evaluation criteria stated below.

Eligibility criteria

  • The main applicant must be an established senior researcher based at an institution, organization or other entity that has research as its primary objective, in one of the Nordic countries.
  • The proposal must include participation from at least three Nordic countries.
  • The proposal has to include a tentative plan for research and organization for a proposed NCoE.
  • Proposals should contain a budget for the preparatory work.


Evaluation criteria

All proposals have to be relevant to the thematic focus of the call, be of excellent scientific quality, and outline how added value will be created through the cooperation among the researchers. The quality of the proposal is measured according to the following three components:

  • Excellence of Research Plan (including relevance to the contents of the call; scientific quality; originality and novelty of research; feasibility and expected results; potential for knowledge transfer and use of knowledge to other areas)
  • Excellence of People (scientific merits; experience and skills)
  • Excellence of Environment (including potential to develop into a successful NCoE)

The evaluation of the research plan has more weight than the other two components. In order to receive a planning grant, applications must meet the quality criteria above, and demonstrate the potential of the cooperation to be developed further into a full scale NCoE proposal. The criteria for the full NCoE proposal to in early 2014 are presented in the NCoE concept description.

Evaluation process

Applications will be reviewed by international experts, followed by considerations of the Programme Committee. The final funding decision will be made by NordForsk by October 2013. All applicants will receive scientific feedback from the peer review. The NCoE call will be announced in autumn 2013, with deadline early 2014.

The NordForsk guidelines on impartiality will be applied in all stages of the evaluation process.

14.06.2013 kl. 14:00

Go to the application form here