fbpx VOICES at a Glance | Ecsite

VOICES at a Glance

  • October 2013
  • EU and governance
  • Book or article
  • Video

What makes VOICES so innovative?

The VOICES consultation process gathered opinions and ideas about urban waste from citizens across the EU. It used science centres and museums as powerful spaces for public engagement. The results were fed back to policymakers in order to influence the direction of EU research policy.

VOICES answers the Science in Society 2013.1.2.1-1 call on citizen participation in science and technology policy.


At the heart of the VOICES project is the idea of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). This means that while designing the research and innovation process, we have to consider ethical aspects and the needs of citizens. Research should be ready to adjust its shape to ensure it fits society's requirements.

How can I use VOICES?

The results of the VOICES consultation directly affected the European Commission's Horizon 2020 calls for research funding. As such, VOICES is a model for incorporating citizens' voices into RRI. But the project outcomes can also be used by other stakeholders on a local and national, as well as European level, for example:

  • Industry can make use of the results to look into gaps in the market for new innovations;
  • Researchers can use VOICES results to align their research with the principles of RRI;
  • Educators can use project outcomes to give a national and European perspective to classroom discussions on current science topics;
  • Universities can use VOICES as a model for citizen participation;
  • Policymakers and funding agencies both within and beyond the European institutions can shape their research strategy to fit RRI.

VOICES in numbers

1.270.000 words translated
1.000 European citizens
557 EU municipalities
350 ideas
300 hours of consultation
100 focus groups
33 locations
27 EU countries
22 external experts
8 research directions

VOICES methodology

VOICES consulted citizens using a renowned method - focus groups - in a unique way:

  • Diversity: never before had focus groups in all 27 EU member states been used to influence EU policy, with citizens selected from a representative range of backgrounds
  • Structure: the VOICES focus groups are composed of four exercises, which engage the participants on the relevant topics, drawing out collective opinions and ideas in a carefully facilitated face-to-face process.
  • Flexibility: the VOICES methodology can be adapted for use at national and local levels, and with a range of policy topics.
  • The VOICES focus groups lasted 3 hours, with 10 participants in each, and were led by trained moderators following a semi-structured script, completed by an introduction and evaluation. The four exercises consisted of: drawing household waste streams; identifying barriers and concerns related to waste management issues; elaborating solutions and ideas for achieving a "zero waste society"; and attributing priority to the group's ideas.

Find out more about the methodology.

Key Findings

VOICES took as its subject matter the topic of urban waste as a resource, and the concept of a "zero waste society".

Fitting with the aims of RRI, key findings of the project can be grouped into two key categories.

VOICES validates the EU's current priorities of research and policies on urban waste

1. Citizens want less packaging, and more efficient packaging materials. They want to see 100% biodegradable packaging, and plastics that can be fully recycled without loss of quality.

  • They want it to be easier to recycle and reuse products.
  • They want manufacturers to be regulated more heavily, taking responsibility for the lifespan and recycling of their products, and ending planned obsolescence.
  • More recycling points are needed at convenient locations.
  • They want incineration plants to be used as much as possible to produce heat and energy.

2.VOICES also proposes new ways to strengthen current research

  • European citizens feel convenience in the household is crucial. This is a part of waste management often neglected by research. There is a clear need for devices to facilitate sorting and compacting in the home ("smart bins"), or technology which allows waste to be used as a resource in the household.
  • Citizens want to feel the benefit of waste separation. This can be done by making incentives, deposit systems and reward schemes more widespread.
  • Education and communication are crucial. Citizens are largely unaware of what happens to their waste, and would feel more engaged in the process if knowledge was more widespread.
  • Technology can be a motivation to recycle in itself. Citizens feel that systems using chips, electronic tags and apps can help to empower people in the recycling process.

See the VOICES Reports

Public resource


  • voices



VOICES was a ground-breaking consultation, using the opinions of people across the EU to shape the future of European research. 1,000 citizens participated in focus groups run by Ecsite members, expressing their hopes, fears, concerns and ideas on the theme of urban waste. The results of this consultation have directly informed policy, as they were fed into several research calls for the EU Horizon 2020 funding programme.