A new priority research program (PPR) on autonomy (ageing and disability), financed to the tune of 30 million euros, has been entrusted to the CNRS in conjunction with the higher education and research sectors. The National Research Agency (ANR) is the operating agency. This program, which will run from 2021 to 2026, aims to help strengthen research structures in all fields related to autonomy by focusing on a few main challenges for action.
Autonomy is a concept used in many sectors and disciplines. It is often thought of in relation to other notions such as dependence, disability, fragility, capacities/incapacities, care, vulnerability, etc. This notion of autonomy refers to the ability to act, to make choices for oneself, or to the idea of self-determination, but it is also used in a public policy perspective.
The promotion and maintenance of autonomy depends fundamentally on the environment of the people and in particular on their social links. While this PPR is primarily concerned with the challenges of old age and disability, its ambition is broader, as autonomy concerns everyone at some point in their life cycle, although it attracts most attention when it is impaired or lost.
The goal of this program is to mobilize all disciplinary sectors, knowledge, devices and existing tools that can facilitate the autonomy of people and to conceive scientific developments thought with and for the populations concerned. The challenge of research on autonomy is to take into account the heterogeneity of these populations, whether in terms of age, generation, health status, functional characteristics, material resources, social, family, residential and professional environment, territorial context, etc. The ambition to structure and strengthen research in this field requires the definition of a global strategy to bring together, coordinate and make accessible a large quantity of quantitative and qualitative data, as well as a strategy of scientific promotion and animation to link together research sectors that are still very compartmentalized.
Four main challenges:
The first challenge is to define the notion of autonomy and the methods for understanding and measuring it. The environments in which people live (their working and living conditions, the proximity of services, etc.) are likely to hinder their ability to act and decide for themselves. Understanding what autonomy means according to different scientific approaches can allow research to question the social demands made in terms of autonomy, and to better understand the obstacles that certain populations encounter in their attempt to fulfill these demands.
The second challenge: to study the design of public policies on autonomy at the national and international levels - whether these policies are specifically dedicated to autonomy, but also in relation to other public policies, such as city, housing, employment or education policies, or the actors involved, such as the public sector, families or associative actors.
The third challenge: to question the situations and experiences of empowerment and reduction of autonomy. The best way to understand how ongoing social transformations or certain life events impact the feeling of being autonomous and able to act and choose is to study precisely the experiences of the people concerned. The objective is to think in terms of prevention and the development of living environments in order to better identify the environmental conditions of autonomy.
The fourth challenge: the design, reception and use of innovative devices and experiments in the field of compensation, substitution, accessibility and adaptation of the environment and human accompaniment of people with a view to their autonomy, particularly in the biomedical, social, technological, information and communication fields.
A first call for projects (AAP) will be launched at the end of June 2021, with a closing date of November 2; 2021 and an announcement in January 2022. It concerns the first two challenges, challenge 1 (total amount: €2.5 million) and challenge 2 (total amount: €4.5 million).
Two calls for expressions of interest (AMI) will follow before the end of 2021 for AAP project selections in early 2022. The AAP and the AMI will be published and monitored by the French National Research Agency (ANR).
The autonomy PPR will be the subject of a strong animation of scientific communities which will include, in particular: 1) national and international scientific conferences, meetings and/or seminars between researchers, stakeholders concerned by autonomy and public policy makers. 2) the production of documents for the dissemination of various types of knowledge to different audiences throughout the program.
The Autonomy RPP is supervised by an interdisciplinary scientific board of 16 members from a variety of institutions and monitored by a program committee that includes representatives of stakeholders in the field of autonomy, major research institutions and foreign experts. The scientific council brings together the following members around program director Claude Martin (CNRS):