The European Commission has awarded EUR 2.7 million to the Science & Society Group of the University of Groningen to strengthen the European network of science shops. The aim of the Commission is to involve its citizens more in academic research.
Through science shops, social organizations such as community groups or clubs can commission research projects by students under the supervision of professors without the usual high costs. This originally Dutch idea is catching on all over the world. Even the University of Cambridge recently set up a science shop.
The European Commission has been supporting science shops for ten years via its Science in Society programme, but this is the largest grant so far. The project will start on 1 May 2010 and last four years. The total costs will be EUR 3.1 million, EUR 2.7 million of which is a grant.
The project for which the grant has been awarded will link debates on scholarship to the research conducted by science shops. ‘This means that such debates will now be more than just words’, says Dr Henk Mulder of the Groningen Science & Society Group. ‘The results of a debate can lead to various research questions, which can then be investigated via the science shops network. This will make it more interesting for social organizations to become involved in a debate; they will have more influence on the research agenda.’
The answers to these questions can then be linked back in subsequent debate rounds (for example during the Cambridge Science Week) or online (for example via ‘Kennisdebat’ on the University of Groningen website) and lead to follow-up questions. Mulder: ‘In this way universities and society can develop knowledge together. This is also a way for universities to show that they are socially involved; they can immediately react to taxpayers’ questions.’
Twenty-six partners (science shops, social organizations, universities and a research funder) from 17 countries collaborate in the project. The aims include: - founding or expanding science shops in ten European cities (in order to respond to the increasing number of questions) - the Swedish Research Council conducting research into how research funders could support more science shop projects - founding a European debate site - organizing two major international conferences There will also be studies on the evaluation and optimization of working processes and the impact of the various science shops.
There will be direct cooperation with social organizations in a number of fields in order to draw up a European research agenda, for example concerning research into domestic violence.
For years the University of Groningen has played a leading role in the internationalization of science shops. Between 1998 and 2005, Mulder supported the founding of environmental shops in Romania, financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before that he headed subprojects of the EU and he has recently supported a number of British universities, including Belfast and Cambridge. In 2008, the latter started up a Community Knowledge Exchange with the help of Groningen.
More information: Dr Henk Mulder, coordinator of the University of Groningen Science Shop and project leader of PERARES (Public Engagement with Research and Research Engagement with Society)
The Science Shop is part of the Science & Society Group (SSG) of the Energy and Sustainability Research Institute Groningen (ESRIG) of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences of the University of Groningen.
The EU Science in Society Programme: http://ec.europa.eu/research/science-society/
Netherlands: University of Groningen, Wageningen University, the Agricultural Research Service Foundation - Wageningen Belgium: Free University of Brussels Germany: Wissenschaftsladen Bonn, Wissenschafts und Technologie Transfer Zittau UK: Queen’s University Belfast, University of Cambridge, University of Glamorgan Ireland: University College Cork, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin City UniversityFrance: Fondation Sciences Citoyennes – Paris, University of Lyon, Association pour le développement d'une recherche citoyenne active – GrenobleSpain: Universitat Rovira I Virgili – Taragona Italy: Universita degli Studi di SassariSweden: Swedish Research Council – StockholmNorway: University of StavangerDenmark: Technical University of Denmark - Lyngby Estonia: Institute of Baltic Studies – TartuGreece: Technical University of CreteRomania: Politehnica University of BucharestHungary: Science Shop at Environmental Social Sciences Research Group - BudapestCyprus: European University – NicosiaIsrael: The Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership – Tel Aviv
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