SciShops Symposium – reflecting upon the past, present and future

The Horizon 2020 SciShops project ran its final event, the SciShops Symposium, on 30-31 January. Almost 100 participants from all over Europe and beyond gathered at the University of Brescia in Italy for two days of discussions, reflections and networking around Science Shops and CBPR (community-based participatory research). As well as sharing the experiences and knowledge gained during the SciShops project, it was also an opportunity to explore future collaborations, which was embraced by all that attended. VA ran a workshop at the Symposium and moderated all of the plenary sessions.


The Symposium started with an overview of SciShops’ achievements over the past 2 ½ years.  Carmen Munteanu, SciShops Project Co-ordinator at SYNYO highlighted the many different project activities and resources that have been developed. Representatives from the 10 new Science Shops set up during the project also presented their Science Shops in two-minute pitches and a poster exhibition, highlighting their diverse approaches, topics and business models as well as ways they have been engaging with their local communities.

(Watch the pitches above and read profiles of the SciShops here).

Participants in one of the SciShop Symposium workshops. Photo: Liselotte Rambonnet

Supporting the future sustainability of Science Shops

Guest speaker, Professor Andrea Vargiu from the University of Sassari, set the scene for the two days with an informative presentation outlining the key features of knowledge partnerships as well as the development of Science Shops over the last 30 years in relation to a changing global context.

A panel debate with representatives from the Living Knowledge network and well-established Science Shops (Norbert Steinhaus, Bonn Science Shop and Dr Henk Mulder, University of Groningen) as well as current Science Shop projects (Carmen Muneanu, SciShops) and Dr María-Jesús Pinazo, InSPIRES, SciShops’ sister project) was an opportunity to discuss future challenges facing Science Shops in terms of sustainability and funding, and ways to overcome them.  The importance of providing mutual support through exchanges, mentoring, collaboration, as well as exploring national and regional funding sources, given uncertainty regarding future European funding opportunities, were particularly stressed.

Panel debate with Carmen Muneanu, SciShops, Dr María-Jesús Pinazo, InSPIRES and Dr Henk Mulder, University of Groningen and Norbert Steinhaus, Bonn Science Shop. Moderator Helen Garrison, VA.

A platform for new partnerships

The Symposium was also designed as a platform to encourage new partnerships and contacts, with a networking dinner for all and plenty of time for chat during coffee breaks. In addition, a dedicated session for conversations about new potential collaborations on topics nominated by participants prior to the symposium was well received. Groups came together to discuss shared interests including ways to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals in CBPR; joint project development on SwafS calls; CBPR impact assessment; new approaches to citizen science; and IT/technology solutions to support CBPR.

Interactive workshops

Workshops also provided an opportunity for delegates to gain knowledge and inspiration on topics including social entrepreneurship; presentation techniques; impact evaluation; citizen science; formats for co-creation workshops; partnerships and matchmaking; and open innovation processes. The workshops, led by SciShops partners as well as other organisations with experience in the topics, were designed to be as interactive as possible, with games, pitches, and even some dancing!

Maria Hagardt and Helen Garrison from VA running a workshop at the SciShops Symposium on ’Inspiring formats for successful co-creation workshops’.

CBPR in action

A number of innovative community-research projects were also showcased to demonstrate CBPR in action and the impact it can have on the ground. Winners of the SciShops Pitch Challenge from the University of Guelph in Canada presented their winning video about their community-research to investigate financial abuse as a form of intimate partner violence in the Toronto Area.  (Read an interview with the winners). Plus participants heard from two non-profit organisations that SciShops partners have been collaborating with – Ambiente Parco in Italy, a social enterprise located in a public park in Brescia that works on sustainability issues, and Medialab Prado in Spain, which runs a citizen laboratory for experimentation and collaborative learning through cultural projects.

University of Guelph students and winners of the SciShops Pitch Symposium, Brianna Wilson and Sonia Zawitkowski, talking about their community-research project. Photo: Liselotte Rambonnet

Future recommendations

The Symposium ended with an interactive exercise in which all participants contributed suggestions on ways that the European Commission as well as the international Science Shop community / Living Knowledge network could support future work in this area. (Read a summary of the recommendations).

“Although the SciShops project is coming to an end, it is only really the start of the journey for our new Science Shops, which we hope will continue to flourish with the support of the international Science Shop community. The enthusiasm and support shared by everyone that attended the Symposium was extremely encouraging. Many new friendships have been formed during the project and there are already many plans for continuing these relationships and future collaborations,” commented SciShops Project Coordinator, Carmen Munteanu.

Although, SciShops is coming to an end, the web platform will remain active as a repository for the many resources produced by the project as well as an ongoing collaboration platform for Science Shops. www.scishops.eu


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