SCIPAS - Study and Conference on Improving Public Access to Science through science shops
The SCIPAS project (‘Study and Conference on Improving Public Access to Science through science shops’) led to seven reports and a scientific conference. SCIPAS was awarded financial support by the European Commission through the contract HPV1-CT-1999-00001 under the 5th Framework Programme of the European Community for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities (1998 to 2002), and its specific programme “Improving the Human Research Potential and the Socio-Economic Knowledge Base” (“Strategic Analysis of Specific Political Issues”). Institutes from Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland and the non-EU countries Israel, Romania, South Africa, and the USA participated in the project.
The seven work packages that were done in preparation to the conference are:
SCIPAS work package 1 – Compiling an inventory of different ways to organise and operate a science shop in different countries, including the participating countries. Identify best practices, and internal and external pros and cons of various operational options. Investigate the impact on the social and environmental conditions of citizen groups.
SCIPAS work package 2 – Compile a report on success and failure in starting new science shops and lessons to be learned to facilitate and support the creation of new science shops.
SCIPAS work package 3 – Make an inventory of needs and resources for training programs for science shop staff members. Identify mechanisms for matching science shop staff with training programs.
SCIPAS work package 4 – Describe the options for setting up an international science shop magazine or other means (e.g., an Internet archive) for publishing science shop research results and policy issues internationally.
SCIPAS work package 5 – Set up a free, publicly available Internet database of existing science shops and facilitate Internet contacts among science shops. Make an inventory of options for using automated translation facilities and interesting links.
SCIPAS work package 6 – Investigate the impact and develop strategies for how science shops can contribute, and are contributing, to the development of university education and research, i.e., their impact on curricula and research agenda’s.
SCIPAS work package 7 – Investigate the potential benefits of, and the conditions for, transnational co-operation among science shops, including transnational research collaborations.
The first Living Knowledge conference ‘Living Knowledge: building partnerships for public access to research’, was held in Leuven, Belgium, from 25 – 27 January 2001. It was attended by 106 people from 19 different countries over 4 continents. Beyond its intrinsic value, the conference and the project documents are an indispensable milestone for laying the foundation of an international or European Science Shop network, entitled ‘Living Knowledge’. After the fists step made by SCIPAS the second step to establish the network will be to create the appropriate infrastructure and describe network activities.
The international Science Shop network's benefits to science and society interactions are:
- Increased visibility and accessibility: Science Shops become more publicly visible, thus more accessible to potential client groups. It opens avenues for support from universities and citizens, as well as policy makers.
- Improved documentation and evaluation: New participants (e.g., newly established Science Shops) get support more easily, by standardisation of documents, protocols, etc. without neglecting their regional context.
- Dissemination of results: Research results become more widely disseminated (including internationally). Successful research models can be replicated and further developed. Research themes can be distinguished; information on emerging subjects can be compiled and communicated to policy makers and (other) research institutes.
- Collaboration: Collaboration yields synergy and helps utilise previous experience. More comprehensive studies can be done. Citizen group driven studies on transnational issues become more practicable. Science Shop policy and strategies will also benefit from co-operation.
- Quality control: A network enables standardisation in documenting, evaluating, archiving and retrieving science shop research results.