Conference Themes

A. Setting shared research agendas by CSOs and Research Institutes 

B. The role of Higher Education in creating knowledge with communities

C. Communities and students learning together

D. Evaluation and quality improvement: New lessons learned on measuring the
    value of community engagement and  collaborative research

E. Developing  partnership working for research – civil society engagement

F. Policies to support collaborative research relationships


A.  Setting shared research agendas by CSOs and Research Institutes

Civil society organisations show an increasing interest in research activities in domains such as sustainable development, food safety, public health and wellbeing, renewable energy, discriminations, and conflict resolutions. CSOs are also sources of knowledge, know-how and innovations. Now, how can we build stronger connections between CSOs and the ‘traditional’ research world? Can we reap the benefit of existing good intentions, and create win-win situations in joint knowledge creation, or is there a need for awareness raising and capacity-building of actors to get engaged in co-operative research and research policy? The challenge for NGOs, Science Shops and similar intermediaries, particularly due to their diminutive size, is to have a greater and more long-term influence on any institute’s research agenda.


  • How can events such as Science Festivals or Science Cafés, or any face-to-face or web-based dialogue event on knowledge/science/technology, be used to articulate research questions to follow-up upon?
  • How to strengthen CSO interest in research? What do CSOs need to reflect on research and research policy?
  • What are the long term benefits of cooperating with CSOs? What new knowledge is generated? Can there be a genuine co-creation of knowledge?
  • How to create opportunities and incentives for researchers for engaged research? What capacity building is required and what can be offered?


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 B. The role of Higher Education in creating knowledge with communities

Research and education are going to play a central role during the transformation process towards a knowledge society, as the realisation of the necessity for restructuring the world eco-nomy has been triggered mainly by scientific knowledge. Society should therefore decide on actions that are not a direct response to recently experienced events, but motivated by foresight and precaution. For this purpose, the debate between science, politics and society should be far more structured, more obligatory, and livelier, to ensure a constructive discourse about the best ways to achieve sustainability.


  • How can problem-based approaches and transdisciplinarity be encouraged?
  • How can a relation of mutual trust between researchers and CSOs be developed?
  • How can career opportunities for young researchers engaging with communities be improved?
  • How can universities and research institutions give researchers and students more opportunities to reflect about the societal consequences of their work?

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C. Communities and students learning together

Universities worldwide are already engaged in service-learning, and employ multiple student outreach/engagement activities, with various target groups, for various reasons. There are also examples of courses to prepare students to work in partnership with civil society, and to encourage them to reflect on their learning in this partnership.
Partnerships between universities and communities need to identify genuine needs on both sides, provide mentorship to the student(s), staff and CSOs participating on the project, and contribute assets towards completing a project. In a successful partnership, both sides will give to and benefit from the project. In order for this partnership to be successful, clear guidelines and support structures for all parties must be in place for a successful partnership.


  • How can students be prepared for, and supported in research and learning with civil society? How can we advance their learning?
  • How can student work with civil society best be incorporated in their curriculum and how can these projects contribute to their diploma/degree and broader graduate requirements?
  • How can experiences in service learning and community-based research strengthen each other?
  • What can the community bring to the learning experience of the student?

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D. Evaluation and quality improvement: New lessons learned on measuring the value of community engagement and collaborative research

There is a huge body of work around different types of community and public engagement with science as scientists more and more respond to societal needs and constraints. Interdisciplinary research groups sometimes include lay representatives, notably in sustainability and health issues. But most discussion of the public value of research focuses on economic value. Research institutes’ interaction with civil society and its organisations has other benefits and community engagement needs tools to measure this value more comprehensively.
Under this theme the conference will review models and instruments for evaluation of different types of public engagement with science and technology developments. There will be discussion of a framework for evaluation of science shop activities that focuses on effectiveness and equity. Measures of effectiveness will in this case concern CSO and public influence on the direction and application of research.


  • How can engagement with society be valued by scientific institutions, policy makers, politicians and CSOs?
  • What indicators determine the influences of CSO and public participation in the development of scientific knowledge?
  • What evaluation models and instruments have been successful for other institutions and partnerships?
  • How can community partners be included in audit and evaluation groups and how can their involvement be sustained and have a long-term effect?

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E. Developing partnership working for research – civil society engagement

Many actors are involved in “public engagement with research”, throughout institutions, states, and at the European and global level. We recognize that in the Higher Education sector, the term “knowledge transfer” commonly refers to linkages between universities and industry; structurally such posts are located within research and enterprise departments. Even though this activity focuses on another part of society than that which is usually coined under the term ‘civil society’, it is interesting to see where both worlds can meet, and to see if broader networks of stakeholders can work together on civil society issues. And to see where we can learn from each other’s approaches as well.


  • What can researchers and practitioners in industry-researcher co-operations and in civil society-researcher co-operations learn from each other?
  • How can a broad range of different stakeholders work together on civil society issues?

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F. Policies to support collaborative research relationships

The funding of cooperative research activities is subject to various challenges and often is driven by policy. But the support of government and its research councils has been recognizable and crucial for the development of the field of Participatory Research, and highlights the key role of research and education policy-makers, who impact on researchers and HEIs, but also the key role of policy-makers who impact on CSOs. Under this theme, we can identify particular incentives for research bodies and appropriate rewards for researchers to encourage their engagement with public and civil society and to compare existing models of support by Research Councils (both good practices and bottlenecks), and offer an arena for dialogue and discussion among funders of research. By exchanging experiences and sharing of best practices, among funders and receivers of funds and  identifying research projects that could be submitted to research councils, barriers could be cut down.


  • What alternative routes are there for Research Councils to take into account civil society’s wishes in their research agenda setting? How do these compare with funding joint research?
  • How can CSO partnered research be included in the regular activities of  research institutes, and vice-versa?
  • How can structures for permanent funding of PER be set up?
  • How/should a research project be structured to fulfill the requests of funding organisations?
  • Open Access publication is becoming more and more a criterion to receive funding. What are the experiences so far? Should we extend this requirement with the requirement to deliver a popular summary with every published paper?


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