4.1 How are Science Shops organised?

There is not one dominant organisational structure defining a Science Shop. How Science Shops are organised and operate is highly dependent on their local and national context. You can find detailed information about the organisational forms in SCIPAS report 1 (Science Shops: Operational Options).  Also additional information can be found in PERARES reports.

The basic requirements for a Science Shop are a demand for research, supply of research capacity, staff to mediate and link both, and last but not least a roof over your head.

In a university, you can usually supply research capacity by working with students (in their curriculum) under staff supervision. Also, an office can be organised in universities and they are able to appoint staff (or re-allocate working hours of teaching/research staff). Inside university, Science Shops can be placed anywhere; from the central administration to inside a working group. If you have a central office in university, it is clear for society groups where to go. Inside university, you will have to make sure that you stay aware of who is who in the different faculties, and make sure you are not seen as part of university 'bureaucracy'. If you are organised inside a faculty, you are close to the students and staff, and it may be more easy to get them involved in your projects. However, it may be more difficult for civil society groups to approach you. Who knows exactly where chemistry ends and physics starts? By having a good network you can always re-direct of course. Between these two extremes (central / de-central) there are all kinds of possibilities, i.e. having both a central front-office and some back-offices or at least contact persons in the different faculties.

If you organise yourself outside university, you may use subsidies or income from other activities to either pay researchers or interns to work for civil society. This gives you more freedom on the one hand (from university bureaucracy), but can also create financial vulnerability. There are some examples of Science Shops that are organised as an NGO inside university; these can aim at funding on both sides (programs for governmental/public organisations and to private/non-governmental organisations).

Mostly, there will not be a single best place to organise your Science Shop. Your choice may depend on the local situation and on which people are in charge in various departments.

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4.2 Do Science Shops have an Advisory Board?

Some have, some don't. An Advisory Board can be helpful to keep scientifically sound and societally relevant.

In practice, in The Netherlands, most Science Shops do have scientific Advisory Boards. They meet several times a year. Some do discuss all requests for research while other Advisory Boards concentrate on strategic issues. Most Boards cover the fields of expertise of the Science Shop, and its members represent relevant research groups. Some also include relevant administrative units (like student affairs) and students. In the early years, there were many people from NGOs in the Advisory Boards, but over the years they became satisfied with Science Shop service and didn't feel the need to participate. Also because the range of questions was usually much wider than their own field of issues, and it was difficult to find NGOs that represent a wide range of civil society issues. Nevertheless some Science Shops include representatives from NGOs in their board as well.

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4.3 How can I start a Science Shop at my university?

Usually you can do Science Shop-like projects before making an office which is open to all kinds of requests. If you are a teacher you can decide to use problem-based learning in your courses, practical placements can be used for service-learning, and thesis's can have a subject coming from outside university. Most likely, there will be some professors that are favourable to this approach (or are doing similar projects themselves). By grouping together, you can start a Science Shop bottom-up (also including the power of interested students). From these "pilot" projects you could use testimonials to convince university policy makers of the relevancy of a Science Shop at their university.

If you are not yet doing Science Shop like projects, take a pilot project with 'low-risk' (i.e. more or less clear that there will be a certain outcome), with a civil society partner, which does not take too long and has a high publicity factor; and include students to do the work.

To institutionalise a Science Shop, you can organise a scenario workshop to decide on best organisational form, financing, way of working etc. In a scenario workshop, you invite e.g. 4 each of the following groups: scientific staff, students, NGOs and university policy makers. You put these first in homogeneous groups, so all policy makers together, all students together, etc. Let them make their most favourite future for a Science Shop (e.g. what should it be like in 5-10 years). In a plenary meeting directly after you should try to match these visions (together). Then make 4 mixed groups to make working plans for the next 1-2 years. What should be done? (e.g. changes in curriculum, funding allocations, publicity, etc), and in a final plenary session you can wrap it up into an action plan. With a skilled moderator such a scenario workshop should be possible to finalise within one day. More information and support on this method can be obtained from Institut FBI in Innsbruck. Recently adapted versions can be found in the PERARES documentation.

You can also get support from experienced Science Shop staff through this FAQ-list, the Living Knowledge discussion list and the Science Shops Summer School, that will be announced on this list.

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4.4 How can I start a Science Shop outside the university?

Before you can make a start with a Science Shop you have to be aware of your local context, including commitment of organisations around you, funding opportunities and your actual work and position etc.
You can read more about these contexts in SCIPAS report 2 (Success and Failure in starting Science Shops).

To institutionalise a Science Shop, you can organise a scenario workshop to decide on best organisational form, financing, way of working etc. In a scenario workshop, you invite e.g. 4 each of the following groups: scientific staff, students, NGOs and university policy makers. You put these first in homogeneous groups, so all policy makers together, all students together, etc. Let them make their most favourite future for a Science Shop (e.g. what should it be like in 5-10 years). In a plenary meeting directly after you should try to match these visions (together). Then make 4 mixed groups to make working plans for the next 1-2 years. What should be done? (e.g. changes in curriculum, funding allocations, publicity, etc), and in a final plenary session you can wrap it up into an action plan. With a skilled moderator such a scenario workshop should be possible to finalise within one day. More information and support on this method can be obtained from Institut FBI in Innsbruck. Recently adapted versions can be found in the PERARES documentation.

You can also get support from experienced Science Shop staff through this FAQ-list, the Living Knowledge Discussion list and the Science Shops Summer School, that will be announced on this list.

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4.5 How do Science Shops fit in the third mission of universities?

Science Shops have a special place in linking all three university missions: education, research, and knowledge transfer to society (outreach).
Universities have many relations with society, which can be structured as shown here. Four generic target groups can be distinguished, which all have their own dynamics and require specific attention.

Target GroupFacility

Individuals (e.g. students, seniors, pupils, journalists, other individuals, general public)

Courses, Public Courses, Higher Education for Seniors, Distant Learning Courses, Public Lectures, Science Week, Open House, High-school desk, University Museum, PR  Department  

Civil Society Groups
NGOs
Non-profit sector
Local authorities

Science Shop
(Internship Service)
 

Small and Medium Enterprises
Regional authorities

Transfer Bureau (Business Service Centre), Business Incubator (e..g. Science Park)
(Internship Service)

National + International authorities
Industry

Liaison Office, Contacts to NSF (National Science Foundation), Contracts, Paid chairs

Towards individuals, there is a supply of existing information from university to society. Concerning service to organisations, science hops generally take care of non-commercial contract-research, whereas transfer bureaux or business service centres cover commercial research.
The largest sums of money find their own way to national authorities and industry, through public foundations and their funding programmes, or through paid research contracts or by industry paying a professorial chair at university. The entrances for industry and civil social groups are separated and thus the risk for conflicts of interests is diminished. Moreover, serving these different sectors requires different ways of working and likewise requires different persons to do the job properly.

The reasons that universities do support Science Shops are many. Next to "pro deo" or PR reasons, universities will also support Science Shops as a way to obtain interesting research topics for scientists and students, and create social awareness. Even though professors and students are doing what they should be doing anyway (supervising and learning, respectively), Science Shop projects are a little more work to organise than text-book cases, which can give problems within the decreasing university budgets and trends towards commercialisation of science. Still, by linking to education and research Science Shops can be implemented at low additional costs.

In the UK, as in The Netherlands, Science Shops can be seen as relating to the so-called third mission activity in higher education, which is outreach. All managers from the universities involved in the UK Interacts case studies recognised that these issues were now on the agenda of government, and expressed a personal interest in developing them, and publicising staff expertise visibly to external bodies. University managers increasingly accept that teaching and learning must be combined with community outreach in order to justify public funding.

But at present the third mission of universities is almost exclusively dominated by the contribution of universities to scientific knowledge production on behalf of society. This is expressed within a business / innovation orientation whereby the scientific advances of academia are exploited commercially.

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