Enhancing the Responsible and Sustainable Expansion of the Science Shop Ecosystem in Europe

Case study: European University Cyprus Science Shop Overview

This case study is part of a set of case studies developed by SciShops to investigate different models of science shops and community-based participatory research.

European University Cyprus (EUC) Science Shop is a science shop based at the European University Cyprus, a small independent university. It is the first science shop in Cyprus. It was founded in 2011 and had implemented 20 successful projects by the end of 2017, carried out by students across a range of fields as part of their academic courses.

Background

E

UC Science Shop was founded in 2011 by the EUC Business School. It started as a pilot initiative under the PERARES (Public Engagement with Research and Research Engagement with Society) FP7 project (2010-2014)2. The science shop was set up with the aim of creating an information bridge between society and academia in Cyprus.

After the PERARES project, meetings were held with faculty members and councils of various departments in order to spread the concept and gain acceptance from other parts of the university. The model of operation for the science shop was passed through the Senate of the university and made an integral part of the study process and quality assurance system of the university. Currently, the science shop implements projects from all fields of science and research represented at EUC. It runs about 4-5 projects every year.

Business model and organisation

The science shop is fully integrated into the structure of the university. There is a commitment from the university’s senior management, which is a crucial factor for the successful running of the science shop.

Following completion of the PERARES project, the EUC Science Shop no longer receives any dedicated funding. Occasional funding might come from larger projects on science shops or community-based participatory research, in which science shop staff are individually involved or receive funding to support some of the science shop’s activities, such as information events. Costs related to the implementation of projects (travel, data collection, etc.) are sometimes covered by the organisations that they work with (particularly if they are for-profit organisations, such as companies), or other parts of the University’s budget.

Science shop projects are carried out by students taking research methods courses as part of their degrees. Participation of the faculty members and everyone involved is on a voluntary basis, as part of their everyday obligations and due to the mutual benefits of participating in work of this nature; the science shop projects provide faculty members with real-life topics of research for their students to work on; students learn valuable research skills; and for the university management it is a way of demonstrating social responsibility and developing links with civil society.

The management structure of the science shop consists of a Director and an Administrator (contact officer) based within the Business School, an Advisory Board, and a Scientific Committee. The Advisory Board represents all stakeholders and includes the science shop’s Director, Vice Director for research at the university, Deans of the six of the university’s schools, three representatives of community organisations, and one representative of the science shop’s Scientific Committee. The Advisory Board has an advisory role only. The Scientific Committee consists of faculty members from each department of the university and is the main governing body of the science shop. The Committee meets twice per semester to discuss the projects and other issues related to the running of the science shop.

 The research process and relationship with stakeholders

The science shop receives research requests primarily from local civil society organisations such as NGOs and other non-profit organisations. They also accept research requests from for-profit companies, as well as municipalities and even individual citizens, if the research question or problem they provide is considered to be of interest to the wider society. The science shop has also worked with embassies of other countries based in Cyprus, for example on projects investigating business and trade opportunities in Cyprus.

The science shop works as an intermediary between civil society organisations (or other organisations) and professors in the various schools of the university, who manage teams of students to conduct the research. Organisations contact the science shop describing the problem that they face by filling in an application form either electronically via the science shop’s web platform or on paper. The science shop administrator forwards the application to the Scientific Committee. At a meeting, the Scientific Committee decides whether the problem can be tackled through a research project. If not, the request is declined. If it can, the Scientific Committee further develops the research question and forwards it to the relevant school(s) of the university. It subsequently reaches the most relevant department and faculty member that is in charge of a research methods course. The project is then assigned to a student or a team of students.

During a project, the faculty members leading the project maintain contact with the civil society organisation (or other organisation) that provided the question. On-going dialogue with the organisation helps to ensure that the project remains on track at every stage and the objectives are met. Once the project has been completed, the science shop receives a copy of the report or results for its records. Results are presented by the students who carried out the research work in the presence of the supervisor and a representative of the civil society organisation.

Examples of research projects

The EUC Science Shop implements projects in the whole range of science/research fields represented at the University. The work mostly involves surveys, interviews and other social research methods. However, projects in natural and other sciences also involve laboratory research and other methods.

Examples of social sciences projects include an evaluation of current management practices in farms for the development of a sustainable and competitive management information system and a project on the development of an IT administration system for speech clinic supervisors.

An example from health science is a project that investigated the effect of natural anti-microbial substances (such as lemon acid or vinegar) on the reduction of the microbial population on freshly prepared salads.

 Impact and evaluation

The EUC Science Shop does not undertake formal evaluation. Through informal contacts with the civil society organisations after the end of the project, the science shop learns if the organisation is satisfied with the results. The science shop believes that the impact that they have in society is demonstrated by the good levels of awareness of the science shop in Cypriot society and the positive image that EUC has gained as a university with a science shop.

Impact is anecdotal and the EUC Science Shop has concrete examples of the impact of its projects and how its work is contributing to the development of Cypriot society. For example, one project requested by professional unions dealt with diversity management approaches in Cypriot companies. It is known that the unions used the project results to promote diversity management within the companies and help managers to understand better the concept.

 Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)

The EUC Science Shop applies RRI principles in a number of ways. Research ethics are followed according to the policies of the university as a general practice. Gender balance is sought in the projects with the aim of encouraging different approaches and opinions. Research results are made publicly available. The projects also involve some participatory methodologies such as expert focus groups. Public involvement or dissemination to the general public is not a part of their standard process, but is implemented occasionally, depending on the project and preferences of the civil society organisation behind the project.

 Professional development and training

EUC Science Shop is part of the Living Knowledge network and takes part in international projects related to community-based participatory research, for example, the Horizon 2020 Sparks project[1] (2015-2018), dedicated to engaging citizens in health research. The Director and the Administrator of the science shop also participated in a number of training courses run as part of the PERARES project.

 Challenges

The main challenge for the EUC Science Shop is generating research questions from civil society organisations and other organisations. It is a difficult process and is mostly dependent  on direct contacts with potential organisations. For example, information meetings are held with civil society organisations during which science shop staff explain the benefits of working with the science shop to address certain types of issues. Another way of getting research requests is via members of the Advisory Board, which involves representatives of NGOs and other organisations. Finally, communication activities, such as TV and radio interviews help to raise awareness of the science shop and can result in research questions.

The main challenge for the EUC Science Shop is to generate research questions from civil society organisations and other organisations. It is a difficult process and is mostly dependent on direct contacts with potential partner organisations. For example, information meetings are held with civil society organisations during which science shop staff explain the benefits of working with the science shop to address certain types of issues. They also utilise the networks of members of the Advisory Board, which involves representatives of NGOs and other organisations. Finally, communication activities, such as TV and radio interviews help to raise awareness of the science shop and can result in research questions.

 Success factors

The main success factor for the EUC Science Shop is that it has successfully integrated the science shop’s projects into university practices and as a result has achieved sustainability. Under the current model, science shop projects are run as a part of the everyday job of the involved participants (faculty members) and by students as part of existing university courses.

Another achievement is that the EUC Science Shop has built a good level of awareness and reputation among civil society organisations and other organisations. It still takes a lot of effort to get concrete research requests, but awareness of the science shop is growing.

Future development

The current Director of the EUC Science Shop is very positive about the future sustainability of the science shop, as well-established and approved procedures make it less dependent on individual people.

Contact details

Website: www.scienceshop.euc.ac.cy

Director: Professor Andreas Efstathiades

Email: a.efstathiades@euc.ac.cy

Administrator: Mrs Victoria Makri

Email: v.makri@euc.ac.cy

Links

[1] http://www.sparksproject.eu/