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

Interview with Dr Branko Kontić from the Jožef Stefan Institute, Slovenia

Meet Dr Branko Kontić, research advisor at the Jožef Stefan Institute in Slovenia talking about their involvement in the SciShops project.

Q: Firstly, tell us a bit about your organisation

 The Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI) is the leading Slovenian scientific research institute, covering a broad spectrum of basic and applied research. The staff of more than 930 specialises in natural sciences, life sciences, engineering and information technology. The basic goals of JSI are to provide scientific (technical) output in the form of processes, products and consultancy, and to produce well-trained young scientists. Interdisciplinary linking the education is the main strength of the JSI.

Following this orientation the Centre for Participatory Research at the JSI (CPR-IJS) was established in November 2018. It is the first Science Shop in Slovenia.

 Q: What is the motivation behind you getting involved in the SciShops project?

 A formal need for establishing CPR-IJS came from the SciShops.eu project. However, the fundamental motivation was to strengthen and expand applicative research or rather intervention science in Slovenia through the involvement of those who need to find a solution for a certain problem by means of participatory research. The motivation was also related to the need for a practical response to a  growing interest from students themselves for doing research and finding solutions to real “everyday problems”. 

 Q: What have been the challenges setting up a Science Shop?

 It is nice to say that there have really been no challenges in setting up the CPR-IJS. The idea grew within an already supportive atmosphere at the Institute for doing participatory research. Consequently, we easily found and agreed an organisational form for the CPR-IJS as a sub-unit within the Department of Environmental Sciences. So, efforts have been mainly focused on explaining the concept and philosophy of the CPR-IJS to a wider audience.

 Q: What knowledge have you gained through the SciShops project that has been of particular benefit?

 Personally, I would particularly emphasise the following:

  •     Before the SciShops project I was used to thinking about participatory research pretty rigidly, in terms of  knowledge exchange among involved stakeholders being enframed and generated by the interests of persuasion about the ways of problem solving;
  •     The knowledge I have gained about so many types and forms of Science Shops and practices of Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) around the world has widened my perceptions and given me new  perspectives for future work and how to further popularise this way of working in Slovenia.

 Q: What do you personally find most interesting / exciting about the SciShops project?

Basically I hope that the SciShops project, or rather the partners involved, will succeed in promoting greater understanding that good solutions to issues can only be achieved through collaborative work with those directly affected by  the issues. 

 

You can read more about the Centre for Participatory Research, Slovenia’s first Science Shop, in a SciShops article about the launch and on the Centre’s website