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

Meet the Team – Interview with Christina Zübert from the University of Hohenheim, Germany

Meet Christina Zübert, Researcher & Project Manager at the University of Hohenheim, talking about their involvement in the SciShops project.

Q: Firstly, tell us a bit about the University of Hohenheim

The University of Hohenheim was founded in 1818 as an agricultural teaching, experimental, and model institute. This was a reaction to devastating famines after the volcanic eruption of Tambora. So the University of Hohenheim is not only engaged in intensive basic research but has traditionally also been committed to developing innovative solutions for some of society’s pressing problems.

Nowadays, the University of Hohenheim is the leading University in agricultural research and food sciences. The combination of natural, social, business, economic, and communication sciences is unique among German universities.

At the Research Center for Bioeconomy we are a team of around 10 people working on interdisciplinary projects in the area of agricultural, natural, business, economic, and social sciences. We support the University and its researchers by connecting them with important national and international networks and initiatives and including them in joint projects.

The University of Hohenheim. Photo: University of Hohenheim / Gabriela Hausenstein
The University of Hohenheim. Photo: University of Hohenheim / Gabriela Hausenstein

Q: What is the University of Hohenheim’s role in the project?

We are responsible for a work package focusing on citizen engagement. Within this work package a lot of co-creation events are being organised by the partners to engage with their local communities. Furthermore, we have organised two summer schools during the project to train partners setting up new Science Shop. The final outcome of the work package will be a Handbook on Knowledge Exchange based on knowledge gained during our summer schools, all the events organised within SciShops as well as inputs from experts.

 Q: Tell us a bit more about the SciShops Summer School that you have just organised in Cyprus

It was a great experience! It was the second summer school we have organised within the SciShops project. Based on learnings and feedback from the first event, we developed an agenda of interactive sessions addressing a wide range of topics. This time we also invited external participants who are setting up or developing Science Shops to join us. Participants had varied backgrounds and experience in engaging with their communities and the mutual exchange of experiences was enriching for us all and resulted in an inspiring atmosphere.

I personally learned a lot about different Science Shop models, how to engage stakeholders and to present own projects. For me, one of the most interesting sessions was the one on impact planning, monitoring and evaluation.

We also had field trips to local science-society initiatives including Terra Cypria – the Cyprus Conservation Foundation in Limassol, the Cyprus Institute, and FOSS Research Centre for Sustainable Energy of the University of Cyprus in Nicosia. It was interesting to learn more about their projects and how they engage with local society.

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

The idea of science shops was new to me when I started working on the SciShops project. Although the University of Hohenheim is not setting up a Science Shop as part of the project, I really like the concept of connecting research and civil society, and institutions and citizen groups working collectively find solutions to challenges. I am learning a lot about the different Science Shop approaches. In addition, many of the topics covered by the summer school are also valuable for me as a researcher.

In the project, it is also interesting to see so many partners from diverse backgrounds working together on this topic and learning from each others’ views and experiences. I am really enjoying being part of the SciShops team.

Q: What do you hope to have achieved by the end of the project?

I hope that the ten new Science Shops will have developed successful and sustainable strategies to run their initiatives. I also hope that all the learnings and materials that we are creating as part of the project will be useful to other organisations establishing Science Shops in the future. I will be following developments in any case.