Q: Firstly, tell us a bit about your organisation
SciCo Cyprus is a non-profit organisation based in Cyprus. We started in 2015 with the vision to communicate science to the public and other diverse audiences, through innovative and entertaining means. We are a community of scientists, science communicators, educators and artists. Since 2017 we have been one of the 18 partners in the SciShops project. We also initiated and co-ran the Mediterranean Science Festival (MSF) in Cyprus in 2015 and 2017 together with the CY Research Promotion Foundation and the Youth Board of Cyprus. MSF brought together all of the universities on the island, NGOs and innovative companies and attracted thousands of people, many of them enthusiastic children (which makes it worth all the effort!). We are also running the FameLab science communication competition in Cyprus, in collaboration with the British Council, and we are involved in many other projects, for example school competitions, dissemination activities for other organisations, delivering science communication workshops and putting up science booths at public events.
Q: What is your motivation for getting involved in the SciShops project?
It adds community-based participatory research to SciCo Cyprus’ range of activities and allows us to engage with civil society in new ways, for example through co-creation events. Generally, I love EU projects and especially Swafs – they are a great way to meet like-minded people from across Europe.
Q: What is your role in the SciShops project?
I coordinate the activities of SciCo Cyprus within the SciShops project, supported by Vasiliki Bitshouni, who works full-time on SciShops. We are supporting KPMG Cyprus in their newly-established Science Shop, one of the ten new Science Shops that have been established in Europe through Scishops (and the only one based at a Large Enterprise in Europe). To support this, we have been helping to identify societal challenges and facilitate collaborations between the KPMG Science Shop and the academic world and civil society.
We are also involved in other project activities including:
– We are running a series of webinars (virtual visits) enabling SciShops partners to learn from, and interact with, experienced Science Shops across the world.
-We are running the SciShops Pitch challenge, an exciting new video competition for community-based research projects. (Closing date 10 December!).
-We co-organised the 2nd Scishops Summer School in Cyprus in 2019 in which 45 Science Shop managers, researchers and other civil society representatives participated.
-We co-organised two co-creation events in Cyprus during 2018. At the first event, we identified challenges women in science are facing in Cyprus, engaging 38 stakeholders from academia, businesses and civil society. The second event, 146th European Study Group with Industry/co-creation event with society, was a week-long workshop in collaboration with the EU Mathematics for Industry Network (COST Action TD1409) and Cardiff University and was hosted at the University of Cyprus. It brought together 37 researchers from 10 countries, who tackled three societal challenges in teams, through mathematical modelling and data analytics.
Q: What do you feel you have achieved through the project?
As an organisation, we have gained valuable experience with EU projects and have started collaborating with other partners on new EU proposals. I also work as an academic at Cardiff University in the UK and have started exploring the possibility of setting up a Science Shop there. Through SciShops, I have learnt a lot about how to set up a new Science Shop and make my research more impactful by engaging with society more effectively. SciShops has been great for my home country Cyprus too. It made us more visible in the Science Shops’ community and enabled the development of community research and co-creative approaches in Cyprus.
Q: What do you personally find most interesting / exciting about the SciShops project?
I have really enjoyed this project and I am sad it is ending soon. I have met so many interesting and capable people – I feel we could create a better society if we keep working together!
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.