Q: Firstly, tell us a bit about Leiden University’s involvement in the SciShops project.
Leiden University is involved in the SciShops project through two community based participatory research initiatives focusing on citizen science. The Citizen Science Lab connects research with the community in the vicinity of Leiden University and with Open Science Hubs we bring research to communities that traditionally don’t have access to research capacity or facilities.
The Citizen Science Lab brings together researchers, citizens and societal organisations to co-develop innovative research projects that create new knowledge. The Open Science Hubs connect science, technology and innovation with the daily life of local and regional communities, by addressing community relevant challenges, in collaboration with multiple stakeholders. More information can also be found here: https://www.scishops.eu/science-shop-leiden/
Q: What do you consider to be the main things that need to be taken into consideration when involving citizens in the research process?
Often Science Shops work with citizen organisations and projects focus on the question and the answer for the involved organisation. I think it can be very valuable to involve citizens more actively during the process, if possible, even from the start of the project until the end. We also call this extreme citizen science. As citizens are the eyes, the ears, the mouths, the brains present in the environment we study, they might already have a lot of valuable information on the subject or be motivated to think with you.
Of course, involving more citizens in the research process can be a challenge as the expectations have to be managed, the project team members need to be approachable and it can be challenging to match people’s different work schedules. Often citizens want to be more engaged outside office hours while researchers prefer to work during working hours. Therefore, it is important to have someone like a project or community manager on the team who has flexible availability.
When engaging with more citizens, it is important to be aware of the different communities and networks that are already present and for whom the research question might be relevant. Try to connect, exchange knowledge and collaborate wherever possible with these citizens. To build our local network we presented our Science Shop, for example, at public events, on social media and newspapers. During the museum night we had a pop-up Citizen Science Lab where we shared existing citizen science initiatives with the public and received input for new projects we are involved in. I think it is crucial to be aware of the citizen communities, networks and concerns and needs in order to engage citizens successfully in CS projects or other CBPR activities.
Q: Tell us about an achievement of the Citizen Science Lab to date.
In 2019 we started a Community Based Participatory Research pilot project, supporting citizens and researchers who have a research question that can be answered with citizen science. For this, we asked the residents, researchers and societal organisations of Leiden and the Hague what questions they want to answer. In total, we received over 50 questions from researchers, societal organisations and residents. A jury selected two projects which are now being carried out. We involve citizens from the start of the project until the end when data is shared with relevant stakeholders.
More info about the public participation project at Leiden University can be found here: https://www.scishops.eu/public-participation-in-science-at-leiden-university/
Q: What do you personally find most interesting/exciting about the SciShops project?
Because the challenges or opportunities we encounter can be the same for different partners, it was a great opportunity to initiate and strengthen partnerships and to create knowledge together. Therefore, I really enjoyed the webinars and the twinning experiences where very useful knowledge could be exchanged.
Q: Now the SciShops project is coming to an end, what are your hopes and expectations for the legacy of the project?
Using the SciShops network, platform and collaboration with the Living Knowledge Network I expect that the exchange of knowledge and partnerships will be continued. I am looking forward to spreading the knowledge we gained in the SciShops project with other communities, both at a national and international level!