SciShops’ first Summer School – a week full of inspiration, information and reflection

The seaside town of Castelldefels near Barcelona was the location of 'SciShops’ first summer school held from 16 to 20 July 2018. As the Spanish sun beat down outside, 'SciShops’ partners were hard at work learning everything there is to know about running a Science Shop.

Community-based participatory research, responsible research and innovation, communication and dissemination, stakeholder engagement and business and operational models were just some of the topics of workshops run during the week.

The summer school was particularly aimed at SciShops partners setting up the ten new Science Shops and gave them an opportunity to learn, reflect, and start planning their business cases.

A number of guest speakers provided valuable contributions, including Norbert Steinhaus from Bonn Science Shop in Germany and Saskia Visser, co-ordinator of the Science Shop Language, Culture and Communication at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Carolina Llorente from University Pompeu Fabra also spoke about community-based participatory research practices.

Two study visits to local Science Shops – the Living Lab for Health at IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute and the UOC e-science shop at the University Oberta de Catalunya, an online university, also gave participants in an insight into how Science Shops can operate in practice and different approaches to societal engagement.

Different Science Shop journeys

One of the partners, who will be setting up a new Science Shop is the University of

Brescia in Italy (UNIBS). The focus of their university-based Science Shop will be on ‘Sustainable water management, control and consumption in a changing climate’ and they have already been talking to a number of Italian stakeholder organisations that have expressed interest in helping to get the Science Shop off the ground.

Professor Giovanna Grossi, who will be coordinating the Science Shop at UNIBS, attended the summer school and said, “The visits to the Science Shops as well as contributions from Science Shop co-ordinators were particularly inspiring. We learnt a lot from their journeys, approaches and motivations, as well as their dedication to getting the Science Shop off the ground. The visits highlighted the many different ways to run a Science Shop and the importance of tailoring the Science Shop to suit your resources. Every Science Shop is different, focusing on different topics and working with different communities with different approaches. You don’t need to decide upon a model but the process of setting up a Science Shop is more a journey, where you learn and adapt along the way.”

“The summer school gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I might manage some of the financial and social aspects related to setting up our Science Shop. Also, I got some ideas for communication channels to try. We are already planning a number of training and information activities to start engaging people in the concept,” she added.

“One of our challenges, like many other Science Shops, will be funding once the SciShops project comes to an end, and securing the continued support of the University by convincing them of the potentially major benefits that the Science Shop could bring in terms of impact over the long-term. I came away with some ideas regarding how to expand our sources of funding and how we will need to involve sponsor organisations and keep their interest alive.”

“Being part of a cohesive group of partners, all working together to achieve a shared goal, is motivating and overall I came away from the summer school optimistic and energised!” she added.

Focus on core expertise

Another partner, who attended the summer school, was Katalin Kalai, from the Hungarian research organisation Bay Zoltán Ltd. Like Giovanna, she felt that one of the most useful parts of the summer school was the opportunity to talk to representatives from established Science Shops, both inside and outside of the consortium.

“The variety of topics and ways of involving society showcased through these real-life examples was very interesting and certainly reinforced the message that ‘no one size fits all’”.

“The workshop on business models was also very useful. The SWOT analysis that we did made us see the development of a Science Shop from a different angle and think about the practicalities of setting up our Science Shop in more detail,” she added.

“Prior to the summer school, my colleagues had a number of questions about the technical details of running up a Science Shop, which I did not feel that I had enough knowledge about to answer. Now I am much more confident about the next steps and feel that I have gained clarity on many of these issues.”

“One of the main challenges for Bay Zoltán will be involving civil society and the public in our research activities. Being an applied research organisation, we create solutions mainly for consumers from industry and have very few opportunities to meet civil society organisations. But now I understand that we need to start on small scale: our first pilot project can be built on existing collaborations. We don’t need to run many projects at the beginning, neither involve too many stakeholders, but focus on our core areas of scientific expertise.

“Finally, in addition to being a week of information and inspiration, I also want to mention the social side. It was a great opportunity to spend time with the other SciShops partners and get to know them better. Our local Spanish hosts did an excellent job of organising everything too and the week ran very smoothly.”

SciShops will be holding a second summer school in 2019, which will also be open to others outside of the consortium. To express an initial interest, please contact Christina Zübert, University of Hohenheim, Email: