In order to support the development of the new Science Shops being established as part of the Horizon 2020 SciShops project, partners have been undertaking twinning activities through which they have been sharing experiences. Due to their shared focus on environmental issues, WatShop, a newly-established Science Shop at the University of Brescia in Italy decided to pair with InterMEDIU Science Shop in Romania.
Visits to each others’ organizations during the year have provided an opportunity to share knowledge on how they are working on community-based participatory research, case studies of existing projects, knowledge transfer methodologies, national climate strategies and contexts, as well as
how each others’ Science Shops work in practice and the challenges that they are facing.
Here we speak to Giovanna Grossi and Rodica Stanescu about what they have learned so far from the experience and visits that they undertook.
Q: How did you select a twinning partner?
Within the SciShops project, twinning was designed to occur between an existing science shop and a new one. The two partners, the University of Brescia and University Politehnica of Bucharest are both universities with departments that share an interest in environmental engineering. In addition, the two universities are also linked by an Erasmus+ staff and student exchange programme. For these reasons, we decided that our two Science Shops would make a good pairing.
Watshop is a very young organization in the environmental field, built on a vast experience of a small group of researchers from the University of Brescia in the field of sustainable water management in the context of climate change. InterMEDIU Science Shop covers more fields in environmental engineering, including topics related to water quality/water management. For our group, it was a good opportunity to share our own experience and to identify common topics of interest and potential collaboration with the Brescia University group.
We are linked to Watshop by many similarities: we are both university-based; have the same field of interest, the environment; plus have an enthusiasm for working with students. In both regions, civil society needs, and is open to being informed about environmental issues.
Q: What did you hope you get out of the visit and was this achieved?
I hoped that Watshop would be able to learn from the expertise of Intermediu, an already established Science Shop. Also, the partnership would lead to collaborations in the field of environmental hydraulics, especially in sustainable water management. The staff exchange opportunity has really set the scene for ongoing future collaboration.
For our group, it was a good opportunity to share our own experience and to identify common topics of interest and potential collaboration with the Brescia University group. It was also very useful to share our experiences of working with civil society and the challenges that we encounter. The impact of climate change on water resources is a common subject of interest to both Science Shops. We also had discussions about projects that our research groups have undertaken or intend to carry out in the near future.
Q: Was there anything surprising or particularly valuable that you learned from visiting each other?
It was my first time in Bucharest, so it was, of course, a great opportunity to experience the attitude of the city and its people, besides the university staff. It turned out that we had more common interests than we expected. The environment was very friendly and promising for future cooperation.
It was also very interesting to compare social and cultural contexts with regard to climate strategies, and how future challenges are being evaluated and managed.
It was interesting to learn about how a new Science Shop in environmental engineering is developing partnerships with civil society, especially with NGOs and local authorities. I was particularly impressed with how Watshap is collaborating with local authorities: both see that the partnership offering strong win-wins and, at the same time, is a very easy way to obtain relevant information from a reliable source.
Q: What do you think makes an effective twinning experience?
It is useful if you share common interests and expertise, but also it is essential to have a positive attitude towards different approaches, different stories, and different socio-cultural contexts.
Having similar interests and a desire to share expertise, skills and knowledge are all important.
Q: Do you have any advice to someone thinking about undertaking a twinning experience?
Remember that you are always learning, either new approaches or new insights. Both sides have to think that they have something to learn and something to share… and working together is much more fun than working alone!
It is very important to have a discussion partner that you can call upon when you need, to share ideas and experiences. Also, why not try to “replicate” or adapt projects for different communities in another part of Europe. I don’t know if it will work, but it might be worth giving it a try!