Improved knowledge. Increased awareness. New/strengthened relationships. These are the three main types of impacts that Science Shops have on their communities, identified in a new report by the EU Horizon 2020 SciShops.eu project.
Over the past months, SciShops.eu has been investigating the impacts of Science Shops and the benefits that are brought to stakeholders by undertaking research in response to questions raised by civil society. The report contains an analysis of the impacts of 31 Science Shops, located both in Europe
and beyond. Out of these, 23 were university-based and eight non-university-based Science Shops, covering a diverse range of research fields.
An adapted version of the ‘post-project evaluation questionnaire’ developed by the EU PERARES project formed the basis of the impact evaluation. The Science Shops’ activities were evaluated based on the outcomes of their projects, identified through desk research, using publicly available information, such as websites, reports and media articles.
The analysis showed that in more than fifty percent of cases of Science Shops, the projects:
- increased stakeholders’ knowledge of how research is done (74%)
- helped to develop ongoing relationships between academics and civil society organisations (74%);
- increased researchers’ interest in the subject (58%);
- influenced the direction of further research (55%);
- showed the prospect to produce long-term impacts for the community, such as increased awareness of issues, changes to public policy or legislation, and the development of new programmes or services (52%).
The analysis particularly focused on the impacts on both internal stakeholders (those involved in the projects) and external stakeholders. For example, students that were involved in undertaking the projects:
- gained new knowledge and skills from the process of conducting research on real-life problems;
- became accustomed with the concept and practice of social responsibility;
- strengthened their professional reputation, for example, through the publication of the research results and participation in conferences.
Impacts to the Science Shops themselves included:
- the research outcomes influencing the choice of subsequent research topics;
- increasing the interest of academics and students in community-based participatory research;
- an increase in the number of research requests;
- expansion of collaborations and networking;
- the establishment of new Science Shops.
Impacts on external stakeholders, such as the civil society organisations requesting the research, or broader society included:
- improvement of programmes or services offered by CSOs;
- increased trust in research and awareness of the benefits of research to better understand or solve societal issues;
- the initiation of new collaborations;
- increased citizen awareness/understanding of the issues and active involvement in tackling the problems;
- citizens learning about the research process through direct involvement in the research;
- improvements to quality of life (for example, in terms of health, the environment, education or wealth)
The findings concluded that science shops have a wide range of impacts, both immediate and long-term, although in many cases long-term impacts had to be inferred due to a lack of publicly-available information. Little evidence was found that projects include an impact assessment stage, indicating that few Science Shops conduct an impact evaluation of their projects. This reinforces the findings of case studies undertaken by SciShops.eu, which showed that longer-term impact is often anecdotal based on ongoing relationships with civil society with Science Shops often lacking time and resources to carry out evaluation.
SciShops.eu will be using the findings to inform the development of the ten Science Shops being set up during the project and the production of new tools and resources.
Read the full report “Existing Science Shops assessment”