We illustrate a method for enhancing the participation of citizens in University research and sustainability activities through a synergy between science cafés and science shops.
The cultural association “Caffé-Scienza” (science café) in Florence and Prato have accumulated a 14-year experience in organizing science café events, with several variations, and web and radio broadcasting support. Most of events concerns sustainability. We have also used this instrument for evaluating and discussing the results of European projects, and also to co-design new ones.
Two years ago, we joined the European project InSPIRES, which is fostering the science shop ideas. A science shop is a methodology by which universities and research centers can offer services to the population. If a request coming from the civil society can be answered by means of a scientific investigation, the shop contacts its researcher and invites them to propose the investigation to students. The results are then returned to citizens.
We are now experimenting with a more participative approach, derived in part by our experience with science cafés, in which the research proposal is discussed and elaborated in a public event, and citizens are sometimes directly involved in the investigation, in a way similar to citizen science.
We discuss here the main results of the first two years of activity, perspectives and obstacles we have met, and the possibility of expanding the services by means of the web, social nets and the Internet.
- Science shop
- Science cafés
- Public engagement