Science shop as a concept was born on citizens’ demand for the universities to help answer questions and challenges of their own communities. It has evolved into various shapes and forms over the years but the core mission is the same: to engage citizens, civil society organizations and public bodies in education and research related collaborations with the university, always keeping an eye on public benefit. In practice, the incoming questions or requests are transformed into course assignments, internships, thesis works or research projects .
The whole point of these collaborations is to genuinely serve the community as well as higher education purposes, thus creating opportunities for mutual learning and at the same time benefiting civil society. As an intermediary and facilitator, science shop actively seeks partnerships, offers coordination and support in order to balance various expertise, perspectives and interests.
The European Humanities University and the Community Engagement Office of CEU operates the two-year OSUN Science Shop program in Austria, Belarus, Hungary and Lithuania. The project is funded by the Open Society University Network (OSUN), and runs between August 2021 and July 2023. Join us in the celebration of the the first-year anniversary on June 15, where realized course projects, internships and a thesis work will be showcased. The hybrid event takes place between 5 – 6(:30), you can register here.
The project focuses on stimulating engaged and experiential learning through student projects, embedded in the course curricula. The aim is to promote academic practices that harmonize learning objectives with the needs of community partners who work for the greater good. In other words, design courses, internships and theses that are real-world, impactful and community-facing.
How it works
Imagine a scenario where the aim is to reduce littering in parks.
- An environmental studies intern samples parks and playgrounds and conducts a study on the level and type of contamination and their possible effects on human health and the urban ecosystem.
- A university course on urban studies with 3 groups of students are tasked to do benchmark research on urban programs from around the world that aim to mitigate littering, with a special focus on parks and playgrounds.
- Based on their findings, they suggest solutions that are feasible, assessing the success/failure factors. Student groups compete to offer the best solutions, including innovative ideas such as gamifying (e.g. turning trash disposal into a sort of game where trashcans can be decorated with googly eyes, or a small basketball hoop is placed over them.) They deliver a presentation on their project results to which local citizens are invited.
- Students at another university course run by the cultural heritage department design an art-based workshop with school kids to understand their perception of littering: does it bother them? Do they think it’s an inherent part of city life/environment? It also includes an exercise for the school kids to discuss this topic with their parents.
- One of the university students of the cultural heritage class relishes the project so much, as a spin-off, they decide to make it their thesis work. The research is about the cultural and socio-economic factors that influence the perception of littering.
- The Field Research and data analysis course students synthesize the results of the above activities and invite citizens to join the course project research. The neighborhood group together with the students, supervised by the professor, set up an interview guideline that aims to better understand the attitudes behind littering, and what people think on how it can be avoided. Pairs of students and citizens approach people in parks and playgrounds, conduct 15 interviews, analyze them, and prepare a report.
- Finally, the Science shop invites the neighborhood group (initiators) and all other stakeholders (park management, municipality, other citizens from nearby as well as students and professors) to celebrate the research process, showcase results and discuss future possibilities – to see which recommendations can be implemented.