Since the beginning of the 1980s, Science Shops have worked on the interconnection of science and society in Western Europe and Nothern America under different organizational conditions. The concept of Science Shops originated in the Netherlands, where practically every university runs at least one „Wetenschapswinkel“(dutch for Science Shop).
How do Science Shops work?
The typical way of proceeding differs in various regards from the conventional “Knowledge Transfer Units”.
The following elements will normally be encountered:
- Civic engagement: academic findings are not supposed to be of use solely for large, financially strong companies, but also for citizens, small-scale entrepreneurs and self-employed persons, and especially for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). This is another area of activity especially for social, cultural, or educational oriented research institutes. Even the Science Shop itself is usually “non-commercial”, for example in Germany it is organized by principles of benefit to the public.
- Participatory research respectively “Community Based Research (CBR)”: Research and transfer are not a one-way street. The topics derive from society and will be dealt with in a Science Shop context for the society. This is a funding priority of the European Union and of the “Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wirtschaft”.
- Service Learning: Especially Dutch and Belgian universities foster the involvement of student research and student practice in their projects. British universities are at the moment concentrated on connecting Science Shop projects and curiculums.
How are Science Shops organizedt?
Principally, there are two different forms of organizing Science Shops: In the Netherlands – and this model is followed by most western-european countrys – “University Related Science Shops” are dominating. These are Science Shops which are organized complementary or substitutively to the “Transferstellen” as structural units of universities. In Germany and eastern Europe, most Science Shops are legally and economically independent institutions, such as associations, gGmbH or gUG. Currently, Germany has only two university based Science Shops – the Science Shop “kubus” of the TU Berlin established 1986 and the Science Shop Vechta/Cloppenburg established 2012. After a flood of foundations in the 1980s and a concolidation of the networks afterwards, there is a significant increase of activities in the national and international context, conditioned by the subsidies policy of the EU towards Science Shops on the one hand, and the opening and democratization of Eastern Europe and some countries of Asia and Africa on the other hand.