This report is the Danish case study report in the EU-financed project INTERACTS, which analyses experience and expectations to the interaction between NGOs, Science Shops and universities. The report analyses potentials and barriers to NGO’s and similar civil society groups’ use of research and science through co-operation with Science Shops as a mediator between universities and civil society.
The Danish national case study report analyses three projects carried out through the Science Shops at DTU and RUC. One case is a co-operation between two DTU students and an NGO, whom is working towards promoting the use of bicycles. The project addresses how different actors perceive and understand the bicycles as technology, and how this is incorporated in traffic strategies and planning. A second case is a co-operation between two DTU students and a day-care centre, aiming at investigating storage facilities for organic food and the possibilities of local supply of organic food to the day-care centre. The third case is a co-operation between four RUC students and a local branch of a larger NGO working with nature and environment. This co-operation aims at investigating the pollution level in a village pond.
Each case is described and reflected separately. A cross-analysis analyses the interactions among the involved actor group (clients, students, researchers, and Science Shops) discussing how the knowledge in the projects were developed and how the knowledge were used by the actors to try to gain impact on either research development or societal discourses.
When civil society groups request assistance through the Science Shops, their need for knowledge and research is based on a need for scientific documentation of a certain topic, a need for enhancement of new knowledge and/or a need for development of new solutions and perspectives to problems. All three types of knowledge need is covered by one or more of the cases. The cases show that NGOs perceive research done through universities as neutral and creating more legitimacy than research done by the organisation itself. The cases show that all three NGO’s have used the results and findings to try influencing the societal discourses, and that the results and findings have helped two of the NGOs to gain influence. The analysis further shows that this influence seems to depend on the ability of the NGOs to build alliances with other actors. Knowledge in itself is not enough to get influence.
The cases show that some students choose to conduct research through the Science Shops, because their research can be beneficial for someone, who does not have access to science and knowledge. Aspects like the possibility of gaining skills in co-operation and communication and knowledge about real life problems are also part of the students’ considerations when they chose to co-operate with civil society organisations through a Science Shop. Supervisors and scientists get engaged in Science Shop projects either because the topic of the investigation is within their own research area, because they find the topic interesting or because they see the project as a possibility to recruit students for later thesis projects or research projects. The challenges in the co-operation with civil society groups are to secure the scientific level in the projects, design the projects so it fits into the university schedule, without leaving out the time perspective of the clients, and secure the research is applicable for the clients and based on their need for knowledge.
The case studies have shown different roles of a Science Shop. All Science Shops have a role as mediator between science and civil society by establishing contact between students, researchers and civil society organisations, but a Science Shop can also have a role as incubator in curricula and research development within the university based on the knowledge needs raised by civil society organisations. Through these activities a Science Shop might contribute to societal discourses, like when the Science Shop at DTU started addressing organic food issues in the early 1990ties based on
Students’, scientists’ and NGO representatives interviewed in the three case studies all perceive the Science Shop as an important actor in ensuring civil society access to research and science. This access can contribute to capacity building in civil society organisations, enabling the civil society organisations to address and influence societal topics and problems.
- science shops
- case study