Science Shops and
"Community-based research" aims to empower community groups and citizens to address current and future problems by building upon the wealth of knowledge among local people who have direct experience and expertise with the problem at hand. Rather than direct the research, university or government researchers tend to facilitate or supplement research in ways that are appropriate for, and applicable to, local situations.
"Science shops" are one model of community-based research that aims to establish productive, mutually beneficial collaborations between community organisations and research institutions. Science shops were first established in the Netherlands during the 1970s. The idea was to provide a specific location at the university where citizens and community groups could link directly with researchers to help solve community-related problems. The term "science" was used in the broadest sense, including the natural and social sciences and humanities. The term "shop" was chosen to reflect the idea that the university was open to everyone, and all services provided by the original Dutch science shops were free of charge.
Today many Dutch universities have one or more science shops, and there is a growing network of international science shops . In the U.S.A., the Loka Institute has established a broad Community Research Network based on the science shops model.
Although they may differ in design and scope, most science shops function in similar ways. Community groups or citizens who are looking for assistance in answering a research-related question contact the shop directly. To date, most questions have concerned environmental issues, for example water testing, noise measurements, or interpretation of environmental assessment documents.
Depending on the nature of the request, the shops can initiate several types of activities:
Regardless of the
process, the results of all science shops activities are openly shared
with community members, and made available for future community use.
Results may be also published in academic journals and other general
publications. In addition, most science shops hold community workshops
and seminars, and publish regular newsletters reviewing all of the shops'