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Science Shops

Science shops provide independent, participatory research support to NGO’s on a demand driven and affordable basis. Thereby, science shops promote and support public access to, and public influence on, science, research and technology.

Science shops are characterized by a remarkable diversity of expertise covered, organisational form and approaches. In respect to science shops, the term “science” is to be understood in its broadest sense, encompassing the social and human sciences, as well as natural, physical, engineering and technological sciences. Most science shops are university-based, while others are independent research institutes. Most of them – university- and non-university-based ones alike – act as intermediaries between universities and NGO’s and mostly engage students for doing research, thus enhancing the students’ skills in putting science to practical use. Others are independent research institutes where professional researchers do all research work.

According to estimates about 70 science shops exist in Europe alone. Most of them are located in the Netherlands, from where the idea of setting up science shops spread to Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Romania, and the United Kingdom since the 1970's. In their respective countries, science shops are known under different names such as “Wetenschapswinkels” (The Netherlands) and “Wissenschaftsläden” (Austria, Germany). Science shops also exist in the USA – where they are called Community-Based Research Centers -, Malaysia, South Africa and South Korea.

As weak institutions, science shops are heavily bound to local conditions. Since a few years, supported by  the European Commission, more and more science shops are exchanging knowledge and good practice. The first EC project by science shops was SCIPAS. INTERACTS is related to SCIPAS by investigating issues that were brought up in SCIPAS. The findings of SCIPAS and INTERACTS feed into ISSNET, the International Science Shop Network, a Thematic Network funded by the European Commission, which intensifies co-operations of science shops. ISSNET puts Action 21 of the Action Plan “Science and Society” into practice. INTERACTS is an Accompanying Measure to ISSNET.