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Reverse Science Cafés: a new way to spark innovation in healthcare and medicine

Sparks aims to stimulate conversations between citizens, scientists, policy makers and education professionals in order to encourage them to share responsibility for science in a way that makes it relevant to today’s societal needs. But how can this be done? How can experts benefit from the general public’s opinions and experience when addressing healthcare and new technologies related issues?

Sparks is advancing a new way of talking to each other in science centres: the Reverse Science Café, which has already been tested by the Copernicus Science Centre (Warsaw, Poland) and the Science Museum London.

So what exactly defines Reverse Science Cafés?

Imagine a discussion between experts and citizens focused on various ethical and societal topics related to local examples of research, technologies and innovations. The discussion is initiated by experts and is permanently opened to interventions from the audience, so that, eventually, the audience becomes the leader of the conversation offering a valuable input. Participants work in small groups in order to identify issues and better formulate advice on making research and innovation more responsible.

The first Reverse Science Café took place in Warsaw on 21 April, at the Copernicus Science Centre. The discussion revolved around possible use of muscle electrical activity sensors (EMG) as preventive examination for sudden infant death. Wiktor Gajewski (Director of Science and Art Events shared with Sparks’ partners some of the participants’ reactions:

"We had a mix of participants with some previous interest in presented topics – for example medicine students and with no knowledge on the case whatsoever. Together they created a set of recommendations. For example they wanted scientists to analyse not only technical but also societal and ethical issues in development of this diagnostics technology. Some issues on data privacy were raised as well, with proposed solutions for sharing medical data using similar forms of consent as are employed in smartphone apps.”

During the event, participants also made discoveries which defied their personal understanding of some concepts. For example, one of them expressed surprise to find out that hackers could do positive work for society. Wiktor concluded that “the mix of perspectives and backgrounds of both experts and the public created an inspiring opportunity for learning and dialogue."

In London, scientists were very pleased by the outcome of the event which took place on 27 April. They learned how to further present their work to a general audience and gathered valuable feedback from citizens which sparked new ideas for future research.

Moreover Reverse Science Cafés have the potential to shift perception of science museums and centres:

“We had a great time and people showed a lot of interest and enthusiasm. It was really a pleasure to talk about our work at the Science Museum. I think it helps to make the museum more alive as people are not just looking at the history of science.” – A researcher said about his experience at the Reverse Science Café in London.

The Sparks exhibition ‘Beyond the Lab: the DIY Revolution’ will open in Bonn, London, Warsaw and Ljubljana in July this year. You can find more details about the dates and the locations on the Sparks website.

 

Want to know more about Reverse Science Cafés?

>Read the article in Sparks Second newsletter

>Find the whole methodology of the Reverse Science Café in Sparks Handbook

Events date: 
Tuesday, May 24, 2016