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Lost in adaptation?

  • Ecsite Spokes Magazine #33

Implementing an international public engagement project in several local contexts is not an easy task. Beyond a matter of translation, it requires a touch of reshaping to take local cultures, policies, expectations, users or logistics into account. What considerations drive this adaptation process forward and what shape does it take on the ground? Are there limits to what can and cannot be reshaped? What can one do in order not to get “lost in adaptation”?

Insights from Sparks partners with Clémentine Daubeuf from KEA European Affairs, Norbert Steinhaus and Laura Steinhaus from the Bonn Science Shop (WILA Bonn).

What is being adapted: A varied menu of activities that accompany the “Beyond the Lab” exhibition

Where: 29 European countries

The Sparks project has two main goals: to demonstrate that research can be bottom-up and that it makes sense only when it is connected to the actual needs of people – these are important components of the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).

Ecsite reached out to Living Knowledge, the International Science Shops Network, to add to the expertise of its established science centre and museum network and develop the menu of activities. Five formats were chosen to accompany the exhibition: two mandatory activities – the (Reversed) Science Café and the snappier Science Espresso – and three optional activities – pop-up science shops, scenario workshops and incubation workshops (such as hackathons). The latter three can sometimes go beyond the usual scope of science centres and museums and more into the terrain of science shops. At the end of the day, each network has to leave its comfort zone and deepen their experience with bottom-up communication and outreach. 

A core management group developed the activities during the proposal stage, with the idea that they would be implemented among a lot of different partners. There was a lot of back and forth, especially leading up to the first tour of the exhibition and the first round of activities. What was clear from the start is that a blueprint alone would not work and that local circumstances and settings would require different responses.

The topic is clear: Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in the field of health. Beyond that, it is up to the individual partners to seek new partnerships or intensify existing collaborations to feed into public events, and bring these in line with the original goals of the project.

Support related to the activities is being offered by the Bonn Science Shop and the Copernicus Science Centre, our partners in developing testing the activities. Since the “Reversed Science Café” – a science café where the tables are turned and experts ask questions of the audience – was a concept developed specifically for the project, Copernicus ran the first of its kind before the project even began. Their experimentation allowed us to offer guidance and training to the project consortium quite early on, prior to the first round of activities. At project meetings held in Amsterdam and London, local organisers had the chance to learn the basics of the methodology and address their preliminary questions directly to the activity developers.

Nowadays we run a Help Desk that provides continuous support to upcoming and future hosts of the Sparks exhibition. The guiding idea behind the Help Desk is exactly the need for adaptation: not every country can apply the project template as the menu of activities would have them do. Numbers differ, timing differs, changes might be needed for better results… Here at the Help Desk we assist local organisers with the necessary adaptations by sharing our experience, providing documents with tips and tricks, and talking through their activity programme.  

Read the full article in Spokes #33

Events date: 
Friday, September 15, 2017