Breaking up the ivory tower of science
REINFORCE will be monitoring the impact of the project in four of the SwafS strategic orientations: a) exploring and supporting citizen science; b) increasing support for gender equity in research and innovation policy; c) building the territorial dimension of SwafS partnerships; d) building the knowledge base for SwafS and selected MoRRI indicators based on a cross-analysis on impact assessment pillars of science, socio-ecology and the economy as well as participation and democracy.
Through this framework, the REINFORCE consortium will be identifying enablers and barriers for the development of new knowledge and innovations by citizen scientists. These will be condensed into recommendations, based on evaluation data on the societal, democratic and economic impact of citizen science.
We are very fortunate in that the main actor in carrying out the impact assessment will be the Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI), which has extensive experience in citizen science projects evaluation and a long tradition in engaging different stakeholder groups. As an added bonus, it will bring in its expertise in Responsible Research and Innovation.
Elisabeth Unterfrauner, Senior Researcher and Project manager at ZSI, states that bridging the gap between science and society is crucial for the benefit of both. “Breaking up the so-called ivory tower of science” she says “is necessary in order for researchers to reflect on societal needs and to tackle challenges of today’s world such as the UN SDGs and the Grand Societal Challenges formulated by the European Commission”.
According to Elisabeth Unterfrauner, REINFORCE will be fundamental in democratising the access to research. Citizen science has a high level of engagement since citizens are not just informed about research outcomes, but also actively involved in the research process at different stages. In this way citizens can develop research skills, such as how to gather data, how to analyse and categorise them, how to communicate with others how they are contributing to the project, etc.. Doing so, citizens will eventually become more interested in research and will change their mind-set towards science. Hopefully this will impact even on participating pupils who will be able to develop a stronger interest in STEM or STEAM fields. Indeed, REIFORCE aims at nurturing the younger generation in a respectful and tolerant scientific environment that values diversity and inclusiveness.