Early-career researcher support in the Bonus pilot project

The promotion of science-society dialogue among early-career researchers with the use of blogs was chosen as a pilot initiative for the PE2020 project in order to deliberate on the possibilities to support junior-level researchers to engage with stakeholders and citizens in the different phases of research and innovation processes, to support the bottom-up initiatives of junior-level researchers in a traditionally hierarchic academic environment, and to deliberate on the possibilities for using new social media as a public engagement tool. Early-career researchers refer here foremost to doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers who are going through the first stages of their academic career. Download the Bonus Pilot Report for more information.

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The rationale for developing the capacities of junior-level researchers is related to the potential impact on agenda-setting and new modes of work, if new generations of researchers see value in public engagement and if they have the necessary knowledge, skills and motivation to actively participate in science-society dialogue. In the long term, as the junior researchers proceed in their career, they may continue this dialogue and collaboration with stakeholders and citizens not as a separate process, but as a natural component of their work. In choosing the pilot initiative, it was also expected that members of younger generations would already have some of the necessary capabilities and a positive attitude towards trying out forms of social media that enable new modes of interaction between researchers, stakeholders, and the general public.

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Public engagement in the vacuum does not exist

One of the main outputs expected from the PE2020 project is the development of a web-based toolkit that, helps policy makers to adopt, adjust and implement public engagement processes for their different needs. Starting from February 2015, under WP3, six pilot initiatives have been launched, of which three in Finland and three in Italy. Some of the initiatives have been concluded while others are still ongoing. Therefore, the results of the pilots are still to be fully identified and developed. However, some preliminary outputs can be mentioned, especially for what concerns obstacles and potentials of public engagement practices, which can be extremely relevant with the PE2020 Toolkit design process. (A toolkit design document can be found here.)

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Undoubtedly, one of the key elements emerging from the pilot initiatives is the necessity to strongly contextualise public engagement initiatives. There is no public engagement tool or approach that fits all organisations and aims. The same tool and approach could assume a set of meanings in a given context and another one in another context. This element clearly emerged from the context-tailoring workshop held in Finland, but also from the Dialogue Workshop on mobility and transportation especially by comparing the experiences made in the Naples area and those carried out in Zurich.

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Living Lab of Global Change Research

The rationale for launching the Living Lab of Global Change Research stems from the pressures emerging from large-scale societal challenges that transcend boundaries of traditional academic fields. There is a need to understand interlinked, large-scale changes in environment and societies which cannot be studied solely from a perspective of one discipline. For example, the changes in climate, biodiversity, agriculture and energy are interlinked, which calls for collaboration between researchers in human and natural sciences.

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The Living Lab of Global Change Research was chosen as a pilot initiative for the PE2020 project in order to deliberate on the possibilities to support and strengthen multi- and interdisciplinary, multi-actor research collaboration related to solving societal challenges, and to elaborate on the possibilities how intermediary organisations may strengthen inter- and multidisciplinary and multi-actor collaboration and support the continuity of living labs.

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The pilot projects in Italy at a glance

The pilot projects carried out in Italy presented in this website through three specific presentation sheets are certainly different from each other for what concerns the issues dealt with, the kind of players involved and the procedures adopted.

The first pilot, titled Educating science-society relations and public engagement was held in Turin, in partnership with Agorà Scienza, an inter-university centre specialised in public engagement and science communication. The pilot was organised to test the possibility of using PE mechanisms to raise the awareness of and transferring knowledge to young students on the complex and changing relationships existing between science and society. The context was given by the 2015 edition of the Scientific Summer School (SSA), a week-long informal education initiative targeted at 50 high school students that Agorà Scienza organises each year. The strategy was that of mobilising the involved researchers (around 20 from different universities based in Turin) for incorporating public engagement in the SSA and for organising an experience of public engagement involving all students.

Turin pilot workshop

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Context tailoring workshops to adapt the pilot initiatives to the particular local contexts

Work Package three (WP3) has as its objective to design and implement six pilot projects on innovative PE processes. Such projects (or ‘pilot initiatives’) are being organised in the context of on-going research programmes in Finland and Italy. PE2020 is being funded through the Seventh Framework programme, and it is developing tools and instruments for better societal engagement in Horizon 2020. The pilot initiatives are collectively linked to the six ‘Societal Challenges’1 of the European Commission. To ensure that there is an EU-wide dimension and relevance, three of the pilot initiatives have been conducted in the context of EU joint research programmes, European innovation partnerships or other types of research and innovation activities with a transnational dimension.


Workshop in progress

The six pilot initiatives have been co-designed and implemented with our target research projects and programmes. The original plan of the PE2020 project was that after a global survey and identification of the most innovative PE processes, two to six of the more interesting public engagement (PE) methods would be transferred and tested in new research policy contexts. Soon, however, it was realised that such a transfer process is far from a straightforward process. On-going research projects and programmes have their own priorities, expectations, quality criteria and cultures of operating; testing and introducing new PE processes need to be adapted to the preconditions of the target programmes.

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European Conference: Engaging Society in Responsible Research and Innovation: What’s Next?

The PE2020 consortium took part in a two-day conference Engaging Society in Responsible Research and Innovation: What’s Next? which took place 9th – 10th November 2015 in Brussels and was organised by the Engage2020 project (http://www.engage2020.eu).

Mikko at Engage2020)

The future of the European science and technology field depends on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). Wider engagement with European citizens, stakeholders and users is a crucial part of this emerging landscape. Regardless of what role you play in research and innovation in the future you will need to consider how societal actors can work with you to address societal challenges.
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PE2020 project consortium in Vilnius, Lithuania

The PE2020 project consortium got together in the beautiful capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, November 2-3, 2015. It was great to see the partners again especially as the project has reached a very exciting phase! Workpackage 2 is finalizing its work on the conceptual model of PE across the dynamically governed research policy cycle and related participatory performance factors. We are very glad to be able to soon publish the new conceptual model designed by the consortium! So stay toned!

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Photo by Evaldas Liutkus, © Creative commons, Flickr.com

Please find here the first policy brief of the project that is aimed at introducing the reader to the aims of the PE2020 project and to the work done so far. There, we also shortly present our initial ideas of the core factors that enhance the factors for successful PE related to the quality of governance and research, as well as to better interaction and communication. These are transparency, balanced inclusion and improvement of policies in terms of effectiveness and responsiveness.

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Future Earth Finland Living lab event discussed the challenges of sustainable urbanization 

Urbanization is a global megatrend and, in the future, the majority of people will live in cities also in Finland. In September 2015, Future Earth Finland gathered an extensive group of experts from different backgrounds to discuss the challenges of sustainable urbanization. The event was part of the “Living lab network for global change research” run by Future Earth Finland. Future Earth Finland is a pilot project of PE2020.

Changes in nature and societies are interlinked 

The day started with a talk by professor Markku Kulmala, a renowned climate scientist and the Chair of Future Earth Finland. Kulmala stated that if we want to tackle the grand challenges of our lifetime, we must grasp the big picture of the dynamic interactions between nature and societies.

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