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

The second pilot, titled Empowering young researchers on PE in energy efficiency was carried out in partnership with ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) in the framework of the Summer School on Energy Efficiency that ENEA organised the last week of June 2015 targeting 25 young researchers (especially engineers). The pilot project was aimed at transferring knowledge and practices in PE for designing and implementing programmes on energy efficiency. To this end, besides the young researchers, the pilot involved also a group of ENEA project managers and the private companies concerned with the Summer School. The pilot included three main steps: a workshop with ENEA projects managers on PE in energy projects on the ENEA experience in public engagement to transfer to the students; the organisation of a training module on PE in the energy sector; the development of a handout on such an issue and its presentation in the final session of the Summer School.

The third pilot, titled Dialogue Workshop on mobility and transportation was conducted in Naples in partnership with IDIS – Città della Scienza, in the framework of a 4-day initiative of public communication and debate on S&T. The rationale of the pilot was that of putting PE at the very centre of the debate on mobility and transportation in Naples, involving CSOs, research institutions, transportation utilities and local authorities in an open dialogue about the actual and potential role of participatory mechanisms in the mobility sector. The Dialogue Workshop was prepared through a process of consultation of some of the key stakeholders leading to the draft of a Discussion Outline, sent to all the participants in the workshop. After the event, a summary document containing the main results of the initiative was also drafted and sent to the participants.

Notwithstanding their differences, the three pilot projects display some common features which deserve to be highlighted.

All of them are based on a consultation for dealing with real-life questions, i.e. how to improve the awareness of youth about how contemporary science works (Turin), how to enhance the capacity of young researchers and professionals to use PE mechanisms in promoting more sustainable energy solutions (Rome) and how to systematically include PE mechanisms favouring large-scale cooperation schemes on mobility and transportation (Naples).

Moreover, all the pilots adopted an interactive and multilateral approach, i.e., they involved groups of people who are not usually in contact with each other or which are not used to deal with together questions related to science-society issues, such as researchers and students (in the case of the pilot in Turin), project managers, students and private companies (in the case of the pilot in Rome) and researchers, local authorities and NGOs (in the case of the pilot in Naples).

The pilots were also based on procedures ensuring a coordination in the consultation process and the capitalisation of its results such as discussion outlines, handouts, summary reports or guidelines.

Finally, all the pilots were geared to ask participants to “take a position”, on the one side, on science and technology as something important (for the local community, for the society, for the education process, for themselves, etc.) and, on the other side, on the participation of people and stakeholders in science and technology. Actually, the first aim to pursue through public engagement is likely that of changing the attitudes of both scientists and “lay people” about the importance of scientific research and about their own role and responsibilities in that.

– Luciano –