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SciCafe: The Science Cafes Network

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Science cafes online

Science cafes (SCs) provide an online forum for discussing science. An EU programme was set up to look after them.

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The EU-funded project 'The science cafes network' (SCICAFE) created a network of online SCs in various cities across Europe and abroad. These took the form of sophisticated chat rooms for the discussion of science. Involving a consortium of 12 diverse partners from 8 EU states, the project ran from 2009 to 2012. It coordinated networking among the various SCs and individual science communication practitioners. This was intended to support the evolution of SCs by fostering cooperation and information exchange about experiences and best practices. SCICAFE listed 12 results against its 7 objectives. It developed an understanding of SC operations across Europe, establishing a set of best practices and forming a How-To guide for establishing new SCs. The project also developed innovative scenarios on organising different types of SCs. Project partners conducted 40 validation workshops in 9 countries. They also organised 23 training workshops in six European and two African countries, which exceeded the project's initial target of four such workshops. As part of this action, SCICAFE familiarised SC organisers with information and communication technologies (ICT) tools that facilitate the operation of SCs. These included the portal release of 3-D tools simulating a real cafe environment, employing cross-media tools that bridge the 'second life' online environment and reality. Other tools allowed for improvements such as larger video uploads plus email and SMS tools. SCICAFE expanded its list of cafes in Africa, eastern Europe and the United States. The project, overall, included 93 junior cafes, intended for young people, listed as an important and difficult achievement given initial resistance to the concept from schools. The project's dissemination achievements include the development of relevant materials, including 70 posters, 1 000 leaflets, 2 newsletters and 50 copies of the guidelines for creating new SCs. These activities also resulted in 6 conferences/workshops and 10 publications, the most important of which was the e-book 'Sipping Science with a Science Cafe'. This contains the project's legacy, including culturally relevant information, and will be critical to those wishing to start new SCs in the future.

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