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SciCafe: The Science Cafes Network

Final Report Summary - SCICAFE (The science cafes network)

Executive summary:

The SCICAFE project started on September 2009. Involving Science Cafes SCs all around Europe as well as organisations in required fields such as technology, education, research, science centres, and the utmost vision is to take European SCs a step further by means of technology, networking and collaboration. With a highly diversified consortium with 12 partners from 8 different European Member States, suffice to say that most of them have become key players within the organisation of SCs for several years now whereas some of them have actually been the initiators of this idea (Café Scientifique United Kingdom (UK)).

The SCICAFE project exploits the notion of networking, exchange of best practices, and cooperation between SCs in different cities and regions of Europe. Team effort has been invested in assisting and coordinating the existing SCs, identifying and analysing their actual needs, potentials and best practices; and, all the above by sharing experiences, through significant surveys, discussions, workshops, and assisting newcomers in organising their own SC. Therefore, a set of guidelines has been produced which was very useful not only to existing SC organisers but also to the newcomers. Implementation activities were carried out in 62 cities / towns / locations in 23 regions in 12 countries: Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, UK, Switzerland, Kenya, Israel / Palestine, Uganda, and the United States of America (USA).

The SCICAFE portal (see http://www.scicafe.eu online), being a main feature of the project, aims at providing a number of web-based tools thus enabling SC communities to immediately and easily experience technological benefits. Moreover, via the 2nd Life & Live Streaming applications, physical attendance in SC is no longer required and everyone is allowed to attend a SC by simply joining the SCICAFE online community. A major apogee has been the development of the SCICAFE web-book with the final edition being produced as a book named 'Sipping Science with a Science Cafe' which can be downloaded from the SCICAFE website. Scenarios have been developed working as guide of practice and experience for newcomers and existing SC organisers. At the later stage, the project continued through the identification and sharing of SCs, training workshops, focus groups and interaction with science stakeholders and SC organisers among European countries, Africa region and USA, thus promoting the concept of SC in a worldwide manner surpassing the initial objectives.

Project context and objectives:

The SCICAFE project started on September 2009 and ended in August 2012 with the successfully involvement of SCs all around Europe as well as organisations in required fields such as technology, education, research, science centres. The ultimate vision was to take European SCs a step further by means of technology, networking and collaboration. A highly diversified consortium with 12 partners from 8 different European Member States was formed, most of them major contributors to the organisation of SCs for several years now whereas some of them have actually been the initiators of this idea (Café Scientifique UK).

During the project period team effort has been put in organising new SCs and continue assisting and coordinating the existing SCs, identifying and analysing their actual needs, potentials and best practices; and, all the above by sharing experiences, through significant surveys, discussions, workshops, and assisting newcomers in organising their own SC. Two different set of guidelines have been produced in order to provide the mean for successful organisation of SCs. An initial version was developed based on the usefulness not only to existing SCs organisers but also to the newcomers. Following the continuous experience gained from the initial SCs organisations and the feedback selected form the SCs organisers a revised set of guidelines has been produced which provided a manual for anyone who wanted to organise a SC in an independent way without calling an external supervisor.

The organised events during the project period informed the stakeholders of the educational and scientific communities about the potential offered by SCs not only as generic science communication tools, but importantly also as vehicle for informal learning, development of critical thinking skills and of links to communities outside the school, in science education, civic education and cross curricular frameworks within and around the school community.

The SCICAFE portal (see http://www.scicafe.eu online), being a main feature of the project, aimed to provide a number of web-based tools thus enabling SC communities to immediately and easily experience technological benefits. Moreover, via the 2nd Life & Live Streaming applications, physical attendance in SC was no longer required and everyone was allowed to attend a SC by simply joining the SCICAFE online community. Gadgets like SMS / email alerts, events maps and news harvesting were available for free to all science café funs, facilitating everyone to keep up with events and news within this field. Following the feedback from users and consortium members optimisation tasks were carried out and regular updates were performed to the project portal news and events.

Based on group knowledge and with the use of the information and communication technology (ICT) tools provided by the portal, the consortium organised various activities such as SCs under the consortium's guidance, validation workshops, training workshops and special events (e.g. live streaming SCs), with a worldwide coverage in the second period. Numerous events were organised in 23 regions in 12 countries with particular emphasis in Eastern Europe and Africa.

At the initial stage, the project was implemented through the identification and sharing of SC's good / best practices, workshops, focus groups and interaction with science stakeholders and SC organisers as well as understanding of SC's culture and conceptual thinking amongst European countries, thus promoting the use of new technologies. A major apogee has been the development of the SCICAFE web-book with the final edition being produced as a book named 'Sipping Science with a SC' which can be downloaded from the SCICAFE website. Scenarios have been developed working as guide of practice and experience for newcomers and existing SC organisers. At the later stage, the project continued through the identification and sharing of SCs, training workshops, focus groups and interaction with science stakeholders and SC organisers among European countries, Africa region and USA, thus promoting the concept of Science Café in a worldwide manner surpassing the initial objectives.

In addition, the consortium has successfully organised 23 training workshops, 40 validation workshops across Europe, in Uganda in the African region and USA. The consortium joined forces with local science communities and café organisers thus enhancing collaboration and sharing experience by co-organising more than 367 SCs around Europe and Africa; it would be rather important to mention that most of these were set up by introducing new technologies.

The main objectives of our project and the motivations that kept the momentum in the consortium work have been the following:

(1) A deep understanding of the way that SCs operate across Europe and elaborate so as to establish a set of concrete Guidelines and collection of best practices. These will be handed over to SC organisers as a basic 'How-To' guide, making the process of organising a cafe easier and far more organised.
(2) Bringing as many SC organisers as possible together under the SCICAFE portal and inspiring them to operate collectively and centrally in a European level. This will enhance the communication of science to the wider public by eliminating the current obstacle of activities and cafes information scattered and communicated through numerous channels.
(3) Developing at least 16 innovative scenarios on how to organise and implement different SCs, ranging from Junior to Family SCs and from SCs in a coffee shop to Virtual Cafes or SCs in the countryside.
(4) Familiarising the SC organisers with the use of ICT tools in implementing a SC and encouraging the Virtual SCs across Europe and Africa, making use of the possibilities offered by the web and more generally state-of-the-art ICT tools.
(5) Enhancing the SCs presence and concept in regions like Easter Europe and Africa, both via the consortium as well as via associated partners and network.
(6) Implementing a number of validation workshops, aiming to validate the SCICAFE approach and tools through their exposure to the stakeholder communities.
(7) Organising / coordinating junior cafes, which explore and apply the science cafe concept and format for science communication addressing students and young people (as opposed to 'Adult Cafes).

Project results:

The consortium has achieved the following key science and technology (S&T) results:

(1) A deep understanding of the way that SCs operate across Europe and elaborate so as to establish a set of concrete guidelines and collection of best practices. These will be handed over to SC organisers as a basic 'How-To' guide, making the process of organising a café easier and far more organised. A second version of the 'How-To' guide is developed based on the feedback received from organisers used the initial version and it is consider a success as it is very helpful for those who want to organise a Science Café in an independent way, without calling an external supervisor. It gives all information to organise a SC, in any kind of situations, with or without a team or means, and shows how much it can be interesting for young people to be involved in it.

(2) Bringing as many SC organisers as possible together under the SCICAFE portal and inspiring them to operate collectively and centrally in a European level. This will enhance the communication of science to the wider public by eliminating the current obstacle of activities and cafes information scattered and communicated through numerous channels.

(3) Developing at least 11 innovative scenarios on how to organise and implement different SCs, ranging from Junior to Family SCs, from SCs in a coffee shop to Virtual Cafes or SCs in the countryside and from local food SCs to slow food SCs.

(4) Overall 23 training workshops were organised in 8 countries: Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, UK, Kenya, and Uganda. Thus the project moved well beyond its initial target of organising 4 training workshops in Greece, UK, Italy, and France. The main aim of the training workshops was to familiarise potential science café organisers with the SCICAFE approach and the use of the SCICAFE tools that could support their involvement in science café initiatives.

(5) Familiarising the SC Organisers with the use of ICT tools in implementing a SC and encouraging the Virtual SCs across Europe and Africa, making use of the possibilities offered by the web and more generally state-of-the-art ICT tools.

(6) A SC portal is released integrating all tools and digital services. A three-dimensional (3D) virtual place was created within the SCICAFE portal representing a 'real like' cafe, bridging interactive cross media tools between web, second life and reality. The Portal search was expanded to provide users with additional search criteria. This change introduced search based on metadata and tags. Podcast functionality implemented and included in the portal. Improvements and strengthening of the video upload functionality in order to allow greater size videos. Revisited the email and SMS alerts thematic list, applying changes requested by partners and users during validation workshops. A special section was developed dedicated to the Junior SCs. SCICAFE web-book has been integrated to the SCICAFE portal. An auto-publish newsletters mechanism was developed by the technical team in order to help affiliate / 3rd party cafes to publish their event invitations to the portal.

(7) Enhancing the SCs presence and concept in regions like Eastern Europe, Africa and USA via the consortium as well as via associated partners and network.

(8) The project carried out 40 validation workshops in Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Uganda, UK, and USA. The consortium partners generally exploited their cooperation links and networks in order to act as local validation and dissemination centres for SCICAFE.

(9) An evaluation process of the SCICAFE project regarding SC networking, scenarios and new technological developments has been implemented. The criteria were based on the aims and objectives of the description of work (DOW) and are also of use for internal program self-evaluations, planning and programme development as well as external peer reviews and expert assessments. There were three levels of criteria: (a) the individual criteria themselves, which describe in broad terms the desired effectiveness for that area;
(b) the indicators, a set of specific markers or factors, which are suggestive of whether the criteria are being met; and
(c) the areas of inquiry, a third level of detail, which provide specific guidance to reviewers in terms of questions to be asked and topics to be examined. Using web-based questionnaire applications (see http://SurveyMonkey.com online for further details), both quantitative and qualitative feedback from WP leaders have been collected as the basis for analysis.

(10) Junior cafes have been organised, which explored and applied the science café concept and format for science communication addressing students and young people (as opposed to Adult Cafes).

(11) Creating opportunities for scientists and the general public to exchange views in a two-way dialogue based on mutual respect and trust.

(12) Improving conditions for an informed debate on ethics and science.

Potential impact:

Overall the project successfully established a SCICAFE user group network covering different regions, by carrying out implementation activities in 62 cities / towns / locations in 23 regions in 12 countries: Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, UK, Switzerland, Kenya, Israel/Palestine, Uganda, and USA. Thus the project has substantially exceeded the target of covering 15 different European regions and cities. It has covered 2 regions in associated countries (Switzerland and Israel / Palestine). Importantly, also SCICAFE developed substantial activity in Africa, through 65 events in 10 locations (Bombo, Fort Portal, Hoima, Jinja, Kampala, Kasangati, Kiira, Mbale, and Mukono in Uganda, and Nairobi in Kenya), reaching beyond the initial targets. This is a major achievement of the SCICAFE network, especially considering the fact that its activities in Africa were not funded by the European Commission (EC).

The network responded to the warm interest in science café practices found in Kenya and Uganda, with an eye to invest in cooperation beyond Europe. Overall 23 training workshops were organised. Training workshops were organised in 8 countries: Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, UK, Kenya, and Uganda. Thus the project moved well beyond its initial target of organising 4 training workshops in Greece, UK, Italy and France. The main aim of the training workshops was to familiarise potential science cafe organisers with the SCICAFE approach and the use of the SCICAFE tools that could support their involvement in science cafe initiatives. In this process, the less experienced countries and partners benefited from a transfer of existing knowledge and experiences from the countries and partners with already a rich background of running SCs. The consortium found that training workshops could be of help in several cases fulfilling multiple functions towards the achievement of the objectives of the SCICAFE project.

Overall, 367 implementation events were organised, almost all of which exploited the SC format. As a result of this, towards the end of the funded period it was clear to consortium partners that SCICAFE had substantially promoted awareness of and interest in science café practices among people from various backgrounds, who had not experimented with such practices in the past.

The project organised 93 Junior Cafes. This was an important achievement, given the fact that school environments in most cases proved quite inflexible in adopting and incorporating such a 'different' practice into their heavily busy pre-programmed daily practice. Much effort was invested by partners everywhere and especially in Eastern Europe and Africa to convince and mobilise school communities and education stakeholders. Although the response was different from what had been when this project was initially designed, the organised Junior Cafes where distributed in a quite wide range of countries: France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland, Uganda, and UK. In Uganda, in particular, more than 50 junior SCs were organised. It should also be noted that in several cases education stakeholders, especially teachers, were that target group of adult SCs, in this way indirectly contributing to the take-up of the SC movement in the world of education.

Regarding Adult Cafes, on the other hand, the project set up 15 SCs addressing adults in Africa and 78 such cafes in Eastern Europe. In addition, overall in 42 occasions the SCICAFE technologies and the internet were used to transmit European science café activities.

The project carried out 40 validation workshops in Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Uganda, UK, and USA. The consortium partners generally exploited their cooperation links and networks in order to act as local validation and dissemination centres for SCICAFE. In the validation workshops, in particular, the aim was to disseminate science café concepts and practices and exploit the project results beyond the immediate circle of the project consortium.

During the 36-month period of the project, several significant results related to dissemination have been achieved. These include a comprehensive dissemination and communication strategy, a detailed action-oriented dissemination and communication plan which is being updated to reflect the developments in the project, a series of dissemination materials produced (to compare with the set measurable targets: approximately 70 posters, 1 000 leaflets, 2 newsletters, 50 copies of guidelines for creating new SCs). A central role was played by public events utilised to communicate the SCICAFE concepts and outcomes to stakeholders and the wider public. Dissemination activity took place in the framework of both events organised by the consortium, and events organised by third parties. In the latter, consortium partners participated and disseminated the SCICAFE concepts and emerging outcomes either formally through presentations or informally through contacts and networking and distribution of dissemination materials.

The project participated in 10 publications and 6 conferences / workshops disseminating the SCICAFE project to the wider scientific community and stakeholders. The closing conference of the project was very successfully organised by EA and the consortium in July 2012, under the title 'SCICAFE 2012 Conference and Events: Europe's Science Cafes Thinking Forward'. It took place in the village of Panormos in Crete, Greece, on 1 - 5 July 2012, so as to make use of the increased dissemination potential offered by the organisation in the same place of four professional development summer schools addressed to science communicators and science teachers from around Europe. The event offered an excellent opportunity for researchers and practitioners from Europe and beyond to explore the science café concept, encouraging cross-fertilisation of ideas from diverse fields and contexts, with a special emphasis on demonstrating and jointly investigating science café practices, their strengths and boundaries. The conference, which was combined with a number of science café events and workshops of special and local interest, was attended by more than 50 highly interested and motivated individuals.

Finally the development of the SCICAFE web-book 'Sipping Science with a Science Cafe' has been produced as a book which can be downloaded from the SCICAFE website. It contains the idea of the cafes, information on the SCICAFE project, advice about how to start a cafe, a description of many scenarios, and finally accounts from all round the world by people who have started cafes. This book will be critical in the years to come for people who are interested in how to start a cafe, what cafes are, and how varied and interesting cafes are in different cultures. The book will be a powerful reminder of the success and thinking behind the EU SCICAFE project.

List of websites: http://www.scicafe.eu

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