This Critical Turning point takes place around 2003-4 – and relates to a new staff member, SB, who starts upon her graduation from the university.
This turning points describes when SB, a new graduate, became part of the staff at Science Shop DTU. In the time up to this turning point, the last couple of years, the science shop had primarily been driven by students in a cycle of new students coming in and out all the time.
When SB started in the science shop there came more consistency in the daily activities and they started to reorganize. Upon being hired SB spent the first 6 month just arranging and organising the science shop. She took over after 3 student helpers that each had their own system of organising their work. There was no overall structure for anything. Earlier it had also been ad-hoc how requests were handled as well as finished projects. They now, among other things, started scanning all finished reports and putting them in a database available online. As put by the interviewee:
There was not as many whoops episodes, requests without follow-ups, so a change occurred.
The problem was that although SSC (Science Shop Coordinator) was there, he did not organise, and he had many other activities outside the science shop project. Moreover, it was hard for the students to have the main responsibility, for being the people running the science shop. In addition, that was not their interest. They were there to make some projects, talk with some citizens, getting some contact outside.
After this CTP this changed. The students mainly did the manual labour like writing resumes, scanning reports etc. SB and SSC handled all the external contact. Partly because we (SB and SCC) had an idea that we wanted to appear more professional.
Few other actors were involved in this CTP, as the CTP was a very internal decision handled by the SSC, and there were no other staff at the science shop at the time except a couple of student assistants. However, if the situation is framed a little differently, it could be said that civil society were co-producing the CTP. As said by SB:
Without Science Shop DTU I would never had made a PhD. If the science shop had not been there, and the project not been there, I would not have been working at the university at all
SB had no interest at working at the university or becoming academic, she only stayed at the university because Science Shop DTU offered an opportunity to work with citizen science and engagement. The position was also largely funded by an EU project, and there would likely not have been funding enough without it, so the EU commission and the Living Knowledge network also played a pivotal role.
The colleagues of SSC at the institute also had some kind of impact. As mentioned by SB:
I often heard some of our colleagues say, why do we need this science shop and things like that
These kind of comments were also pressing SSC to strengthen the science shop, organise it better, and finding an ally. Some colleagues and the local context in this way, although in a rather negative way, contributed to this CTP.
There were two related events to this CTP.
SSC acknowledged that the science shop were limping along, and that he did not really have time for everything. This happened before the involvement of SB, and she is unsure which events led to this realization of SSC. However, it relates to earlier downsizing of the initiative that had gradually lost employees. There used to be two full-time staff and a secretary. One of the full-time staff died tragically in a vacation accident, and the position was not filled again but cut away in downsizing. The secretary likewise disappeared during downsizing. At the time of this CTP, the SSC was the only permanent staff, aided by a range of student assistants. The accident and reduction to one full-time staff happened around the turn of the millennia, so this situation had lasted for 3-4 years.
The second event was that they needed more hours (funding) for the employment of SB at the university. SB started at the science shop prior to beginning on her PhD as part of one of the EU projects the initiative participated in. So SB was hired 10 hours at the science shop and the remaining hours for a full time position at the EU project at the time, which was carried out in relation to the science shop.
There was none of the involved in the initiative who opposed the change (hiring SB). As explained by SB, SSC had complete control over the initiative and how its funding was used, so nobody else were involved in the decision to give the staff hours to SB at the time. As commented by SB.
I felt that the whole institute tried to make it all go up to a higher level (find a good solution), so I could get a contract more than 6 month at a time.
Moreover, two of the student workers had already resigned their positions at the time. This was a normal development, as students could seldom work there more than 1-2 semesters at a time, and then it no longer fit into their studies. Therefore, SB started by hiring two new student assistants who then got less hours than the previous assistants did.
There was likewise no changes in relations with their existing partners in civil society. It is important to note that this lack of contestation relates specifically to hiring SB as science shop staff through funding already allocated to the science shop. The science shop projects carried out by SB with both old and new partners may very well have faced contestation, but that is not the focus in this CTP.
On another side note, this CTP partly results from contestations to the science shop (See under anticipation for details). In short, the continued existence of the science shop was under threat due to the continued mergers and down sizing’s at the university, unless the science shop became more organised and could show that they were valuable. This created the need for an employee like SB.
The SSC had over the last couple of years realized that the situation was untenable, according to SB. If the science shop needed to develop, they needed to do something different.
It was clearly Michael’s strategy, and that there should be more management/organising of the shop. In addition, that he should have an ally, otherwise he was pretty much alone.
When asked about rationalisations after the fact, if SB later came to understand the events better, she commented:
I now think Michael had realized that the science shop was under threat, even though he still received funding from the university every year. But in tandem with all the institute mergers and we were moved below Production and Leadership (an institute at the time) with Alting as institute executive manager, then he saw where it was heading, if we did not become more organised, and made it more apparent that there was a need for us. Interviewer: but did you know that the science shop was under threat at the time? No, not at all.
The hiring of SB was of course anticipated in the way that SSC made the decision himself. This action however was in response to a development that SSC anticipated, as speculated by SB (which later turned out to be true, see last CTP for this initiative). This anticipated development was not an expectation of direct contestations, but an anticipation or a harder environment, and that the science shop may fall as a casualty during the mergers and cost cutting attempts at the university.
SB brought in new partners for the science shop through her existing network. As commented by SB:
I also brought in new partners because I already had contacts and because I was doing more maintenance and were more stubborn. At least on the organisational level it was not a big problem, but on a researcher level, to get different supervisors committed to supervise projects. There we could see differences. I succeeded in getting the environmental institute involved, and researchers working with signals, traffic and city planning.
Their accept of the science shop did not change I think, basically I don’t know if they even registered it was a science shop. However, it succeeded that they wanted to be supervisors for projects. So the very technical projects where we earlier had problems that students could not find supervisors, we could say that if you make this project then we have this supervisor.
So SB managed to reinvigorate the co-production
I think that it prolonged the lifetime of the science shop a couple of years. Also internally at the institute. I often heard some of our colleagues say, why do we need this science shop and things like that. And I think that when Michael was no longer alone, we were two, and it was now running smoothly, made I manifest more strongly on some level. And when we started to think these projects into Design and Innovation (a specific master of science concentration), was also our way of saying that these projects are not only projects, they can also facilitate a lot of learning.
I think a lesson would be that my hours should have been split in two, so I did not have to do secretary work, and have focus on developing the science shop more, and cultivate some research areas. I think our death was that we did not get some very clear core research areas. So we would give those hours to a secretary. Also, I used a lot of hours in the later years to hire new student assistants, to explain their work tasks, and keep them on track while working etc. If it had been the same person, and a professional…
This lesson interestingly relates to some of the earlier lessons from CTP 1 and 2 for this local initiative, where SSC were empowered by having his position converted from an administrative one (secretary) to an academic one, enabling the science shop to carry out research. SB here faces the same issue, doing secretary work prevents her from doing projects and research. It seems like a kind of devolution, a learning that SSC should already be aware of, but the situation and lack of funding maybe forced the devolution.
Relating to current challenges
The science shop as of today (time of the interview) is dead. However, its existence have had impacts for SB and the way her career and research has developed:
The reason that I was in the science shop at all and did a PhD subsequently are those experiences I have from the science shop. So it did lead to the framing of a research project, and I could make my PhD, and continued working with this knowledge that are produced in these networks. But today I am not really working with it…. Maybe a little as I still have a close collaboration with organisations for disabled (many science shop projects at the time related to disabled).
Without Science Shop DTU I would never had made a PhD. If the science shop had not been there, and the project not been there, I would not have been working at the university at all. And I had always sworn that I would not remain at the university. So it is also coincidence what is…
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