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Science Shop becomes permanent

Date interview: November 6 2015
Name interviewer: Jens Dorland
Name interviewee: Science Shop coordinator (leader/manager) (SSC)
Position interviewee: Science Shop coordinator

Things coming together New Organizing Formalizing Finance Civil Society organizations Challenging institutions Business models Adapting Academic organizations

This is a CTP of initiative: Living Knowledge ‐ Science Shop DTU (Denmark)

Definition of this CTP – becoming permanent (permanentgørelsen)

The first three years Science Shop DTU was running as a time-limited pilot project. After that period, the science shop applied for permanent funding, and the approval of that application is the core of this critical turning point.  

What the CTP entails          

Without this CTP, the science shop would have run out of money at the end of 1988. It may or may not have continued in some form based on voluntary activities, although this is speculation. The CTP also meant that Science Shop DTU got more resources than previously. The Science Shop had the extroverted activity that civil society could approach[JD1] , the open door. At some of the visits to the Netherlands it was noticed that they had, something called program research (programforskning), an activity where the university took in research areas from society based on requests to a science shop[JD2] . As part of trying to make these issues from civil society to become a research area, let these issues get more weight, trying to create some of them as focus areas, Science Shop DTU started to formulate it as a contribution internally to the university. This was not formulated initially for the pilot project. One of these areas become Holistic Development (helhedsorienteret udvikling). It relates both to research areas and teaching.  

The result of this development is that two fulltime scientific staff positions were granted Science Shop DTU, enabling them to conduct more activities. There were four activities in the center, the science shop, research, education, and seminars. This was one of the main changes from the original concept, as science shops in the Netherlands mostly relied on administrative personnel.  

The construction becomes that the open door is the science shop, and the research, seminar, and course development activities lies in parallel in the interdisciplinary center, which is the umbrella where all these activities take place. The group was already running course before this CTP, but not conducting research, and the course development picked up speed at this point. On a side not, all the funding for formally given to the science shop, the position of the university was that the institutes behind it had to fund the interdisciplinary activities themselves.  

From 1989, SSC gets a permanent contract as an associate professor. Earlier SSC was partly funded though the science shop and partly funded by other sources where he thus also had to do some work. Following this CTP he was fully funded through the science shop, giving him much more time to develop it.  

Another development was non-request driven projects, i.e. project the science shop started on their own initiative, although based on their perception and understanding of challenges in civil society. Once of these areas was called Grøn By (green city), where some students made master theses, and later they get research projects and funding for it.  

The science shop received the same amount of requests as during the pilot, but the successfully fulfill more of these requests than earlier, and the activities inside the university gets more weight than before.


University partners

The was wide support for the science shop initiative, beyond the general interest they had a board and various groups who were very active in supporting them. And when the pilot project ended the permanent establishment was granted also because it was seen as a common initiative from a range of institutes. The university senate was also impressed over the number of requests from civil society during the preceding period, numbering 223 requests from 1985-1987. SSC also received an award for junior researchers at DTU showing the general support. The initiative was also notable outside the university and received a technology award from the national technical federation (teknisk landsforbund).  

Illustrating the wide embedding of the initiative, SSC was formally employed at the institute for social studies.  

The intention was for the science shop to act as the open door to society and be directed at the students, the Interdisciplinary Centre was directed at research and being active in relation to the employees – professors and supervisors.  

The centre also enabled cooperation between faculties, and enabled experience and research from the Science Shop to be anchored through courses held by the centre (see incubation under anticipation).  

External co-production There was a range of outside partners. The government for instance launched public funds for organic food research in 1990, which enabled researched and increased staff at the initiative for a time.  

There was also a direct influence from the Dutch science shops, although it was more a one-way influence due to observations than active co-production:  

During the period (the pilot), we have that activity you can contact us, the open door. And during some of the visits to the Netherlands we notice that they have program research. An attempt to make the requests into research areas. Let the issues get more weight. Could we not imagine to have some focus areas as well?  

This observation led to the changes in organisation during the establishment and the research areas like Organic Food Production.

Related events

This CTP enabled many new developments; among them the new model characterized by the conversion of academics staff positions to scientific ones. The science shop also became a more formal organization and developed written procedures for the operation of the science shop in the following years. The stated purpose of the science shop became, according to SSC:  

To give grassroots access to knowledge and resources at the institutes for higher learning as well as renewing inside the university through creation of research and education based on the grassroots knowledge needs and the obtained experiences  

This differ from there more general missions statement of science shops that do not contain the aspects of renewing universities through research and education.  

A related issue, is that the new status as scientific staff allowed a career path. 

The activities expanded steadily after this CTP.


The interviewee did not comment on any contestations during this period. This CTP is tied closely to the previous CTP in the timeline, and any contestations of relevance likely relates to that earlier CTP. The initiative proved so successful in the pilot project that any contestation that did not succeed already likely had no relevance so shortly after (3 years).  

There were some changes though, the initiative expanded with more staff gradually, but a lot of that staff was funded externally via public research funds or other sources, i.e. no sources of internal contestations due to competition for resources.  

In conclusion, at this point it was a gradual, peaceful, and successful expansion of the initiative following the initiation fight to get the initiative up and running before the first CTP (the pilot project).


In the preceding period, SSC together with his colleagues had developed their own model, thought about which resources they could use as a science shop. SSC in this connection developed the concept of the science shop as an incubator (kuvøse), which can be read from the report/application on becoming permanent. The core of the concept is that the science shop takes in new research areas to the cross-disciplinary center, and incubates new research areas and courses, and eventually embeds them separately from the science shop and the center when ready. This I what started happening following this CTP, so it was very much anticipated a planned.  

The CTP was of course unavoidably as they needed clarification of their new status after their initial funding ran out, but the CTP also occurred as expected


Change ambitions

The basic change ambition of the initiative is to open the university to civil society. At a more general level, there is a political goal of empowering democracy and helping disadvantaged groups. Beyond that, there are also ambitions to establish issues observed in civil society as research areas at the university. This ambition is specific to this CTP, while the first ambition is general for the science shop movement.  

Contributions to reaching their ambitions

This CTP successfully restructured Science Shop DTU. Now the science shop coordinator turned into an academic position instead of an administrative one, enabling him to carry out research himself.  

Lessons learned

It makes a large difference which type of position staff are given, even if it the same individuals, at least at universities in Denmark. Being given an academic position versus an administrative one radically changed the types of activities that could be carried out at Science Shop DTU and the interdisciplinary center.  

In retrospect, it was also of importance career wise for SSC. Without an academic position, he would not have had the chance to advance within the academic/university world, and it is very hard to say how his career and the initiative would have developed in such a situation. In later CTPs other staff members and interviewees also comment how they would never have entered into a research career without the science shop.

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