Towards a citizens’ science in Europe : new forms of co-operation between NGOs, citizens and researchers

jeudi 13 novembre 2003


Scientific knowledge plays a determining role in the societal development provoking profound social, political, economic and cultural transformations. Traditionally scientific knowledge is seen as being neutral and independent but in fact it is contested and negotiated knowledge that is more and more influenced by pure economic factors and for which the economic and organisational resources are unequally distributed in the society.

Nowadays we are confronted to numerous the environment and human life threatening consequences of scientific and technological innovations. But the decision-making processes rely on the rules of the political and economic marketplaces, and citizens or civil society actors have rarely a say on them. The actual situation reflects the ineptness of our societies to democratically guide technological change. As Richard Sclove, the founder of the Loka-Institute in the United States wrote in 1995 in his book « Technology and Democracy » : « Technology is implicated in perpetuating antidemocratic power relations and in eroding social contexts for developing and expressing citizenship. »

Thus it is vital to create new relationships between science and civil society that permit NGOs and citizens to become critically engaged in the regulation and in the agenda setting of science and technology, e.g. to influence science and technology policy. During the last three decades different initiatives and structures have emerged in Europe. Science shops, NGOs with research capacities, independent institutes, patients’ organisations, and community groups have entered research and expertise. They have proven their capacity to propose and to develop research topics and fields, often leading to transdisciplinary projects, and to directly link research to social needs.

We need more social control of scientific activity and technological innovations. We need to strengthen participation of the civil society for a more sustainable and democratic development. A science that responds to social demands and is shaped on a human level will become a real citizens’ science.

When, Where

9h – 12h

Fondation pour le progrès de l’homme (FPH) (1er étage)

38, rue Saint Sabin

75011 Paris

What, Who

9 am – 10.30 am

Session 1 : Experiences and impacts

10.45 am – 12.00 am

Session 2 : Policy recommendations for the future

Speakers :

Session 1 :

Andrea Gnaiger, INTERACTS (a European project about science shops)

David King (Human genetics alert)


Andrew Jamison, Aalborg University, Denmark

Session 2 :
Peter Levesque, Social Sciences and Humanities research Council in Canada

Proposed keywords for speakers (12 minutes each) :
Andrea Gnaiger, Austria represents the INTERACTS project (« Improving interaction between NGOs, Science Shops and Universities : Experiences and Expectations », funded by the European Commission). Andrea Gnaiger speaks about the results from the 21 case studies in 6 countries about co-operation between NGOs and researchers and students through science shops. The presentation focuses on the societal background of the co-operation in the case studies, the process of knowledge production during the co-operation, and the impact of the projects on the NGO’s and on the involved students, researchers and science shops, including on the research and the curricula at the participating universities and science shops.

Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE Europe) : Friends of the Earth is the largest grassroots environmental network in the world campaigning to protect the environment and to create sustainable societies. FoE Europe unites more than 30 national member groups with thousands of local groups.
Someone speaks on the role of NGOs in research based on FoE Europe’s own experience, including strategies for influencing research agendas and policies, the NGOs need for scientific knowledge as part of their activities, FoE Europe’s own research within sustainable development and their co-operation with researchers and universities.

AITEC : AITEC is a French NGO (also working on the international level) created by researchers, technicians and experts. AITEC promotes reflections on societal implications of scientific and technical disciplines and provide also expertise for social movements, NGOs and unions.

Andrew Jamison, Aalborg University Denmark : Andrew Jamison researches social movements like NGOs and the development of knowledge, including the changing role of social movements within the environmental field. He sees a number of different forms of environmentalism today (community, professional, militant and personal) and sees the recent history of environmentalism placed on a continuum from critical ecology to incorporation into green business. However he also sees an emerging cognitive regime based on bridge building through different kinds of brokers, like NGOs and civil servants from governmental authorities.

Irene Hall, UK represents the INTERACTS project. Irene Hall speaks about recommendations for policy measures at local, national, regional and EU level, which can further develop the role of science shops as one of the means for giving voice to civil society through co-operation about the development of NGOs capacity and through science shop projects’ input to future research and curricula. The recommendations are built on case studies and on scenario workshops with NGOs, science shops, decision makers, students and researchers in the INTERACTS project.

Peter Levesque, The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in Canada : Peter Levesque presents the experiences with the Canadian Community University Research Alliance (CURA) model, which is a model for public funded programmes based on partnership between community organisations, local or regional governmental agencies and universities. The CURAs focus on areas like youth, poverty, culture, violence and sustainable development. All programmes have components of research, education and training and knowledge-transfer. Peter Levesque talks about the role of government in financing community-based research and action research and whether the programmes strengthen the influence of citizens and their organisations.

Moderators : Claudia Neubauer (Fondation Sciences Citoyennes, France) and Michael Søgaard Jørgensen (INTERACTS).

Contact :

Michael Søgaard Jørgensen, Project co-ordinator INTERACTS, Co-ordinator of The Science Shop at Technical University of Denmark

Tel. +45 45 25 60 24

Claudia Neubauer, Co-ordinator of Fondation Sciences citoyennes, France

Tel. +33 1 43 14 73 64

Site du Forum social européen pour trouver le programme entier.