How do partner organisations evaluate community based research (CBR) student projects they were involved in? Within the ENtRANCE project (co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the EU) Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Wageningen University & Research (WU) and Lahti University of Applied Sciences (LUAS) surveyed (72) and interviewed (23 of) their partner organisations in autumn 2018. While CBR projects at VUB and WU are supported by Science Shops, in LUAS they take place through direct contacts of lecturers – without Science Shop support.
Following organisations, project results increase their understanding of the societal topic and are useful for internal communication/use. They appreciate the projects because it’s offering free research and time, it’s based on a (sometimes not earlier researched) topic originating in their practice and it’s scientifically valid. Most ones are pleased with the general research process, while others reported on a lack of student communication. They do appreciate student collaborations because of their fresh ideas & energy, intrinsic motivation and topic commitment and proactive and autonomous work. Most valued student skills are General research skills, Collaboration skills, Situational awareness and Openness & transparency. They value project flexibility and welcome new insights and developments along the way but combined with academic time schedules this also implies the danger of project delay in their opinion.
What is or could be the role of a Science Shop in this? Although 84% of VUB and WU partner organisations that completed the survey confirm that Science Shops have added value, LUAS ones don’t seem to miss it that often. Pleased LUAS organisations are the highest in number when it comes to the goals reached by the results and their broadened university network. But in some cases, a Science Shop may have impact. When it comes to the accessibility of lecturers/Science Shop, lower LUAS rates could be the consequence of the absence of a clear way of work to collaborate with students and lecturers. This seems to increase a lack of continuous CBR evaluation, monitoring and institutional overview. Furthermore, considering average FTEs in the organisations, one could say that smaller and voluntary CSOs may benefit from the existence of Science Shops.