A science shop is a facility, often attached to a specific department of a university or an NGO, that provides independent participatory research support in response to concerns experienced by civil society. It's a demand-driven and bottom-up approach to research. Their work can be described as community-based research (CBR). Science shops were first established in the Netherlands in the 1970s and their main function is to increase both public awareness and to provide access to science and technology to laymen or non-profit organizations.
In practice, this means civil society organizations will have access to scientific research at low or no cost. Science shops that are based at universities give students opportunities to do community-based research as part of their curriculum. Science shops are not restricted to the natural sciences. They can cover topics in all scientific disciplines, ranging from natural sciences to social sciences and humanities.
Science shops are managed and operated by both permanent staff members and students who screen questions provided by members of civil society. Science shop staff use these questions to provide challenging problems to both research students and university faculty members in hope of finding solutions to the question. Students who participate in science shops often can acquire credits toward their degree. Also, many students do their postgraduate work on problems referred to by science shops.
A myriad of science shops have developed expertise in specific areas. For example, the first science shop attached to the chemistry department at Utrecht University is particularly skilled in evaluation reports on soil analysis.
Clients are often directed to the science shop that is best suited to address their particular concerns. The Dutch system has provided many benefits to environmentalists, workers, and social workers. Science shops, in general, have aided environmentalists in better analyzing industrial pollutants, and helped workers to better evaluate the safety and employment consequences of new production processes. Moreover, they have enhanced the understanding of social workers in how to deal with disaffected teenagers.
The Dutch system has inspired science shops in nations across Europe such as Denmark, Austria, Germany, Norway, the UK, Belgium, Romania and Portugal . Moreover, there are currently science shops in countries outside of Europe such as Canada. The University of Waterloo Science Shop in Canada is a community service centre for knowledge transfer. Science Shops around the world are linked through the International Science Shop network Living Knowledge.
- Sardar, Ziauddin and Loon, Borin Van. 2001. Introducing Science. USA: Totem Books (UK: Icon Books).
- Loet Leydesdorff, Peter van den Besselaar: What we have learned from the Amsterdam Science Shop, in: Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook, Vol. XI, 1987, 135—160.