„Base decision on facts, not on beliefs” – Kick-off Meeting of MULTIPLIERS project
by Gesche Schifferdecker and Rosa Castañeda
In school, science is often presented in an abstract way and without a context – but if we want to get young people interested, topics need to be relevant to their everyday life. This is the idea behind the H2020 project MULTIPLIERS – short for MULTIplayers Partnerships to ensure meaningful engagement wIth ScieEnce and ReSearch. In this project, scientists will bring real-life cases to students (from elementary school to secondary school), to look at specific “dilemma situations” from various perspectives.
These dilemma situations are explored in six different themes. The German theme is very up to date – it will explore the topic of “Pro–Con Vaccination” and is managed by MULTIPLIERS project coordinator University of Bonn. The University of Cyprus will focus on “Anti-microbial Resistance”, while Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona is investigating the theme “Air Pollution”. IREN SpA, an Italian company providing public services like energy, water, and heating, will handle the topic of Energy Efficiency.
You might be curious why European Forest Institute (EFI) is involved in this project? Well, of course MULTIPLIERS also tackles forest-related topics. In close collaboration with EFI colleagues, Umeå University is going to explore the dilemma of “Forest Use versus Forest Protection”. This topic is quite controversially discussed in Sweden – and not only there as we know. The debate is – like the debate around vaccination or air pollution – more emotional than based on evidence and thorough analysis.
To understand the controversy, students have to be enabled to both collect knowledge and find the pain points by asking critical questions, and consider potential trade-offs. A very good environment to discuss the “Forest Use versus Forest Protection” dilemma is a marteloscope, an “outdoor forest classroom”, where all trees are mapped and measured to consider both the ecological and the economic value of each tree. In the framework of MULTIPLIERS, we plan to establish a marteloscope in Sweden, and potentially also in Slovenia, where the sixth theme is located. University of Ljubljana will engage with students to critically analyze the discussions around “Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services”. However, these themes are not set in stone – in a later phase of the project, partner might also pick up other themes they consider relevant for the students, or they explore themes investigate by others within their own community. For instance University of Bonn is interested in working on the topic of forest use versus forest protection together with local partners in the forest surrounding Bonn.
By addressing current and future societal and environmental challenges and taking students to the authentic workplaces like the forest or a medical lab, MULTIPLIERS aims at increasing students’ interest in science. Discussions with researchers in all themes will be based on scientific knowledge, but they should also consider potential ethical and societal implications of decision-making. To introduce different perspectives on the issues to the students, MULTIPLIERS is aiming at building so-called “Open Science Communities” (OSCs). Each OSC will involve all of the diverse stakeholders from education, research, enterprises, civil society, and policy, to innovatively engage different societal actors in the science learning process. During the project implementation and after its completion, the consortium will support creating new OSCs in the partner countries, as well as in other EU countries.
One of the main project objectives is to develop analytical and critical thinking competences for and with the students, to ultimately make them knowledge MULTIPLIERS. After engaging with the OSCs, in a second step, families and wider communities will be involved in the problem-solving process, which is called open-school science learning. The students will share and discuss what they have learned with their peers, families and beyond. To approach broader audiences and engage with students from all over Europe, the students will prepare stories in MULTIPLIERS social media channels, supported by EFI’s Communication experts. Our idea is to encourage the students to prepare their own communication outputs, in a way that they are the ones who experience and learn from the process of communicating science and create ownership.
The project Kick-off meeting took place virtually on November 18-19, with the participation of the partners and advisors. One of the highlights of the discussion was how to develop a research methodology that will allow to analyze the needs of all the different countries, the enlargement of open science networks and the sustainability of the project. The coordinations have just begun, soon we will be sharing more news on the exciting MULTIPLIERS project!