«Base decision on facts, not on beliefs” – Kick-off Meeting of MULTIPLIERS project
by Gesche Schifferdecker and Rosa Castañeda
In schools, 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 the project, scientists will bring real-life cases to students (from elementary to secondary schools) 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 the 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».
MULTIPLIERS also tackles forest-related topics. Umeå University and the European Forest Institute (EFI) are going to explore the dilemma of “Forest Use versus Forest Protection”. This topic is quite controversially discussed in Sweden and beyond. The debate is – like the ones 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, EFI plans to establish a marteloscope in Sweden, and potentially also in Slovenia, where MULTIPLIERS’ sixth theme is centered. The University of Ljubljana will engage with students there to critically analyse the discussions around “Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services”.
However, these themes are not set in stone – at a later stage of the project, other partners might also pick up other themes they consider relevant for the students, or explore themes investigated by others within their own community. For instance, the University of Bonn is interested in working on the topic of forest use versus forest protection together with local partners in the forest surrounding the city.
By addressing current and future societal and environmental challenges and taking students to authentic workplaces like the forest or a medical lab, MULTIPLIERS aims to awaken students’ interest in science. Discussions with researchers on 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 the creation of 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 problem-solving processes, which are 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, students involved in MULTIPLIERS will post stories on the project’s social media channels, supported by EFI’s Communication experts. The idea is to encourage the students to prepare their own communication outputs, in a way that allows them to experience and learn from the process of communicating science while also creating ownership of the content.
The project Kick-off meeting took place virtually on November 18-19, with the participation of the partners and project advisors. One of the highlights was a discussion on how to develop a research methodology that will allow an analysis of 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!