Last Thursday saw the opening of the Science Museum’s Beyond the Lab exhibition, part of the Horizon 2020 SPARKS project that brings together 33 partner organisations across Europe around the goal of public engagement around DIY Science. Today’s preview opening started with positive messages in the opening speeches from both the Science Museum and ecsite emphasising the benefits of working together across boundaries to spread the democratisation of science.
The exhibition’s curator Louis Buckley explained that the exhibition highlighted just seven individual projects of the ever-growing DIY scientist community of Europe under the 3 focus themes of “DIY Bio”, “DIY Health” and “Citizen Scientists”. One of the profiled case studies in Beyond The Lab is Waag’s Open Wetlab, our partners on DITOs, and it was great to see the familiar faces of Pieter and Xiamyra on the exhibition displays! Phillip from BentoLab was busy with demonstrations, showcasing the tools that can really help to take research out of the lab and into the hands of ordinary people.
In recent times, traditional structures in science have faced criticism and as we review the changing role of science in society we cannot afford to ignore the opportunities and challenges of bringing research closer to the public. There is undoubtedly some responsibility that lies with scientists, to be more open and communicate their research. But there are additional ways of engaging the public with science, such as crowdsourcing the computing and creative power of citizens through platforms like Galaxy Zoo or launching community labs and makerspaces.
Local government and decision makers at all levels would also do well to pay attention to this emerging trend and its links to civic involvement and citizen-led solutions. Pressing policy concerns around environmental issues such as air quality, flooding and biodiversity could increasingly benefit from a deeper involvement of communities. Likewise, conversations around responsible research, open data and innovation hinge on principles of the best ideas coming from unexpected spaces of collaboration and openness where creativity can breathe.
The newly launched DITOs project will bring all of these communities together to develop a common language around DIY Science, helping us all to realise the benefits of this new movement by Doing It Together! As a partner on DITOs, it was very inspiring to see some of the work that our sister initiatives from Horizon 2020 are carrying out. The time for citizen-led innovation and discovery is arriving and it’s exciting to be a part of it!