4/22/20 · Research

The UOC takes part in European initiative to enhance knowledge co-creation and tackle social challenges

The European project CIRCLET will aid professors in blending community-engaged research and learning into their teaching
Foto: Headway / unsplash.com

Foto: Headway / unsplash.com

Consulting with experts to address mobility issues in a neighbourhood and devising solutions for improving the quality of life of a community of patients are just two activities that might take place at a so-called science shop, where research and society have the opportunity to pool their efforts to meet social demands. In keeping with this initiative, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) is working on a European project aiming to help professors include participatory research and knowledge co-creation in their teaching.

The project, titled Curriculum Innovation through Research with Communities: Learning Circles of Educators and Technology, or CIRCLET for short, is being coordinated by Queen's University Belfast and is set to unfold over the next three years. Pastora Martínez Samper, the UOC's Vice President for Globalization and Cooperation, said: "We want to make it easier for our faculty to integrate knowledge co-creation into our programmes."

Opportunities to boost dialogue between science and society have been sprouting up for years across Europe, with a view to transferring knowledge to citizens and tackling real issues. Nadja Gmelch, director of Open Knowledge Projects in Globalization and Cooperation at the UOC, confirmed: "Thanks to our participation in this project, we'll have the chance to work with some of Europe's most accomplished and experienced science shops, such as those created by Queen's University Belfast and Vrije Universiteit Brussel."

CIRCLET is focused on equipping university professors with the tools and skills required to adapt their programmes of study to offer students new opportunities to take part in community-engaged research and learning. Martínez Samper went on to say: "The UOC is committed to increasing the social impact of its research and to instilling global competencies in its students through the addition and strengthening of knowledge co-creation processes involving social stakeholders."

Co-creation through participatory final projects

Promoting open knowledge with and for all is one of the UOC's strategic pillars. In this regard, the University has been encouraging students to carry out participatory final bachelor's degree and master's degree projects since 2018. In projects of this nature, students conduct applied research with non-profit organizations, civil society groups or government agencies in order to meet a specific need detected by the collaborating entity. Participatory final projects have given rise to such initiatives as the design of a mobile app to help unaccompanied children who find themselves alone, communication about responsible tourism and public policymaking, and a deeper look at the right to the city.

In the words of Pastora Martínez Samper, "Participatory final projects add value both to the programmes offering them and to the students choosing to take on the challenge. This is because everything, from design to defence, is done in collaboration with another entity. The initiative also helps to strengthen the University's impact on our society because the entities with which we collaborate are able to experience first-hand what we have to offer."

The new European project is pooling its efforts with those already being made through the participatory final projects to open up UOC-generated knowledge to society, a commitment laid out in the University's Open Knowledge Action Plan.

Alongside Queen's University Belfast, as coordinator, and the UOC, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Hungary's Corvinus University of Budapest and Technological University Dublin are also taking part in CIRCLET.

Funded by the European Commission's Erasmus+ programme (grant agreement: 2017-3351/001-001), this project agrees with the EU's aim to promote socially responsible science that is open to all citizens.

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