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WHAT counts as a good topic?

Any topic that is interesting to the public makes a great science café topic.
The topic should raise broader community awareness about science, and the link to peoples’ lifes and societal developments. Science is a social endeavour and part of the cultural heritage. There is no clear distinction between science and non-science but the epistemology of the knowledge can be scientific or non-scientific.
Topics that are discussed controversially in the media may have aroused the interests of a larger group of people already. These topics can be important on a local, regional or national level and therefore may have a greater potential to create an emotional appeal to a larger audience.

Go for a co-creation approach  

We recommend to go for a co-creation approach to choose a topic. You will find a variety of methods and activities to facilitate such a process in the BigPicnic co-creation navigator.

Co-creation is an innovative and participatory process, which aims to create shared ownership between people in charge and community partners and other stakeholders. Co-creation enables professionals to co-operate with and learn from others, to build a connection between groups that would not normally meet.
Invite people who have a different professional and cultural background and represent different target groups you want to reach with your science café. Ask them what they want to talk and learn about and choose your science café topic accordingly.

Quote from Bergamo Botanic Garden: 








Co-creation for science cafés and exhibitions

The National Museum of Natural History and Science, University of Lisbon’s co-creation process involved representatives from the BigPicnic team, researchers, nutritionists, and NGO representatives (Neighbours Association, Local Seeds Association). Through a series of co-creation sessions, this group selected some themes/topics for the science cafés. These were: (1) Healthy and sustainable food; (2) Food: Well-being and tradition; (3) Health and food; (4) Sustainability, waste and food; (5) Food and sustainable consumption, and (6) Future of food. In addition, through one of the co-creation sessions, the group also agreed on a format for the science cafés that involved groups of participants working together to choose the best collective questions to pose to invited speakers. There were 2 to 4 guests in each science café and included food and agriculture related researchers, policy makers, nutritionists, and food NGO representatives.

Science cafés can also, conversely, be used as a source of ideas that can contribute to the development of other initiatives.
Science cafés to co-create an exhibition

Bergamo Botanic Garden used a science café to help them develop an exhibition. The event involved a nutritionist and two agronomy researchers on cereals, fruits, and vegetables of CREA - Council for Research in Agriculture and analysis on agrarian economy, department of the Ministry for Agriculture. The event took place in the Bergamo Botanical Garden - Valley of Biodiversity section on the 21st June 2017. The science café was developed to create a close relationship between public and scientific research, collect data and ideas for an exhibition on food security, pilot a new way of getting the public involved, and make the concept of food security more popular’.

Due to the fact that the topics of the BigPicnic science cafés were chosen with local stakeholders they varied widely across the partnership. Examples include:

  • ‘Household food security ‘- Tooro Botanical Gardens, Uganda
  • ‘Food is communication. Food cultures and nutrition for a world with a future'. This science café had a special focus on meat consumption - School Biology Centre Hannover, Germany
  • ‘Beekeeping in the city - mission possible’ - University Botanic Garden Sofia, Bulgaria

A full list of topics selected for science cafés as part of the BigPicnic project can be found in deliverable 4.1: Partner evaluation reports on science café implementation.


Back to the Tool Kit

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 This project has received funding from the European Union´s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 710780.

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