Universiteit Leiden

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Paulo Jorge Lourenço

First Open Science Centre engages rural communities with science

The first location of the Open Science Centre network was opened on 7 July in Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, Portugal. A Portuguese Minister and a State Secretary inaugurated the Plataforma de Ciência Aberta, which is a collaboration between Leiden University and the municipality of Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo.

The platform was opened during the StixCamp workshop in Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo. Local citizens, scientists, science communicators and educators gathered with representatives of local and national governments. They discussed the role of science, technology and innovation on the development of rural communities.

Panel discussion

The 4-day programme offered panel discussions with speakers working in the areas of Science, Technology and innovation and informal unconference sessions. ‘This year,’ says the local host Maria Vicente ‘we focused especially on community participation, by organising meetings in Portuguese at local establishments.’On 7 July 2017, the Portuguese minister of Minister of Economy, Manuel Caldeira Cabral, officially opened the Plataforma de Ciência Aberta, the first Open Science Centre. The minister added: 'This important infrastructure generates value for tourism, a key sector for this region, and creates impact in the surrounding communities through innovation.'

Upcycled school building

Plataforma de Ciência Aberta is located in an upcycled school building in Barca d'Alva, next to the Douro river, and combines modern design with historic architecture. The Open Science Centre will support the surrounding schools and their communities in co-creating solutions for local challenges using Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM).

During the opening, visitors explored the new building, a temporary exhibition on Insect classification and identification, and the new makerspace of the Open Science Centre. During the panel discussion at the end of the day, the Secretary of State of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Maria Fernanda Rollo, expressed her support of the project and announced the intention to allocate additional resources to stimulate Open Science practices on a national level through local initiatives.

Adding value to communities

Plataforma de Ciência Aberta fosters collaboration between schools, local government, enterprises, research institutes, civil society and community at large to tackle local challenges. According to Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo Mayor Paulo Langrouva, ‘Projects like these add value to the community of Figueira by bringing science, technology and education to the local communities, creating a sustainable environment for future generations.’

The Plataforma de Ciência Aberta is part of the international Open Science Centre network  of STEAM learning spaces in rural communities, coordinated by Leiden University (through Leiden Observatory, Astronomy & Society Group).