Masterclasses as a space for co-producing adequate and applicable knowledge
Science (including social science) is becoming ever more specialised. This can cause difficulties for public understanding of scientific outcomes. Academic journal papers are rarely read by practitioners, and – even if they are – it can be difficult to translate research results into practised-oriented lessons. While closer collaboration between scholars and stakeholders at an earlier stage of research design can improve the chances of produce applicable knowledge, the communication of outcomes can also assist with applicability.
Masterclasses are a contemporary form of knowledge co-production based on two-way communication when practitioners play an active role in tailoring the research input to their demands. Researchers in this process provide insights into research procedures and data which can help link relevant evidence to stakeholders’ problems. All of this leads to a joint finding of an evidence-based solution.
Various stakeholders, different demands
Aiming to co-produce practical and adequate knowledge from the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) to support the implementation of the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), the Energy-SHIFTS project identified four key stakeholder groups: NGOs, policy workers, energy technologists, and media and journalists working on energy issues. As various communities of practice face different challenges in their everyday work, uses multiple communication channels and collaboration mechanisms to support the development of practice-oriented knowledge.
We wanted to offer lessons tailored to these four target groups. Therefore, we combined the transfer of project outcomes (e.g. through presentations) with interactive discussions to take the conversation further. Each of our four masterclasses first involved a live (online) event, where we met with representatives of the chosen professional communities to discuss what SSH perspectives offers and how the presented reports, databases, methods, and tools from the Energy-SHIFTS project can help their everyday work. Based on those four interactive events, we prepared four digital web trainings. These have been published on the project website as free accessible resources including brief video presentations offering advice on using SSH knowledge to deal with energy challenges.
Making the project outcomes useful in everyday practices
Answering the call for more practice-oriented lessons from (social) scientific projects that can be easily put into everyday practices of various stakeholders, the Energy-SHIFTS masterclasses were focused on delivering easy-to-implement solutions via multiple channels.
Apart from highlighting project outcomes, the purpose of the masterclasses was to engage a diverse group of energy stakeholders in discussing pressing issues and connecting them with the knowledge that SSH (Social Science and Humanities) can bring to resolve most of them. So then, what were the main concerns?
One key problem discussed in several events was around communication issues. (Social) Scientists, Journalists, Policymakers and Activists use different languages and terminology. This work of translating or facilitating between groups is crucial to ensure effective collaboration and fair distribution of project outcomes. The masterclasses also showed how policymakers are looking for knowledge that can be embedded right away into policy. Here again, there is an important role for those who can act as intermediaries between policymakers, society and scientists.
Using masterclasses to disseminate scientific knowledge
We conducted the masterclasses in the form of a small interactive gathering of stakeholders with researchers. This, in turn, fed into an online digital version of the masterclass tailored to a wider audience. These formats of disseminating scientific knowledge offers a number of advantages. The first step enabled engaged discussion on the most pressing issues with a small group of relevant stakeholders, ensures that multiple voices and questions are heard. This, in turn, enabled the project team to create a tailored digital version of the masterclass. Both formats worked well to showcase project results and their actual applicability.
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