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Living knowledge - tackling real world problems through partnership

Posted: 21 June, 2016

While most academic conferences consider the theory of their subject, the Living Knowledge Network conference taking place this week is all about practice

Coming to Dublin for the first time, delegates from across Europe and the world will spend three days sharing information, expertise and experience about how students, researchers and community organisations have collaborated, applying theory to practice to directly tackle real problems in society.

This is the 7th Living Knowledge conference and the network is growing all the time. Hosted by Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), over one hundred presenters - including students, researchers, academics, community partners and policy makers - will share ideas about projects that have worked at a local level but which could also have wider application.

‘Responsible research and innovation’ is a concept promoted by the European Commission, with funding coming through Horizon 2020. The concept has been made visible through what are called 'Science Shops' - centres around Europe that support collaborative projects between students, researchers and community organisations as part of the curriculum in higher education to address challenges and questions from wider society

In Ireland, the DIT "students learning with communities" programme shows how the Science Shop concept can work. For example, chemistry students have worked with the Garda Road Safety unit to develop and assess ways to measure alcohol and drugs levels in drivers and raise awareness of road safety among their peers; students of Product Design worked with Enable Ireland and end-users to develop technological solutions to address issues encountered by people living with disability; business students collaborated on marketing and information campaigns for the Men's Health Forum; while students of Sustainable Development assessed the "walkability" of areas in North Dublin to support effective planning.

These, and a wide range of other projects, have involved students from 1st year to PhD, supported by the DIT Access and Civic Engagement team. In each case, students have worked with local community organisations to directly tackle the experienced problem, using their theoretical knowledge in practice and enhancing their own employability and civic engagement in the process.

Similar projects are taking place in a growing number of other institutions and in other countries. Appropriately, the Living Knowledge delegates will open their conference doors to the public while they are in Dublin.  Anyone interested in findout out more is invited to a public event on Thursday 24 June at 6pm in DIT Kevin St (https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/building-excitement-about-science-and-technology-lk7-public-event-tickets-25598685357) where delegates will be delighted to share information and experiences.