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UPDATED: November 16, 2009 NO. 46 NOVEMBER 19, 2009
Science for Everyone
The science shop movement promises to open dialogue between science and society

TALKING SCIENCE: A Shanghai Ocean University student shows a resident results from a vegetable test in the university's science shop on March 25, 2007 (PEI XIN)

A special shop is calling a lot of attention to itself in Shanghai's Zhabei District. Workers there are busy explaining things to local residents. This is no ordinary store, staff say, but a "science shop" and its services are free.

This new trend has seen great development in Europe, the United States and Japan since the 1990s. And on November 28, 2006, the East China Normal University (ECNU) established China's first science shop in Shanghai.

In August of that year, 35 participants from more than 10 countries and regions, including the United States, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and China, participated in the Science Shop Summer School, organized by the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, one of the founders of the concept.The school offers an intensive program focusing on the concept and community-based research. Science shop basics are presented as well as some examples of science shop models. The 2006 summer school led to the opening of China's first such shop in Shanghai.

The Shanghai shop has nine departments, covering financial consulting, children's development and cultivation, healthy life services, environmental improvement, legal assistance, social work, digital products, psychological health and testing and consultations on health and physique. Staff are always patient in responding to questions and ready to consult their teachers or experts when they cannot find answers.

Today, many science shops have been set up in Shanghai. By the end of 2008, nine high schools had set up a shop chain network that covers more than 100 communities with more than 60 branches. According to Shanghai's 11th Five-Year Plan for Science Popularization (2006-10), the number of flagship stores will reach more than 10 by the end of next year.

Besides Shanghai, many other cities in China have also created similar shops. In April 2008, Liuzhou Vocational and Technical College established the first science shop in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Beijing will open five shops this year and the Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission will allocate funds to support the program, the commission said.

Specific knowledge

Many parents go to the ECNU's science shop to seek help for their children's development and cultivation, which is offered by ECNU Preschool and Special Education College students. They provide many targeted measures that young parents can use.

By the end of 2008, nine universities had set up science shops in Shanghai, offering specific areas of expertise.

The shop established by Shanghai Dianji University focuses on providing services to help residents use electricity more effectively. Many workers have been awarded their own patents.

"I am very proud that I can help solve residents' real problems with my knowledge," said Deng Guoxiang, an ECNU undergraduate and winner of the China Undergraduate Mathematics Contest in Modeling.

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