In the last months since the SciChallenge kick-off meeting, the partners mainly worked on preparing the ground for our science contest. This included an extensive collection of stakeholder contacts and an analysis of scientific literature on the topic. Furthermore, the online presence was set up and flyers as well as folders were designed. Until the end of December total of six reports were submitted to the European Commission. This article describes these activities and highlights the main outcomes of the research.
The Relevance of Ethics When Working With Children
As ethical questions are crucial for projects such as SciChallenge, they were considered at a very early stage of the project. Therefore, an Ethical Issues Report was developed and submitted at the end of project month 2. It included an overview of the normative framework and insights on ethical rules and (legal) regulations. It discussed ethical questions particular related to the empirical research and provides information on how the partners will guarantee that the ethical standards are met. Furthermore, it set up principles and rules of data processing in the project, including the rights of the data subjects, and defined standards for data protection and management in the SciChallenge project.
Another major section highlighted the reasons for considering ethics as important when working with children. The report states that children are a vulnerable group and can be subject to coercion and manipulation. Therefore, their interests need extra protection, because children can’t protect themselves in all contexts. In addition to being vulnerable due to their status of being a child, children might also be vulnerable as members of a particular minority group – for example when the focus is on online activities and activities that are mainly based on language. In such cases, children might face difficulties in understanding the content and the instructions. Moreover, it might be difficult to get an informed consent, when a young person, the parents or the legal guardian has not properly understood what is expected from him or her. The vulnerability might also be especially relevant for children with disability or a weak socio-economic background. Their activities can be influenced by the limited economic resources of the family. Frequent access to computer and internet can be a problem for them, and publishing pictures of them in their social context and in connection with engagement activities might make them vulnerable to stigmatisation. Additionally, the project team has to also consider the role of experts, professionals, coaches or educational staff, which are involved in the project. Their role might create a power disparity, which might put other persons (parents, children, young people) in a vulnerable position and open to potential exploitation. Therefore, these aspects have to be reflected in a critical manner in the whole SciChallenge project.
Stakeholder Involvement and Fundraising
Stakeholders are important for the success of the SciChallenge project. Therefore, a large collection of very different stakeholders was produced, who will be approached and involved in the course of the project. A stakeholder typology was defined for this purpose. It includes “schools”, “universities”, “industry”, “public administration”, “parents” and “students”. The collection was carried out by all project partners and more than 500 stakeholder contacts were collected until the end of November. However, it is an ongoing task and will expand during the course of the project.
Furthermore, it was conceptualized how these stakeholders will be approached and motivated to get involved. The process, which needs a strong communication, is supported by digital tools, social media and print material, and the partners will be supported by a communication strategy. A second major step was the concept for the strategic involvement of fundraising partners. This strategy aims at getting sponsors for the prizes at the final contest award event as well as for involving them in the awareness channels, which are – in addition to the contest itself – a main outcome of the SciChallenge project.
Project Website, Social Media Channels and Outreach
In addition to the content-related activities, several steps were made for increasing the visibility of SciChallenge. The project website www.scichallenge.eu was launched by the end of October 2015. It includes a description of the project and an overview of the structure, where the public reports of the project can be found. It also contains a section for dissemination material, descriptions of the consortium partners and contact information for getting in touch with the coordinator.
Regarding Social Media, a Facebook account and a Twitter channel were opened, where several comments or links were already posted or tweeted. Furthermore, a flyer for business involvement was designed and printed and it was distributed at occasions such as the European Data Forum in Luxembourg, which took, place in November 2015.