"Living labs can really reduce the gap between science and society"

Interview with Lysanne te Brinke, Michelle Achterberg and Karlijn Hermans
Tropicana view
J. Van Rijn

Lysanne te Brinke, Michelle Achterberg and Karlijn Hermans are postdoctoral researchers at the Erasmus SYNC lab. SYNC stands for Society, Youth and Neuroscience connected. For their research on how young people grow into adult citizens in society, they make use of a combination of various measuring methods such as neuroimaging, surveys and recently also living labs.

A living lab is a research concept in which new innovative ideas and concepts are developed and tested in real-life situations together with social partners and citizens. To stimulate the use of living labs, they recently organised an Impact Dialogue, a conversation with colleagues about impact. Michelle: "It was a wonderful opportunity to network and meet people who want to increase social impact using the same 'tools'."

Lysanne te Brinke
Lysanne te Brinke

What is that, a living lab approach?

Lysanne: "Within a living lab, different parties work together on innovative solutions to societal challenges. For us as scientists, an important point of departure is that co-creation takes place, in which citizens and social organisations actively participate in the research and innovation process. All participating individuals contribute from their own expertise and experience.

And what does it deliver?

Michelle: "Although the term 'living lab' is broad and there is no consensus on a definition yet, I really see that it can narrow the gap between science and society. By involving societal partners and citizens early on in the scientific process, we can better identify what exactly is going on in society and how we scientists can contribute with our knowledge and tools."

Lysanne: "The living lab approach does not only benefit us as researchers, but also the social partners and young people we involve in the approach. I think that is also important. Ultimately, I hope that through this approach we can increase trust in science by letting participants experience that science belongs to and is for everyone."

Michelle Achterberg
Michelle Achterberg

Are living labs the way to make social impact?

Michelle: "A living lab approach is not a holy grail for scientific and social impact. I think it's good to realise that, but in combination with other tools, such as questionnaires or neuroimaging, it can very well broaden your type of research. The broader you can answer your question, the greater your impact - both scientifically and socially."

Lysanne: "I see a living lab approach mainly as an addition to the 'toolkit' of scientists. By combining different research instruments, the limitations of one method can be complemented with strengths from another method. For example, by discussing with a youth panel how findings from experimental research can be translated to the daily lives of young people."

In October, you organised an Impact Dialogue to stimulate the use of living labs and to increase social impact. How did that work out?

Michelle: "The impact dialogue was a great start to the coming together of like-minded scientists. It is never easy to go off the beaten track and it helps a lot to be able to lean on each other's expertise."

Karlijn Hermans
Karlijn Hermans

Karlijn: "Half of the participants had no experience with Living Labs. This shows that there is a lot of enthusiasm for this approach and that the potential for impact is therefore greater. It also showed that there are different ways of working with living labs, so hopefully this has shown that this approach is not specifically suited to one discipline."

Lysanne: "I noticed that other scientists who apply the living lab approach, or parts of it, run into similar problems. For example, it takes a lot of time to build up and maintain a broad network of social partners. We were able to exchange concrete tips about this."

Would you recommend other colleagues to organise an Impact Dialogue?

Karlijn: "Yes indeed! It was a great opportunity to bring together different researchers, also from outside the EUR, with a common goal and interest. It's not always easy to find each other, so this series of impact dialogues helps enormously."

Michelle: "It is a wonderful opportunity to network and meet people who want to increase social impact using the same 'tools'. I have attended several impact dialogues so far and I always find them very inspiring. It is a great way to broaden my vision and develop myself in the field of social impact."

More information

Researcher: Karlijn Hermans

The SYNC living lab approach: www.youngxperts.nl
Erasmus Impact Dialogues, find out more about this series of dialogue sessions on MyEUR.

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