Opinion Piece

My View

The Northern Ireland Science Shop: Creating A Better Future For Us All

by Eileen Martin, Manager, Queen’s University Science Shop

EileenStudents are great! That’s not something we hear often, but it is a sentiment echoed by hundreds of community and voluntary organisations across Northern Ireland who, over the last 25 years, have been helped by the Northern Ireland Science Shop, a Queen’s University and University of Ulster joint collaboration.

This week marks the 25th anniversary of Science Shop, which has seen students work alongside 650 community and voluntary groups to deliver almost 2,500 research-based projects.

In January 1989 the Science Shop received its first research request from Bryson House. Today, it is another environmental project for the Bryson Charitable Group, undertaken by Queen’s students, which will receive a top Award from the Lord Mayor at our anniversary event in Belfast City Hall.

As one of our leading social enterprises, Bryson’s continuing involvement is testimony to Science Shop’s importance to Northern Ireland.

It’s not a shop in the usual sense of the word, or just about Science. It’s a powerful initiative harnessing the talents of some of the 54,000 students at our universities, becoming a tremendous force for good.

Over the years, life-changing projects have ranged from those which helped raise awareness of skin cancer through a project with the Ulster Cancer Foundation, to research with the South Belfast Partnership Board which resulted in more effective targeting of services for ethnic minority women.

At Queen’s and the University of Ulster we know our students and academics are not the only ones with expertise, and that people in communities have vast amounts of specialist knowledge. Science Shop changes lives by coming together to share and advance this knowledge.

It plays a vital role in creating the leaders of the future, helping students understand the problems facing disadvantaged groups within our society, encouraging them to give back, and equipping them with vital skills for their future careers.

Over 25 years Science Shop has highlighted the true social value and impact of students and higher education to Northern Ireland. To anyone reading this who may need help with community-based projects, please get in touch. Together we can do even more. For more information visit www.scienceshop.org