In a bid to narrow the gap between science and the community, Esplora Interactive Science Centre is exploring and looking into ways and means for researchers to engage in a dialogue with local communities and raise awareness of the relevance of science to society.
Esplora drives this by being chair of the National ‘STEM Engagement Working Group’ set up in 2019 to primarily address the skills gap in STEM – Science, Tecnhology, Engineering and Mathematics. The working group incorporates major national stakeholders in the field of STEM including the University of Malta (UM), the Malta College of Arts Science and Technology (MCAST), Ministry for Education, Institute for Education, JobsPlus, National Skills Council and Tech.mt.
The €24,000 STEM Community Fund was launched by the the Hon. Owen Bonnici, Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation and Dr Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Executive Chairman of the Malta Council for Science and Tecnhnology (MCST) on the 28th of September during a press conference held at Villa Bighi Chapel on MCST’s premises, Kalkara. The fund aims to provide a means for researchers and communities to get together and address interests that will benefit the community as a whole.
During his speech, the Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation Owen Bonnici said that this is another effort to bring the sciences closer to our citizens.
“When people in the community experience science and its benefits upclose,” Minister Bonnici said, “they can understand better its importance and its relevance to their own lives. In this way, we can keep increasing citizens’ interest in science and research and perhaps even attract more students to opt for careers in scientific research.”
“It is only through the involvement of citizens themselves, that we can bring about new and effective solutions for the challenges being faced by the wrold today, such as pollution and climate change,” Minister Bonnici explained.
Executive Chairman of the Malta Council for Science and Technology, Dr Jeffrey Pullicno Orlando said that: “Esplora’s main aim, led by the Malta Council for Science and Technology, is to drive forward and strengthen the knowledge, education and participatory methods in STEM within the community.” He added that “the main scope of launching this fund today is for schools, Local Councils, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other organisations or individuals belonging to a specific community who have an innovative research idea that can be of benefit to the local community and society at large. Each project can receive a maximum allocation of 8,000 euro.”
Ultimately, the idea is to engage with a STEM researcher in order to develop a STEM community-based project. The total budget of the Fund for 2021 is 24,000 euro. The main costs identified as eligible for funding are the following: personnel, research costs, consumables, and dissemination costs. The projects will be evaluated and selected on the basis of Excellence, Relevance of the Project to the Community and Impact & Legacy of the Project.
Applications open on the 28th of September via an online portal on Esplora’s website. A letter of commitment from the researcher/STEM professional involved will need to be attached by the main applicant.
The deadline for the submission of applications will be Wednesday November 17th. Results are expected to be published in December 2021, with disbursement of 70 % (first tranche) of the grant being made by the end of 2021. Applicants will have one year to complete their projects. More detailed information can be found in the Guidelines published on Esplora’s website through the following link: https://esplora.org.mt/the-stem-community-fund/