Think Tank “Science Pub” at CZU: Academics and Mayors in a Unique Dialogue

On 23 November 2023, a meeting was held in the representative premises of the Rector’s Office of the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CZU), which broke the traditional barriers between academics and mayors of municipalities. This initiative, which took place within the framework of the BETTER Life project funded by the European Union, became the first experimental forum for informal meetings between local government representatives and academics. The meeting was attended not only by academics from CZU but also from the neighbouring Czech Technical University.

Michal Lošťák described the event as a “science pub,” as he took inspiration from foreign science cafés when coming up with the name of the meeting. Compared to traditional lectures or conferences, this meeting had the relaxed atmosphere of a pub, where topics were discussed without a predetermined agenda. “We would like to use such meetings to help establish a collaborative community of communities and academia. This community will allow us to overcome the seemingly existing disconnection between science and everyday life, of which we are all a part,” explained the 1st Vice-Rector of CZU and the Principal Investigator of the BETTER Life project.

The discussion turned to specific problems faced by the communities and possible ways in which academics could contribute to finding solutions. Topics included not only local government issues but also municipalities’ relations with regions and the government or ministries. The meeting brought together mayors from municipalities of different sizes, which contributed to the diversity of the discussion.

Participants expressed interest in regular meetings that could focus on specific topics such as the environment, transport, education, security, subsidy opportunities, and many others. Likewise, future meetings could take place in specific formats, e.g., mayors from either small villages or, conversely, from cities. For future formats, it is also envisaged to invite other relevant actors such as relevant ministries, the Association of Regions of the Czech Republic or the Union of Towns and Municipalities together with the Association of Local Authorities.

The first “science pub” was thus a successful step towards strengthening the dialogue between academics and municipal representatives. The open atmosphere and informal setting allowed for a productive exchange of views and experiences. Participants look forward to future meetings that could further deepen the cooperation between academia and municipalities towards addressing specific challenges and needs at the local level.