Selected examples of our work

To give you an idea of our work here you find illustrative selected examples of what has arisen from NGO & citizen demands. Research demands of NGOs and citizens on new technologies can serve as an early warning system on citizens’ concerns or open up new research perspectives on emerging technologies. Already at the early stages of mobile communication a concerned citizen was looking for research information on health hazards by mobile phones before this topic gained media attention. When the development of fuel cells was at an initial stage, another citizen wanted to know how to use them for power generation for private homes.


A neighbourhood centre can increase its capacities with assistance from volunteers. But there may also arise some practical problems from volunteers and professional social workers working shoulder to shoulder. The manager of such a neighbourhood centre asked for literature on the following issues: What are the motivations of volunteers? Which personal gratification do they search for? What conflicts can evolve between those who do unpaid work and those who are paid for their work, and how to manage them? The Science Shop Vienna compiled a list of literature on these issues.

Women in non-traditional professions

Compared to professions that are typically pursued by males, professions that are typically pursued by females often are paid lower and embedded in structures that make working less satisfying. A well-known centre for advice and information helps young women, who prepare for an education in a male domain. The Science Shop Vienna compiled a large list of related literature which they needed to set up their library.

Police women

In the nineteen nineties, when the question was posed by a women´s group in Lower Austria, there were only male policepeople in Austria. For several reasons the group saw disadvantages for women and advocated for opening the profession for women, too. The Science Shop Vienna conducted an international literature research on gender issues in the executive force. Meanwhile there are female police officers in Austria as in many other countries, too.

Statistics on criminality of citizens and non-citizens

The requesting person needed arguments against xenophobia in his neighbourhood. The statistics that could be acquired from the Federal Ministry of the Interior were not up to date. The Institute for the Sociology of Law and Criminology provided new material.


A initiative of tenants advocated against further buildings in their housing estate. They wanted information on the following topics: Infrastructure in the housing estate – existing facilities and tenant demands. After confering with the initiators and extensive research on literature also an expert examined the situation on site and wrote an advisory opinion.

Evaluation of school projects to prevent drug addiction

If youth are actually addicted to drugs or alcohol, then it is most times too late to do much against the consequences: a shortened life in disease, poverty and misery. Prostitution and criminality to provide drugs are further costs that also society has to carry. Hence, all efforts have to be taken to make children and youth less vulnerable to addiction. “Peer-education” is a promising method to support the psychic robustness of young people. The first projects at Austrian schools were not only met by hopes, but also by suspicion: parents and teachers doubted that such open programmes would do more harm than good. This is why a youth counselling center contacted the Science Shop Vienna. The project was evaluation in the framework of a Master thesis by a student of pedagogy.

Gudrun Loidl, Peergroup-Projekte zur primären Suchtprävention im Bereich Schule, Diplomarbeit Universität Wien, 1998

Violence against children

A women’s refuge in Lower Austria that does not have the funds for optimally care for the children who are refugees in the house, demanded information on how to optimally care for children who have been traumatized by experiencing or watching massive domestic violence. Related to these issues is the question of consequences if the necessary care cannot be offered. Literature was researched, reviewed and sent to the refuge for women, and the Science Shop Vienna found a student who wrote a Master thesis on this topic.

Robert Schmid, Notwendigkeit von Kinderbetreuung in Frauenhäusern, Diplomarbeit, Universität Wien 1998 (The need for children´s care in women’s refuges)

Preventing sexual abuse of children

An instructor for courses on self-defense for girls from 6 – 19 years old wanted to know, what ideas and expectations girls have, when they attend such courses, which sort of courses are the most appropriate (e. g., teaching only physical defense or would it be better to offer a physical-psychological programme?), how efficient such self-defense courses are, for which age group they make sense, and which opinions and experiences there are. Additionally to consulting and researching literature, a Master thesis was written.

Birgit Luttenfeldner, Die Veränderung von Angst durch das Programm "defendo", Institut für Pädagogik, Universität Wien, Februar 1997 (Changes of fear by the programme „defendo“, University of Vienna 1997)

Self-help group of former psychiatric patients

A group of psychiatric ex-patients believed that an on-going social survey was based on a biased, non-representative sample that does not reach all groups of psychiatrically diseased people. They thought that the survey was very important to shed light on the life and care situation of the concerned people and wanted to bring in their opinions and experiences. The Science Shop Vienna brought together the researchers and the members of the group.

Residential home for people in need

A social initiative in Lower Austria directs a residential home for homeless people who have no financial resources. They support them in searching jobs and reducing debts, so that there are realistic perspectives to regain an independent life. Attaining their goals becomes more and more difficult, because in their city the housing market offers less and less affordable apartments. For this reason they wanted to build an apartment house as a transitory solution between a residential home and independent living in an own apartment, because it allows for saving money for an own apartment. A student developed a sponsoring concept for this apartment house.

Eco-labels for textiles

Media and authorities pay attention to eco swindle on food. But is there an eco swindle on textiles, too? A citizen wanted to know, if the labels that suggest naturalness deliver on their promise, too., when it comes to clothes. Our colleagues from the Science Shop Bonn had a recent brochure on the topic. (Cornelia Voß, Kann denn Mode "öko" sein? Einkaufsleitfaden Naturtextilien, Bonn 1995)

Rat control

An environmental consulting group in Lower Austria asked in 1994, if there is a non-toxic way of fighting rats, a method that uses congenital behaviour of rats in order to reduce their number. Several institutes like the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Ethology and the Institute of Ethology at the University of Vienna were contacted. Additionally, the Science shop staff researched literature on this topic and consulted a biologist, who had written a Master thesis on rats recently, on the issue. Consensus was that hygiene was still the most effective measure to contain the spread of the unpopular rodents, namely by closing down food sources such as unclosed garbage bins or cupboards with alimentation. Experts severely doubted the topic could be handled within a dissertation or master thesis: rat observation is tricky, because the objects of research are difficult to access in their canals and underground tunnels.

Is a mobile phone dangerous to health or not?

This is one of the first research requests directed to the Science Shop Vienna in the early nineties, but there is still no sufficient scientific consensus on it: Does the radiation of a mobile phone damage nerves, brain or any other parts of the human body? We reviewed research literature and asked a lot of experts who gave divergent opinions. The answer from then is still valid: The suspicion that mobile phones may not be safe for our health can neither be dispelled nor fully proven from a scientific point of view.

Light for the Auditorium Maximum of the University of Vienna

A student asked if the poor illumination of the University of Vienna’s Auditorium Maximum, its largest auditorium, is bad for the eyes and reduces the performance of the students.
The Science Shop Vienna researched, measured the illumination and found out that the illumination of the Auditorium Maximum only met the standards of the Austrian ÖNORM regulations for a henhouse. There was evidence that such weak light reduces cognitive performance and visual acuity. When the Auditorium Maximum was renovated some years later, our results were taken into account and illumination was improved.