PLACES was a project undertaken by scientists, policymakers, and community members in the European Union to collaboratively define and develop the concept of the European City of Scientific Culture. This project was inspired by previous efforts in Germany and the United Kingdom, in which specific “science cities” were designated where there is a specific focus on improving scientific capacity. The goal of PLACES was to create a vision for science policy at the city level and to build interconnected local networks to support that vision.
The work for PLACES began at the local level and grew to produce European Union-wide recommendations. First, science communication institutions and local policymakers formed partnerships that grew over time to involve media, universities, research institutions, and other organizations. Through these partnerships, Local Action Plans were developed. The plans used scientific problem-solving methods to target science and technology issues at the city and regional levels. These new approaches were tested to communicate scientific solutions to community members. Following these initial steps, the partnerships developed annual conferences, workshops, training sessions, and thematic working groups to bring together people from various cities to share their ideas and support one another. The PLACES OPEN web platform was used as an online meeting place and resource center to further boost collaboration between cities. Surveys, reports, and assessments were used to document how local actors interacted with science. All of this information was brought together in 2014, when the project concluded with local and EU-level blueprints for how to build European Cities of Culture.
At the end of the project, PLACES also produced a toolkit explaining how the group went about measuring the impact of their program, including interviews, surveys, focus groups and more. In their Declaration on The European City of Scientific Culture, they describe a successful science city as one that has “a strategic and sustainable action plan developed in dialogue with politicians, policy makers, scientists, entrepreneurs, cultural agents and citizens”.