Garden: All gardens
Category: BIG PICNIC, Biodiversity, Science, Conservation, Events, Food
Date published: 17.05.2016

‘Big Picnic: Big Questions – Engaging the public with Responsible Research and Innovation on Food Security’ is a newly funded European Union project

As part of the Big Picnic project, the public across Europe and in Uganda are invited to sit down with scientists, policy makers, industry and others to learn from each other and share ideas about food security, one of the most pressing challenges facing the planet. University Botanic gardens at Sofia University “St.Kliment Ohridski”  proudly joins this brand new project, brought to you through an international partnership of botanic gardens, universities, a science shop, an institute for art, science and technology and an international NGO. Big Picnics will take place in 12 countries across Europe and one in Africa.
The global population is set to rise to 9 billion by 2050. ‘Food security’ describes the challenge of ensuring that all those hungry mouths are fed with sufficient safe and nutritious food.
Co-ordinated by London based Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), the Big Picnic will work with the public to open up the debate on the future of our food. The project will encourage collaboration and conversation to build public understanding of food security issues and enable adults and young people to articulate their views to decision makers.
Over the next three years, the Big Picnic will bring science and policy to your door step. The project will work with the European and Ugandan public to design fifteen travelling exhibitions, bundled up inside a Big Picnic Basket. These exhibitions will offer information, activities and participatory events to spread the word about food security and get people talking. This will provide an excellent example of how organisations can give the public a voice through joint creative collaboration. Communities will also take part in around 90 Science Cafés – special events designed to inspire debate and capture public opinion. Overall, through the face-to-face interactions, the project is expected to reach 8,000 people. Technology, take home challenges and social media will expand the Big Picnic’s audience to 300,000. The information gathered will be reported back to policy makers and scientists to encourage Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).
RRI is a key action for the EU in its Horizon 2020 programme. It is an approach that explores what the public wants and needs with regard to research and innovation, so that future activities are designed to include opinions by the public, for the public. Big Picnic will provide an important example of how to put this new approach into practice and will feed into the EU RRI Toolkit, the online collaboration platform that showcases RRI best practice.  
Big Picnic is an opportunity for people from across Europe and in Africa to learn from each other and share ideas about food security and new ways of working. The project aims to go on and encourage further debate about and policy change on food security and to promote RRI for future public engagement.
Marking the launch of the project, BGCI’s Head of Education, Asimina Vergou said:
"We want to ignite people’s critical minds and voice on the future of our food. Our vision is for botanic gardens to become hubs fostering dialogue between experts and people from all walks of life."

May 2016, London