Agata Dorotkiewicz-Jach (UWr): “Living labs have enormous potential and can virtually apply to every area of life”



09 Jan 2024

Dr Agata Dorotkiewicz-Jach is a microbiologist employed at the University of Wrocław (UWr), Faculty of Biological Sciences in the Department of Pathogen Biology and Immunology. Her main interests and scientific output are focused on alternative antibacterial therapies, where she researches novel antibiotics in combination with anti-virulent compounds, bacteriophages and metals. In her work at the University of Wrocław, she has also been involved in teaching, organisational and popularisation issues.

For many years, she served as Deputy Director of the Institute of Genetics and Microbiology for didactic matters, taking care of the quality of education in the Microbiology course, which she co-founded. She actively involves new generations of students in her research. She has supervised numerous bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral theses on topics related to alternative antibacterial therapies. She conveys her knowledge through her original classes as well as popularisation activities aimed at both domestic and international students, but also the wider public. As of September 2023, she has taken up a position within the Arqus Alliance, in which she sees great potential for development both in the field of didactics and science as well as cooperation with the socio-economic environment.

What do you do as part of UWr activities in the Arqus Alliance?

In the Arqus Alliance, I am a leader of the Climate Change and Sustainable Development (CChSD) cluster within the Arqus Living Labs. My main task is to coordinate the work of all nine European Universities in the Alliance on Climate Change and Sustainable Development-related activities. The University of Wrocław, together with the Leipzig University (Germany) and the University of Graz (Austria), has been designated to develop a common position, approach and the Living Lab community.

This is my official role, but as a scientist and teacher, I am also actively involved in the work and activities of my cluster as well as in the activities of other UWr colleagues, of which there are as many as 15 in the project. For me, as a microbiologist, the issues of climate change and sustainability are very interesting and extremely important. I see all our activities as a holistic approach for the good of our planet, of which we are an inseparable part.

Within the CChSD cluster, we bring together committed academics, scientists and educators, and we make no distinction whether we are biologists, geologists, chemists, physicists, energy engineers or sociologists. We all have solutions and specific approaches to offer to our planet that can save it and make it better for future generations. Thanks to the Arqus Alliance, a team of people with an interdisciplinary perspective on CChSD has been formed. Our versatility due to the diversity of disciplines represented is a great strength and potential for a broader understanding of how our planet works.

What is the Arqus Living Lab?

Living Labs have no single definition, so we are trying to develop a common approach within the three Arqus clusters. The Arqus Living Lab, in our view, is an innovative concept that promotes the creation and development of communities and spaces to generate interdisciplinary, challenge-based approaches to major social problems, in particular, the three priorities established by the Arqus Alliance. However, the detailed understanding and approach differ within the three clusters, due to the different specificities of the priorities being pursued. At the beginning of January, a workshop will be held at Leipzig University with members of the different clusters and the management team, which will allow us to develop consistent guidelines for the definition of the Arqus Living Labs in the Alliance.

However, according to official definitions found in numerous Living Lab studies, Living Labs are also open networks or even “ecosystems” of innovation, in which users and wide-ranging consumers, so-called external stakeholders (steakholders), are involved in the development of new solutions in various scopes. In this context, living labs act as organisers or intermediaries between citizens, research organisations, companies and agencies as well as government institutions. We as members of the academic community have a special place here. It is up to us to promote sound knowledge and shape the attitudes of future generations. We influence society as well as the governmental sector, but also industry. The University of Wrocław, as well as other universities in the Alliance, has been involved in such activities for years and is evolving along with the whole planet in response to the challenges we face.

What priorities does the Arqus Living Lab community pursue?

“Living labs” have enormous potential and can apply to virtually every area of life. The Arqus Alliance has identified three priorities organised into three clusters: Climate Change & Sustainable Development (CChSD), Digital Transformation & Artificial Intelligence (DTAI) and Promoting European Identity & Heritage (EIH) for the future of Europe. The University of Wrocław is responsible for the CChSD cluster, Leipzig University for EIH and the University of Graz for DTAI.

What is the purpose of the Arqus Living Lab community?

In line with the objectives and recommendations of the latest EU Guidelines on Education for Environmental Sustainability and the Digital Education Action Plan, the Alliance aims to stimulate strong initiatives seeking to modify educational activities at all levels of education for environmental and digital transformation. We also aim to ensure that the synergies between education, research, innovation and dissemination are fully exploited by creating solutions in one open space. The Arqus Living Lab is therefore first and foremost an open space for the creation of initiatives by academics, educators, professionals, students and external stakeholders (i.e. businesses, NGOs, local and regional authorities, schools, museums, etc.). By guaranteeing a collaborative space, we are working towards the common goal of contributing to the development of solutions to the challenges facing Europe in the future through education, research and innovation.

The Arqus Living Lab has been created as a dynamic generator of community-based initiatives leading to the real implementation in a common flexible academic offer of all kinds of collaborative study programmes, teaching innovation, funding applications for scientific as well as educational activities, and everything related to our local ecosystems.

Who can get involved in the activity of the Arqus Living Lab community?

Anyone with ideas and a desire to act on the priorities defined by the Alliance. Anyone who is not indifferent to the fate of our planet and us.

How can anyone interested join the Arqus Living Lab community?

Each university in the Alliance has representatives within each Living Lab. In the case of the Climate Change & Sustainable Development cluster, this representative is me and if anyone would like to be actively involved, they should contact me, preferably by email. UWr activities within the Alliance are the overall responsibility of the Rector prof. Patrycja Matusz, while the University-wide Arqus Alliance officer is Mrs Emilia Wilanowska who has extensive knowledge of all the activities involving UWr.

I would like to mention also another initiative that I have just started to organise within the Alliance. The Communities of Practice (CoPs) are being set up to bring together researchers and teachers involved in specific activities or interested in a particular topic. The CoPs enable the exchange of knowledge, the gaining of experience and the creation of new collaborations between the academic communities of as many as 9 European Universities affiliated to the Alliance (read more about this). In addition to teaching activities, scientific activities, including international projects, e.g. Wrocław with Leipzig, are beginning to emerge from the activities of my CChSD cluster. This made me realise that we should create a place to bring together academics from different areas interested in scientific cooperation. For me, the community of scientists associated with the Alliance is one big “organism” that I feel can contribute to the proper functioning of our planet. Hence the idea of creating an international CoP called ONE HEALTH.

The concept of “One Health” brings together all scientific disciplines and shows that the health of humans, animals, plants and the whole environment (all ecosystems) is closely interconnected and interdependent. Using this approach facilitates a better understanding of the co-benefits, risks, trade-offs and opportunities to develop equitable and holistic solutions for the benefit of the planet and ourselves. I am just beginning the process of developing this CoP and invite all interested parties to join me.

Have you been to Granada recently, were there also topics taken up there regarding Arqus Living Lab and the new CoP?

Of course. Arqus Living Lab was one of the main objectives of my visit. I met fantastic teachers and researchers in Granada related to my cluster, but also from other areas as well as from project management. We had a number of meetings where we discussed the activities we would be carrying out in the near future. We also made further plans for the activities to be organised, both didactic, dissemination and scientific. In Granada, my feeling about the necessity of creating the CoP One Health was also confirmed and activities in this direction took on a real dimension.

It was a very fruitful time for me, both academically and didactically. The visit has also enabled me to learn about the environment and principles of the University of Granada and the Spanish realities faced by university staff. It has also been a very interesting experience, which has enabled discussions on possible changes and new mutually beneficial solutions that can be introduced within the Arqus Alliance.

Interviewed by Agata Mitek (Arqus communication officer at UWr). Original article published on UWr website.


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