Recommendations from Impact assessors
Grant Agreement Number: 24449
Deliverable Number: D 6.3
Dissemination Level: PU
This document of recommendations (Deliverable D6.3 from the European Project PLACES) aimsto contribute to the planning, implementation and evaluation of future Science Communication Initiatives and Policies (SCIP), and particularly to those with a strong local or regional dimension.
Recommendations contained here are addressed toboth science event organizers and science centers directors, as well as local and regional politicians and the European Commission.
This document is based solely on the recommendations arisenfrom 26 case studies about the impact of different European SCIP. All these case studies were also carried out within PLACES project.
The following steps have been followed to elaborate this document:
• From the results of 26 case studies which analyzed the social impact of SCIP, the authors of these research produced individual reports in which they included a section of recommendations (see at the end of this document the list of authors and countries)
• A team from the Science Communication Observatory of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra has grouped and summarized all recommendations mentioned above.Categories had not been established previously, but they have emerged from a bottom-up approach from the analysis of the cases’ recommendations. The aspects or categories in which these recommendations have beengrouped are:Objectives, Target, Venues, Areas / issues, Timing, Formats and ways, Local dimension, Promotion / Advertisement / Communication, Financing and Evaluation
• This document intendsto be useful and practical, and because of that we deliberatelyavoid technical words or large explanations, trying to be as much informative as possible.
• Some of the recommendations here could seem very basic or well-known by most part of the people involved in SCIP. However,we have included them in this document because some case studies have shown that there is still a lack of knowledge about them.
When planning a new SCIP, apart from clearly define the objectives it is also important to explicitly state – and with enough detail – how they will be evaluated. Different objectives require different actions.
Clearly define the target population and adjust the SCIP to the age, gender or particular characteristics of the population. If the SCIP already has a regular public, the organizer must clearly know itsexact profile.
Actions aimed at children can contribute to informal learning, to increase engagement in science and to encourage motivation and scientific vocations. It is a strategic population and it should be taken into consideration. This is especially importantfor policy initiatives and programs promoting science.
Actions targeted to an adult audience and to particular sectors (such as business or local institutions) can increase the impact of SCIP in the community.
Science centers and museums, as well as science events – such as science festivals and fairs– have proved an important impact on their visitors, the local community where they are established as well as on the people or actors involved in their programs and activities (museum staff, scientists, teachers, industry representatives, politicians, journalists, etc.). Responsible of local, regional, national and international programs on scientific culture should take into accountthis central role of museumsand events in science communication, and try to work together and support them. In this way, their respective social impactscould be multiplied.
Science events, and SCIP in general, could potentially take place in any venue, but some recommendations arise from our research:
• SCIP taking place in situ (universities, research centers) have the advantage of offering visitors a very real experience about science, its processes and its protagonists. When scientists working in these institutions are really motivated and involved in the SCIP, visitor’s sense of closeness to scientists will increase, which is usually very appreciated by the public.
• Other places like art galleries, theaters and music auditoriums are seen positively by the public for their originality as a place to talk about science, and because of their potential to offer new views at the intersection of various sectors (i.e. science and art).
• Popular places such as squares or parks can be a good location to organize SCIP, especially in order to attract audiences not previously interested in science.
• Communication and scientific culture policies should not only be focused on large cities or large installations. In small towns,proportionally larger parts of population attend local science events and activities (including people with no particular interest in science). A normally scarce offer of cultural and leisure activities due to the obvious reason of reduced dimensions, a proportionally higher visibility of the installations and advertisements, as well as a higher coverage in local media, make a science event hard to not notice in a small town.
Accessibility should be planned from the beginning. Good public transport and car parking space, as well as access for disabled visitors can be decisive in the success of the SCIP.
In locations underextreme weather conditions, closed centers with good conditioning system are highly valued since the offer of indoor activities forfamiliesis usually reduced.
4. Areas / issues
SCIP focused on local issues, or in areas where there is a pool of scientific excellence in the community, often have a strong impact on visitors and participants.
Strategic issues of general interest (human rights, sustainability, health and welfare) also need to be included in SCIP, particularly in policies and big programs.
A multidisciplinary approach to the issues covered by a particular SCIP should be provided in order to attract different audiences.
On-off events are particularly vulnerable to the adequacy of the day or week selected. Parallel local activities organized onthat day, as well as other events that may interfere (sports events, elections, etc.)should be considered. Try to coordinate efforts with the rest of local agents of scientific culture (see “local dimension”).
Schedules should be adapted to target populations. Schools need to prepare visits with months in advance; scientists are often also professors and have exams and classes, etc.
SCIP planning must be realistic and consider allthe activities that will be needed before, during and after it.
6. Formats / Ways
One of the most appreciated values by visitors in science centers and scientific events is precisely their ability to present new and old issues in a different, attractive, aesthetically pleasing, emotional and innovative way. Despite this, there are stillvery flat and unimaginativeactivities.Innovation and creativity should be very present in all SCIP.
Experience and exploration are also two characteristics highly valued by citizens. Promoting activities that allow these experiences can increase their impact among the public.
Many SCIP have as a main objective to encourage public participation in science, but the truthis that many of them continue to offer one-way communication (those who know filling the knowledge gaps of those who don’t know). Citizens who attend these activities expecting to be heard and participate in important decisions often feel cheated or disappointed. It should be clear whether a SCIP is participatory or not and, in this last case, how this participation will be guaranteed and evaluated.
Scientists that regularly participate in SCIP usually appreciate the contact with the public, but not always recognize the value of public feedback nor their opinions or knowledge. SCIP organizers who want a genuinely public participation should guarantee that scientists and other invited actorsunderstandwhat public participation is and help share its value.
European Commission, as well as national and local authorities, can greatly contribute to encourage public participation in decision-making through SCIP.
7. Local dimension
The coordination among local scientific communication agents should be a priority in local policies because it helps increase the relative impact of each of them. Local policies promoting science should contribute to such coordination. They should also identify the main local agents in science communication (such as science museums and science events organizers), work with them and try to support their activities. Similarly, new or smaller organizations should also getsupport.
SCIP should help inform citizens about relevant issues related to innovations of their city and key local problems. They should also make clear in which ways citizens can access these innovations or contribute to solve these problems.
The involvement of local authorities in scientific communication activities is very desirable since this participation often awakens the politicians awareness and interest for local scientific issues. This participation can also generate the place for networking, thinking in new projects for the city and possible sources of funding.
Collaboration with local journalists and media has proven to be a very effective way to increase SCIP’s impact. This collaboration can be done in several ways: providing media training workshops on target scientific issues, facilitating their work, etc.
Local policies should promote cross-cutting scientific communication programs which can benefit all local agents of scientific communication. For instance, communication training programs for scientists or training in science for journalists.
8. Promotion / Advertisement / Communication
General population does not always know the offer of SCIP in its city. Sometimes, the perception is that these activities are targeted to a very elitist population. It is essential, therefore, to intensify the promotion of SCIP, using mass media and different channels, repeatedly announcing the imminence of the event and updating the information on the website.
SCIP are still not well promoted by social networks and platforms 2.0, in comparison with other areas of culture (i.e. concerts, sportive events, etc.). Without astrong presence on social networks, SCIP could not reachthe part of the population that is less exposed to mass media but is online 24 hours a day. Communication 2.0 should be seriously considered, and human and material resources need to be provided to implement it in an effective way.
Search for the cooperation of local media and journalists. Do not just send a press release. Instead of that, try to facilitate their work and seek closer collaboration with them (see “local dimension”). Collaboration with local journalists must be regular and as personalized as possible.
Public funding of SCIP should be diversified, including transnational (such as the European Commission), national and regional or local resources.
In many countries, the private sector is not very present in the SCIP financing or support despite it may be one of the main beneficiaries of these actions. Local administration should develop strategic actions toencourage networking between different actors and promote a greater involvement of the private sector.
SCIP are very vulnerable to crises and government changes. Policies to promote scientific culture should be an explicit integral part of the main official documents, such as municipal action plans, laws, etc.
Funding agencies should promote a culture of evaluation, providing training and tools to facilitate its practice (particularly for small organizations).
Results from the evaluation of scientific centers and events are often unpublished or just summarized in reports for internal uses. Main networks of science communication, as well as local and national administration, should encouragethe publication and public access to such studies. Thus, it wouldbe easier to learn from previous mistakes and take as a reference cases with good results.