Focus group with relevant actors (case studies “science centres” and “science events”)
Here is the specific guideline to conduct the focus group corresponding to Module C2. For further technical details about this technique in the framework of PLACES project, please refer to the Methodological Considerations Chapter (p.25).
In this module, one focus group with 4-8 participants from the most important actors (or representatives of these actors in the case of institutional ones) should be conducted. If several actors of the same type were involved in the case (e.g. a group of scientists) one or two representative members of that actor type should be invited to the focus group. The main
goal of this focus group is to measure the impact that participating in the event has caused on the actors represented in the focus group.
This module C2 is an alternative to conducting the semi-structured interviews of C1. However, the advantage of doing the semi-structured interviews of C1 rather than the focus group of C2 is, firstly, that interviews will result in more detailed answers as respondents have a longer time to talk. Secondly, in most cases it will be easier to make individual appointments with several actors than a joint appointment with them all. The main advantage of a focus group, i.e., different participants providing different views on the same subject, is not so important in this case since each participant would have to talk about impacts on himself/herself, and the other actors cannot reasonably add to that as they have no own experience about impacts on other actors.
For the purpose of identifying impacts on actors, it may thus be preferable to use module C1 (individual interviews) rather than module C2 (focus group).
Selection of participants
Based on general knowledge of the case gathered in the preparation of the case study, the most important actors from the list of actors (see Table 2 on p.20). should be selected. Prospective participants have to be contacted and asked to agree to participate in the group.
Conducting the focus group
For the current case it seems useful to begin – after an introduction by the moderator – with a round of statements, giving each participant about 5 minutes to talk about his/her response and the respective institution’s response to participating in the science centre or science event.
After these statements, the moderator should introduce the rather general question to stimulate the discussion: “What has changed for you from your involvement in the science centre or science event?” The moderator’s task is then to structure the debate, and – if necessary – to introduce key words from the list of potential areas or effects on actors (see table on p.22) in order to make the group think about a broad spectrum of possible effects. It is also advisable to pose the questions listed in Module C1 if they do not come up organically during the conversation.
Potential areas of impact include: career enhancement, competitiveness, learning/getting feedback about public response to research + raising new research topics and questions, learning about scientific expertise, enhancing learning opportunities for pupils, enhancing quality teaching and teachers, self reflection + context awareness, acquiring communication skills, enhance qualification for reporting on science, networking between actors of different categories, economic benefits (including marketing/sales), positive feedback and motivation, creating and using relevant expertise, increase public acceptance of their research area, prestige and visibility / public image, recruitment of researchers and other staff, recruitment of students, more weight for scientific topics, involvement / commitment for public science communication, advocacy, others.
Ideally, the analysis of the focus group should be based on transcripts of the audio recording. It is less likely than in the case of individual interviews to do listening and summarizing in one step thus saving the need for transcription. As described in module C1, the analysis should focus on the explicit and implicit comments of the interviewee about how he/she or the institution were affected (e.g. acquired skills and new insights, had benefits for their work, made useful contacts etc., see p.75 or p.22 for a list of potential areas of impact or effects on actors). Indicators for such effects could be the self-reporting of participants, but also information about follow-up activities or consequences of the participants’ involvement in the case.
The analysis should thus result in a selective, structured summary of the focus group. It should identify the impact dimensions mentioned by the participants and their description of the kind of impact and the size of it in the speakers’ own words. The analysis should also include the required context information (e.g. about the participants role in the case) necessary to understand why this impact has occurred and why is it important to the participant. If the participant mentions that a particular kind of impact has not occurred, this should also be taken into account for the analysis.
The analysis of the focus group will be a section in the case study report. It should consist of a verbal description of the impacts on the relevant actors structured by actor and impact type.