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Science Communication: State of the Nation 2013 Essays inspired by the annual Science Communication Conference

Registered charity 212479 and SC039236

CONTENTS Foreword...........................................................................


W(h)ither the future of science communication?.............


One message: many voices: another way of legitimising censorship?........................................................................


How not to present science...............................................


Science communication – bridging theory and practice..


Working with arts festivals..............................................


Informal science learning and the challenge of measurement....................................................................


Whatâ€&#x;s the true cost of free?.............................................


Ask for evidence................................................................


British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


FOREWORD For a community that is founded on the principle of openness, we can get very hung up on emphasising the divisions and differences in our sector. For instance, someone recently suggested that the British Science Association should change this conference‟s name to the Science Engagement Conference, because „communication‟ belongs to the old-school „public understanding‟ crowd rather than these more enlightened „public engagement‟ times. (Though, how you‟re meant to engage without communicating, I‟m not sure). There‟s that science writer on a national newspaper who visibly bristles at me whenever I call him a science communicator. He insists that he is a journalist first and foremost, and definitely not in the business of 'communicating science'.

I also see two-way suspicion between some „scientist communicators‟ and some professional scicommers. And it remains difficult to have a conversation about the Science Media Centre or Sense About Science in public without being told they‟re secretly a front for the Illuminati or Monsanto. But the Science Communication Conference sees practitioners and thinkers from every part of our sector come together to debate, plot, and share best practice in a positive, inspiring, friendly setting. And I think the big part of the reason behind that is that we spend rather a lot of time doing something unusual for us; talking about motivations, discussing why we do our brand of science communication, and our methods. Outside the conference we often make the mistake of assuming everyone should have the same motives – after all, we‟re all in the same trade. Some funders even acknowledge that we are diverse but wish we weren‟t – “if only they were all pulling in the same direction”. But that diversity of motivations is what gives us the breadth of activity in science communication. In this e-book there are complaints about censorship, tips on presenting styles, reminders on evaluation, calls for „geek action‟, and much more. Over 80 speakers presented at the Science Communication Conference that took place in London on 16 & 17 May 2013. The authors of this publication were selected by delegates of that conference. The full report of the conference can be read at Each of them come from a different sci-comm perspective, and as I read them I‟m pleased that we do have such a complex and varied sector – it‟d be boring if we all wanted the same thing. Imran Khan, Chief Executive, British Science Association November 2013

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013



By the show of hands in the audience, only one or two people had attended the Science Communication Conference around 10 years or so ago, so fortunately for me there weren‟t many present who could disagree with my reflections of the conference in those early days. It struck me that to consider the future of science communication it would be helpful to reflect on progress we‟ve made. I chose to mention an example of an issue that had preoccupied us back then that we‟ve more or less succeeded in resolving (although has inevitably highlighted other issues), one that we‟ve had some success in but could do more, and one that still continues to be raised to this day like a bad headache that won‟t go away. One of my favourite memories of that conference was having an energetic discussion about whether or not the activities we all run around the UK could somehow be linked together to collectively find out what attendees think about a particular issue and feed those thoughts into policy. We were of course aware of all the work taking place in dialogue conferences and consensus conferences, but we were curious to see if this kind of „quick and dirty‟ approach could throw up some interesting comparisons. A few of us organised a small workshop at the Science Communication Conference and began planning a project around the topic of nanotechnology. This subsequently developed into a successful funding proposal, et voilà Small Talk was born[1]. Unsurprisingly we found lots of benefits from working together, e.g. building relationships with policy makers which none of the participating organisations had the resources to do individually in-house.

We also found that public attitudes to nanotechnology were similar to the results of dialogue conferences: that people‟s attitudes to nanotechnology are not significantly different from their attitudes to any new technology, and they were not concerned about risks arising from the technologies but instead the regulation of the technologies. At a personal level, I also found it deeply satisfying to go to a conference that directly resulted in an actual project, as opposed to sitting around discussing endlessly the issues our community faces. At the time, Small Talk was one of a number of initiatives that laid the foundations and rationale for Sciencewise[2], which has taken on the mantle of linking policy makers with public dialogue initiatives. However, I‟m sure if you talk to anyone involved in Sciencewise, you‟ll find that there are still significant barriers to embedding the practice of public dialogue within policy making. This therefore falls into the „could do more‟ category. In contrast, my head is in my hands every time I hear people discussing the gap between practitioners in science communication and those who study the relationship between science and society from a more academic perspective. This was also recently highlighted in the Wellcome Trust‟s report on informal science education[3]. Ten years or so ago practitioners were initially delighted to hear of the ESRC‟s (Economic and Social Research Council‟s) new grants scheme on Science and Society. Delight, however, soon turned into frustration and a somewhat ugly atmosphere seemed to descend on one of the main sessions.

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


Needless to say, when the results of the research were published, very few of us bothered to read the literature because the projects didn‟t appear to be directly useful for developing our science communication activities. This was also despite efforts of the British Science Association in organising some follow up joint workshops with practitioners and academics. In fact, these workshops only served to reinforce the gulf between the two communities. I‟d love to see this change... to a future when the science communication community‟s box-ticking evaluation morphs into something more meaningful and joined up. When academics are working alongside practitioners. And when I can stop rolling my eyes at the mere mention of this topic and move on to considering something else. And finally I move on to the point when we can all pat each other on our backs, for a brief moment or two at least. We were concerned in those days about scientists not being adequately praised for their efforts at public engagement, and that engagement as a whole wasn‟t sufficiently embedded within our major science-based organisations. At the time, COPUS (Committee for the Public Understanding of Science) [4] was on its death bed, partly because public engagement was starting to open up beyond the tripartite arrangement of its founding members: the British Science Association, the Royal Institution and the Royal Society. However, we were a long way off the situation we have today. Scientists reported being side-lined in their careers if they spent any time on public-facing activities and such activities were in themselves largely regarded as insignificant and unimportant by many of the big cheeses in science-based organisations. I don‟t think I can single out a particular initiative that can be credited for the change in direction.

The University Beacons for Public Engagement certainly helped, but so have the prominence of the wonderful science centres around the UK, the RCUK (Research Councils UK) Concordat for Public Engagement, lots of the learned societies who have embraced this movement by appointing public engagement officers and efforts by funders such as the Wellcome Trust to invest in a plethora of original and creative ideas. Anyone who subscribes to the psci-com mailing list will certainly agree that hardly a day goes by without a job in this area being advertised. So, it seems we have achieved our goal of embedding science engagement. Or have we? Despite the huge enthusiasm amongst young scientists at sharing their results with the wider world, those involved in public engagement are largely absent from the governing structures of science organisations. And there are still reports of some senior academics at best paying lip service to public engagement and at worst stifling the enthusiasm of the young scientists following in their footsteps. I‟m confident that we‟ll overcome this, as long as those young scientists persevere and inspire those who follow behind, and as long as the science engagement community as a whole provides the necessary support and continues to believe that involving the public in science, in whatever format and to varying extents, is inherently a jolly sensible thing to do. With thanks to Roland Jackson for his thoughtful contributions. To read the full report from this session visit

REFERENCES: 1. Small Talk website 2. Sciencewise website 3. Wellcome Trust Informal Learning Report 4. COPUS – wikipedia

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


ONE MESSAGE: MANY VOICES: ANOTHER WAY OF LEGITIMISING CENSORSHIP? Pallab Ghosh, BBC & Fiona Fox, Science Media Centre Part 1: Pallab Ghosh My impression was that the session at the Science Communication Conference was organised to help science communicators present important scientific information during a national emergency such as a flu pandemic. The premise is that differing opinions would serve to confuse at a time when the public want clarity. Such thoughts are well intentioned but naïve, in my opinion.

In the past, this has worked well, as with the impact of lead in fuel on child development, the causes and effects of climate change and - more recently - the harmful effects of excessive dietary salt on human health. Science advisers can act as an independent voice within government to identify and challenge bad practice. For research results to change policy, government scientists need direct access to the public in order to explain the policy implications of their work through the news media.

The underlying intention in the desire for “one message” is to control the message. This is the opposite of the scientific process which requires discourse to develop knowledge and understanding. It is also the opposite of science communication which seeks to empower. The purpose of “one message” is to quell dissent.

Without that, it would be tempting for governments to ignore research results that do not suit them.

This is what the Canadian government has done [1] and is what the UK government seems to be trying to do as most recently seen in the Department of Environment, Food, Farming and Agriculture‟s public presentation of the science behind the badger cull.

In Canada, several government departments are currently under investigation by the country's information commission for allegedly "muzzling" their scientists.[2]

This acts as a brake on the culture of debate that is necessary to develop effective evidence-based policies. Government agencies exist to serve the public good and usually do. In theory, if they believe that an area of public policy is going badly wrong and have the evidence to prove it, they say so.

The public understanding of science empowers individuals and enables an informed debate from which policy changes can spring - benefiting society.

Requests for interviews with scientists working for the Canadian federal government have frequently been turned down as a consequence of a media protocol introduced in 2008. This directive explicitly states that press officers should ensure that the minister is not surprised by what they read in the newspapers and that the interview is "along approved lines". In the UK, there is no such overt directive. But more subtle manipulation of some of the country‟s leading scientists by the UK government has the same effect. [3]

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


During times of crisis they are brought in to advise government and are told they can‟t speak to the media. The stated reason is for national security. Who knows what state secrets they are privy to but the press and the public are denied access to their expertise at times when we most need to hear from them. There has been a tightening of restrictions, and constraints on the open and free discussion of the science in recent years. It has been done by governments under the guise of better coordinating the message. Stifling the free flow of information about research findings might reduce ministerial embarrassment. But for the sake of good governance, it might be better if there were a few more surprises for ministers in the news media. REFERENCES: 1. Canadian government is „muzzling its scientists‟, BBC, February 2012 2. Has Canada's government been muzzling its scientists? BBC, April 2013 3. Call to 'let UK government scientists off the leash„, BBC, June 2013

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


Part 2: Fiona Fox

Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, recently got into hot water with George Monbiot for arguing that scientists should recognise the difference between explaining their science and advocating for specific government policies. For Boyd, scientists who express strong opinions on the latter in public cease to be independent scientists. I tend to agree that there is a fine line between science and advocacy, or as Ian Boyd puts it 'where authoritative comment stops and political points of view begin'. Indeed the Science Media Centre (SMC) often reminds scientists that when talking about their own research to journalists they should avoid being drawn on the policy implications or the public health advice. Unlike some good friends in science I believe that the role of scientists is to inform society‟s debates not win them! However I think we need to acknowledge that sometimes the line between science and policy is a difficult one to draw. The scientist who tells the media that the evidence from field trials on the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees are inconclusive may never express any opinion on the EU ban but can reasonably be assumed to think it is unjustified. When the SMC ran our badger cull briefing several top scientists said that the previous trials on badger culling had not reduced TB transmission overall due to perturbation effects. They repeatedly refused to be drawn on the proposed badger cull, but most journalists left that briefing having concluded that while there may be many great reasons for a badger cull, the scientific evidence is too uncertain to be one of them. Would these experts fall foul of a plea to avoid commenting on policy? Hard one to call and sadly I already see far too many scientists too scared to do media interviews on these subjects for fear of crossing the line.

Most of the science community accept that politicians have to base decisions on many things as well as science. As my husband, a politics teacher, reminds me regularly we do live in a democracy and politicians have to listen to other interest groups and voters as well as 'my scientists'. However that is not an argument against scientists entering these debates and robustly defending the evidence base. It is absolutely essential that they do so in order to inform that debate with the best science available. Otherwise we are quickly back to the bad old days of BSE where scientists were blamed for getting it wrong because the politicians misrepresented advice presented behind closed doors. This is not rocket science openness and honesty on both sides are needed. Secrecy is not. Some in government favour a scenario where scientists bring their influence to bear through a framework of advisory committees that take place behind closed doors and arrive at a consensus that can then be passed to ministers. Nothing sinister about that and with a media that often wilfully mistakes legitimate scientific differences for a „row‟ I can see why this is attractive. But I profoundly disagree with this approach and believe that removing the scientists who advise government from the media debates is bad for public discourse. I am also convinced that it is bad for evidence based policy – you don‟t have to read every spin doctor‟s diary as I do to know that Ministers are just as influenced by the Daily Mail and the Today programme as they are by science advice delivered behind closed doors. We need our best scientists to be engaging with the media as well as with politicians even when the science subjects are so messy and politicised that they run the risk of being presented as taking sides. Critically we need our Chief Scientific Advisers to encourage and support them to do both.

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


HOW NOT TO PRESENT SCIENCE James Piercy, science made simple Elin Roberts, Centre for Life Watch a presentation going well and everything appears seamless. Yet the presenter, like the proverbial swan, is often paddling furiously beneath. Watching good presenters isn‟t always the most useful training.

Effective communication occurs when you pair it with a personal connection. Make good eye contact. Look to the audience, take time to cover every part of the crowd and make sure they can see you. Keep those glasses clean and hair off your face.

Sometimes it‟s easier to learn by watching presenters who are struggling or performing badly. You see first-hand the negative impact on the audience as a bumbling performer fails to make eye contact, or an over-enthusiastic presenter makes their audiences cringe.

Use your body language to help focus attention where you want it. Audiences will look where you look, listen if you listen and match the tone you set for the presentation. If you don‟t want people to call out, don't start by asking them to shout „hello‟. Distractions

It was with this in mind that a merry band of trainer/presenters with little regard for their professional dignity presented „How not to present Science‟ at the Science Communication Conference.

Two of the presenters on the day, James Piercy and Elin Roberts, share their tips on how to present science to engage the audience.

Your audience‟s attention is like a delicate flower. Stamp all over it and it refuses to flourish. Perhaps you are afflicted by the two-step-shuffle, buzzword bingo or the incessant necessity to repeat the word „anyway‟. Your audience will notice and will spend the rest of the presentation playing their own game based on your foibles rather that listening to what you have to say. Tame those distracting habits and what you say will have more impact.

Body language and eye contact


The often misquoted research into communication by Albert Mehrabian [1] tells us that we need to be careful to avoid mismatch between our spoken words and non-verbal messages. Telling an audience how glad you are to see them whilst looking at your feet or fiddling with props won‟t support your message. Let your stance and movement reflect the tone of what you are saying. If you expect the audience to be surprised or excited, mirror that emotion yourself as if it were the first time.

Be nice to your volunteers. Take the blame if things go wrong. Charm them, banter with them. They are your audience‟s proxy. Be kind to them and the audience will repay you.

Everything was presented badly.

Only use a volunteer if you really need them. Give clear instructions on what to do, including when to leave the stage. Asking for applause not only shows your appreciation but also covers the time it takes them to return to their seat.

It‟s common for presenters to want to hide. A volunteer should feel good when they leave This might be behind something physical your stage. If they don‟t, you‟ll not succeed in like a desk, but you can also hide behind getting volunteers again. demonstrations, crazy costumes or a loud voice. 9 British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013



Even young children can easily ask questions which might leave you stumped. Be truthful about what you don‟t know. Have the confidence to admit uncertainty and offer suggestions of ways to find out.

Stories are powerful devices in human culture. They captivate and entrance. They are much more than „Once upon a time‟. It is rare to be unable to engage in some kind of narrative approach to your topic. Perhaps it‟s the story of your own interest, maybe the tale of early experiments, a thought experiment that the audience themselves conduct? Stories start with an outline, build to a crisis or question and reach a resolution. Set up a narrative in the information you are trying to transmit and the audience will be longing to hear the end.

If you are using a demonstration, it‟s important not to fake it. If a member of your audience figures out that you are tricking them, they‟ll tell everyone around them and nobody will trust what you say.

Know your audience This shouldn‟t be an ego trip. The presentation isn‟t all about you. It‟s about them, too. Know your audience. Find out all you can about your audience before you start. Then, watch them. Are they bored, engaged, excited or depressed? Can you accentuate getting a good reaction and eliminate the negative responses?

Stopping is not an ending According to Pixar‟s 22 rules of storytelling [2], endings are hard. Drawing a narrative to its satisfying conclusion can be one of the most challenging things about preparing a presentation. It can be tempting to fall into the trap of „and that, Ladies and Gentlemen is all the time I have‟.

Allowing the audience to be clever

Please don‟t. The feeling as you figure something out for yourself is powerful. Being told the same thing is never as good. Having a speaker carefully prepare a talk to lead you to a conclusion before the reveal can be engrossing and memorable. If you‟re after engrossing and memorable, it‟s a good tip. Edit We often fall into the trap of packing too much in, but faced with so much information and so little time we make the mistake of trying to say everything. Do your audience need the details? Careful editing shows that you value your audience, giving them enough to sustain their interest but without boring them. Less is more.

A short while contemplating the impact of your ending can pay dividends to how your presentation is remembered by your audience. When you have finished, remember that it may take a moment for your audience to register this and acknowledge it. Give the time and avoid the temptation to speak again.

REFERENCES: 1. Mehrabian, Albert; Wiener, Morton (1967). "Decoding of Inconsistent Communications". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 6 (1): 109–114 2. Coats, Emma (2011) The 22 Rules of Storytelling According to Pixar

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SCIENCE COMMUNICATION – BRIDGING THEORY AND PRACTICE Helen Featherstone, University of Exeter Paul Manners, National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Brigitte Nerlich, The University of Nottingham Huw James, To The Blue A call to action There are growing calls for greater interaction between science communication practitioners and academics ([1], [2], [3]). Underpinning this desire for greater interaction between these two communities is a sense that science communication could be improved. In the 25 years since the Bodmer report there has been a significant investment in science communication activities [footnote 1]. The recent move towards engaged research [footnote 2] suggests that science communication activities will continue – yet we often struggle to articulate what constitutes success and how to enable successful communication. Who’s playing? The call has been made for practitioners and academics to work together which suggests they are the only players in the science communication game, but it‟s more complex than that. We can see the practitioner community comprises two groups: those for whom science communication is their job, and research scientists who communicate. Science communicators are in a near constant state of change as they compete for limited funding and innovate to be competitive. Research scientists who communicate have other professional priorities: data collection, teaching, and publishing papers. Their communication activities are rarely formally recognised.

Academics who research interactions between science and society are dispersed across many fields. For example, education, social studies of science, mass communication, psychology, and social research to name but a few [footnote 3]. As with all academic disciplines, those looking at the relationship between science and society do so with a critical eye, are grounded in theory and are looking for something novel. They experience the same academic pressures as scientists: teaching and publishing, with communication rarely formally recognised. However, there are others in the community: those who work in the boundaries between practitioners and academics, funders and members of the public. Brokers working in these boundaries understand several communities, speak multiple languages (science, communication, engagement, psychology, sociology, arts etc.), and can facilitate relationships. They also support practice, professional development and make representations on behalf of others. Funders shape practice through the constraints they put on the money they release, and the work that gets commissioned (and excluded) through largely competitive processes. While the public are a diverse group. The more we know about them, and their interactions with science, the more we realise the complex and multiple expectations and motivations they have to engage with science ([4], [5]).

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


Of course, these descriptors are broad, unsubtle and cannot accurately reflect the lived experience of those we are describing. But we ask that you play along and accept these, broadly defined, players in the game of science communication.

Our practitioner groups have different learning and development needs but they primarily learn by doing and watching others. We might consider these groups as using the apprenticeship model of learning where the purpose of learning is to inform the next time, often in the short term.

How do we learn? We‟ll make a bold assumption here: that everyone involved in science communication wants it to be as good as possible. Clearly we are likely to have a range of perspectives of what counts as good and we are constrained by resources, but let‟s hold this as a common desire. If we want to make things better we have to improve practice individually and collectively which leads us to thinking about how we learn about science communication (see box). Differences in cultures of learning: practitioners and academics - insight from the academic world is found in a diverse array of disciplines and is shared through traditional academic routes of journal papers, conferences and teaching, making it challenging for practitioners to access collective academic knowledge; - practice moves quickly and is in a near constant state of innovation; academia moves slowly, and learning is incremental; - many science communicators trained as scientists which makes the academic language of non-science researchers opaque and challenging; - scientists who communicate cannot spend years honing their skills, building relationships with practitioners, nor digesting large volumes of academic insight; - evaluation of practice is often undertaken as a short-term accountability mechanism to satisfy funders‟ needs for a specific activity, while academic insight often seeks to address long term, generalisable effects or outcomes and aims to develop or critique theory.

Academics who study science communication develop their insight through traditional academic means which is incremental, may not be intended to influence the next time, and may not have an application in practice for the foreseeable future. To date, we have seen these cultural differences prevent collaboration rather than assist. Science communication practitioners have asked academics to “prove their long term impact” while academics have seen practitioners as participants or data points, people to do research on, rather than with. Improving practice In painting the picture in this way the call to action is simple, but the practical response is hard because time and motivation may be lacking and previous attempts to work together have been instrumental on both sides. However, the role of research funders should not be underestimated. They are asking for plans for collaboration when academics bid for research funding and those activities are being called to account through the Research Excellence Framework [6] and other mechanisms; for example the Office for Fair Access guidance [7] opens with the call to action: “Perhaps the single most important difference between this and previous guidance is our increased emphasis on the need for evidence and evaluation. We want you to build in evaluation of your access measures right from the start so you can maximise the effectiveness of your efforts.” P5

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


The Arts and Humanities Research Council are facilitating truly collaborative work involving practitioners and academics (see Codesign heritage [8] as one example). These changes in research culture are opening the door to much more sustained and practical collaboration. There is of course a danger that this “impact agenda” may increasingly institutionalise engagement, subtly undermining the quality of science communication. Are there similar changes in culture happening in the practitioner community? Finally, there is an increasing investment in brokers. Two of the authors (Helen and Paul) play such a role. We create the conditions for purposeful interaction between academics, practitioners and publics. What was previously left to chance is now a site for sustained investment and will help us move towards building shared understandings and developing a common language.

Of course the ultimate test will be – does greater interaction between theory and practice actually improve the quality and impact of our work. We believe it does. What do you think? FOOTNOTES: 1 To take one example, £800m a year is spent on widening participation activities, many of which involve inspiring young people about science


1. Cavell, S, Dawson, E, Featherstone, H (2011) Roundtable for advancing the profession: assessing impacts of science and discovery centres. 2. Falk, J, Osborne, J, Dierking, L. Dawson, E, Wenger, M, Wong, B (2012) Science beyond the classroom. Analysing the UK Science Education Community: The contribution of informal providers. Wellcome Trust: London 3. Facer, K., Manners, P., Agusita, E (2012) Towards a Knowledge Base for UniversityPublic Engagement: sharing knowledge, building insight, taking action, NCCPE: Bristol 4. Barnett, C & Mahoney, N (2011) Segmenting publics 5. Mohr, A, Raman, S, Gibbs, B (2013)Which publics? When? EXPLORING THE POLICY POTENTIAL OF INVOLVING DIFFERENT PUBLICS IN DIALOGUE AROUND SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 6. Research Excellence Framework (REF) 7. Office for Fair Access (2013) How to produce an access agreement for 2014-15, (p.5) 8. Codesign heritage 9. RCUK Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research

2 See RCUK‟s Concordat for Public Engagement [9] and the inclusion of Impact in this year‟s Research Excellence Framework 3 Recognition of this diversity can be found in this recent call for conference papers:

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


WORKING WITH ARTS FESTIVALS Jen Wong, Guerilla Science The following chapter outlines the Guerilla Science ethos and approach for working with arts festivals. It traces the origins of Guerilla Science within the intersection between public engagement with science and the UK music festival scene, and gives a few examples of how Guerilla Science has taken advantage of the opportunities within the arts festival context to create wonderful experiences that are inspired by and incorporate science and scientists. Since 2008 Guerilla Science has brought science events to music festivals, art galleries, and theatrical productions – places where people least expect to see science. We surprise people with science in unconventional places, and celebrate it in unorthodox ways. We believe that taking researchers out of the lab and into the traditional domains of the arts helps us to reach new audiences that may feel alienated from and even hostile towards science. Our aim is to move people using scientific ideas, with the same emotional colour they might get from theatre or art. We do this by placing science where it can be seen as part of our cultural sphere, and interpreting our content in a way that transforms the unfamiliar into a relevant, engaging, and often participatory experience for our audiences. So what better place to take our trade than to the burgeoning UK arts festival scene? The diversity of a festival where many worlds and cultures collide, and where one can wander from a hands-on foraging workshop into a crowded mosh pit in the space of a mere field, affords the science communicator a multitude of challenges and opportunities. And it is in this space that Guerilla Science has let rip with its collective imagination and thrived, delivering a program of events that mixes science with art, music and play.

The work of Guerilla Science within this field (literally within at least 16 fields over the last six years) highlights how this mode of science communication can blow peoples‟ minds: not just the minds of our audiences, but of participating scientists as well. Take the Decontamination Chamber at Glastonbury 2011 as an example. In partnership with the producers of ShangriLa Glastonbury and the Wellcome Trust‟s Dirt season, Guerilla Science conceived the Decontamination Chamber as a surreal immersive experience that sat inside a 10 x 10m white inflatable cube, within the overall narrative environment of the Shangri-La field – where a mysterious virus outbreak was infecting and posing a threat to festivalgoers. The chamber offered a means of cleansing visitors of the virus, presenting two possible methods of decontamination: psychological or physical. The first portal featured a human microbial zoo installation, and practicing microbiologists who introduced visitors to their bacterial flora, before outlining the choice to become either physically or psychologically „clean.‟

Guerilla Science/Strong and Co.

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


Psychiatrists recruited by Guerilla Science helped to deliver the „psychological cleansing‟ route, whilst a biohazard suited actor and Health Protection Agency inspired protocols facilitated the „physical cleansing‟ route. On exiting the last room, visitors were proclaimed „clean.‟ With a final cleansing shot, they were allowed to proceed to the skywalk – a suspended, white, shrinkwrapped walkway that traversed the field – in order to „survey the unclean filth‟ i.e. the rest of Shangri-La, which was by then a sea of mud below.

As one of our participating scientists remarked, “I was impressed by the amount of imagination, creativity and effort that went into creating not only the city, but the story. I was proud to be a part of it.” In situations where audiences are used to suspending their disbelief and role-playing to a certain extent, the opportunities to communicate science become endless. And this kind of environment is often to be found at arts festivals, such as Glastonbury, or other similar minded music festivals like Secret Garden Party where Guerilla Science was founded.

The breadth of professional expertise within the Guerilla Science team is essential to our successful work with arts festivals. Most of the team have at least one science degree, layered beneath careers in event and exhibition production, journalism and theatrical production. This makes us uniquely placed to work with and within arts festivals, and together we have 20 years experience of producing and delivering events in different environments. To summarise, here are eight top tips for introducing science elements into arts festivals: - Don‟t be a loner. Work with a trusted team and build diverse people (personalities, approaches, backgrounds) into the team to make yourselves stronger - Interdisciplinarity provides opportunities to tackle subjects with more creativity and sophistication, in order to create a richer audience experience - Be collaborative and flexible in your approach – an open mind will help you make the most of your people and talent and achieve greater things - Know what you want to achieve and what your arts festival, scientist, or other collaborators want to achieve - If you can‟t find have any obvious common ground with prospective collaborators, don‟t collaborate - Know and respect your audience. Who are you doing this all for? - Don‟t lose sight of your goals. Delivering at festivals is often tough! Letting yourself get bogged down in the practicalities is a fasttrack route to meltdown - Have as much fun as possible whilst doing all this – if you‟re enjoying yourself, you‟re probably creating a better experience for the audience and your team.

A smaller scale example of our ethos at work is the Particle Safari – where we interpreted the fundamental particles of the universe as a Safari Tour. Particles, embodied by willing audience recruits in a mixture of boiler suits, gold gimp suits and a sumo suit, represented the various properties of up and down quarks, electrons and the Higgs Boson. Audience involvement - as quarks, electrons and the Higgs – was key to the success of the tour. Recruits had been briefed to re-enact a range of particle interactions for the rest of the audience, who eventually physically formed a representation of the LHC. The „particles‟ collided within this space, and the Higgs was revealed. A host interpreted each Looking at the festival scene today, six years interaction in the style of a safari guide, on from when we started, it‟s rewarding to injecting more humour into the interactions see how science elements are increasingly unfolding before the eyes of the tour. This being embedded into more and more arts interactive tour was devised in collaboration festival programmes. Science at arts with particle physicists Jon Butterworth and festivals seems to be trending. Why not come James Monk, and designer Patrick and join us? Stevenson-Keating. 15 British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013

INFORMAL SCIENCE LEARNING AND THE CHALLENGE OF MEASUREMENT Stephanie Sinclair, Wellcome Trust The Wellcome Trust has been thinking a lot about informal science learning recently, including the learning that occurs in exhibitions, debates, games, broadcasts, theatre productions and other activities that help with the learning of science. When you realise that even when young people are in full-time education, they spend less than 20% of their time in school, it is clear to see why (Figure 1). There is evidently huge potential to engage young people with science experiences outside of the classroom.

Figure 1 Time spent in and out of school, from the Wellcome Trust infographic „Evidence for informal science learning‟

In 2012, Wellcome published a Review of Informal Learning in the UK [1] which examines the provision of informal learning and its value to science education. There are several issues identified within the Review including: (i) the difficulty in evaluating impacts of informal experiences; (ii) the extent of the gap between research and practice; (iii) the fact that some audiences are being under-served; and (iv) the huge diversity, but limited coordination across the sector. The first two issues listed here will now be explored in more detail.

In terms of evaluating informal science learning activities, the Review highlights that the community is „eager to find out what its users think of its activities, but less inclined to measure long-term impact‟. Practitioners working in informal learning were surveyed about how they evaluate their activities and 91% of respondents stated that they undertook formative evaluation of their activities, which involves, for example, testing early prototypes in order to result in a higher-quality or more engaging end product. In contrast, only 15% reported carrying out summative evaluation at the end of a project, which would provide evidence about the impacts of the activities. Our research shows that the most common methodology used to evaluate informal learning activities is user surveys, with 98% of respondents using these. Observations of participants and discussions with groups of users are also common with 79% and 76% of people carrying these out respectively. Evaluation of non-users is less frequent with 32% of practitioners holding group discussions and 25% doing surveys with those currently not engaged with their informal learning offer. Interestingly, when users‟ experiences are being evaluated it tends to be internal staff conducting the research but when non-users are being researched, external evaluators are more likely to be involved. To better understand these findings, it is important to look at the obstacles to evaluation which the community face. Our findings show that the two largest barriers which practitioners cited were „difficulties in finding time to evaluate‟ which was seen as a barrier by 81% of respondents and „lack of funding‟ which was a barrier for 76%.

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


These two responses are possibly linked; if there was funding available to carry out evaluations then this would allow time and resource to be allocated to this role. However, it is hard to unpick what the root cause of this is. Have practitioners applied for funding that included long-term evaluations and been unsuccessful or do they not include this in proposals because they do not see it as part of the project? Equally are funders not demanding grantholders to carry out summative evaluations or are they expecting it but not making this clear? Higher-quality evaluations may be one way to better understand what works, and importantly what doesnâ€&#x;t work in informal learning but this is only one piece of the puzzle. There are many fascinating unanswered questions about the way in which audiences engage with informal learning experiences such as how people learn science when taking part in these activities, how this learning differs from more formally acquired knowledge and skills, how informal experiences may be able to particularly engage young people turned off by formal environments and how informal learning activities may spark interest and imagination. To better comprehend the important role of informal learning rigorous academic research and analysis of datasets is needed. The Review found that practitioners within the community are currently not heavily engaged with the relevant academic research, such as it is. A list of the most cited articles about informal science learning was compiled and practitioners were asked which of them they had heard of or had read. The most common response for how many people had read an article was zero, and the most common response for how many people had heard of, but not read, an article was two. Even the most well-known article had only been read by less than half of the respondents.

People were far more likely to read policy documents, evaluations and other items which can be termed „grey literatureâ€&#x;.

The reasons why practitioners are not reading the academic literature were explored with participants who attended a workshop at Wellcome where the Review was launched. Reasons given were that the academic literature can be difficult to access and that it takes time to find the most relevant articles and to synthesise them and consider what the findings mean for your own practice. There are some existing mechanisms which aim to alleviate these barriers, for example the website Relating Research to Practice [2] highlights short synopses of research relevant to informal science education. The Wellcome Trust has also produced an infographic [3] which collates evidence for the impacts of informal science learning. Tools such as these are valuable in terms of bridging research and practice, but there is more to be done to facilitate effective partnerships between researchers and practitioners. The Wellcome Trust is aiming to bridge the gap between research and practice by launching a new initiative to make a transformational step to improve the knowledge bases and practices of informal science experiences to better understand, strengthen and coordinate their vital role in science engagement and learning. It will involve funding for researchers and practitioners to work together on new research programmes and details will be announced in 2014.

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As a community there are steps we can all take to address some of the issues raised in the Review of Informal Learning. These include considering how to best grow the knowledge base around informal science education, how to share learning and expertise within the field and how to strengthen the skills of researchers and practitioners to ensure that the sector continues to thrive. By working together, we can help practitioners of informal science learning make an even greater impact on peopleâ€&#x;s lives.

REFERENCES: 1. Wellcome Trust, 2012, Review of Informal Science Learning 2. Relating Research to Practice website 3. Wellcome Trust, 2013, Evidence for Informal Science Learning Infographic

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


WHATâ€&#x;S THE TRUE COST OF FREE? Deborah Syrop, science made simple Jamie Gallagher, University of Glasgow Part 1: Deborah Syrop Some science engagement activities are charged at cost, few at a commercial rate and many provided free to their audience. What is the relationship between price and impact? Are we exceeding audience expectations or do we inadvertedly lose the market forces that help raise standards? What are the ramifications of a no-fee culture on professional development and long-term sustainability? Does it make us less professional? This chapter examines the question of cost from two different angles; the effect of not charging the audience and the effect of not paying the presenter. The true cost for the audience

Science communication doesn't make much sense as a sustainable business model. The people we most want to reach are often the least interested. Not the ideal customer base. Does it matter? As long as funders share our aims and want to invest in the good work, who cares who pays? If we have external funding, the end 'customer' benefits from a no-fee activity, the funders can pat themselves on the back and we get to keep doing what we love. Everyone's a winner. The audience end up with a bargain everyone loves getting something for nothing. At least that's what you would expect. A classical concert must sound sweeter when you don't pay a hundred pounds for the privilege. Apparently not. Joshua Bell is an acclaimed violin player. As part of a stunt, he stood by a Washington Metro entrance and gave a 43 minute virtuoso performance. 1,097 rush hour commuters passed by. The reaction, or lack of it, was a complete surprise.

Perhaps not paying for an event means you don't value it. Perhaps who pays matters. At science made simple, we present science, engineering and maths shows to over 70,000 people every year around the world. We do this in schools, in theatres, in libraries, on the street. Anywhere and everywhere we can. Who pays for this? Sometimes our audience members pay individually, sometimes the booker pays on their behalf and sometimes a funder covers part or all of the cost. We have experience of a wide range of funding models. Our science theatre show, Visualise, fits the Joshua Bell scenario. When we perform in a prestigious arts venue with full-price theatre ticketing, the audience perceive it to be even better than when we do a heavily-discounted performance for a science festival. You would expect audiences to be more critical the higher the price. In reality, it is the opposite. We can sell more tickets and increase the audience enjoyment by putting the price up. What about free schools outreach? Here's a typical scenario. Teacher sees free offer. Teacher grabs offer. Teacher carries on with work. Teacher remembers the week before and realises they are too busy to fit in an extra activity. Teacher cancels activity at the last minute. Alternatively (if the show is particularly appealing), teacher remembers the week before, discovers school hall is booked for exams. Teacher decides to squeeze a whole year-group into two cojoined classrooms so that students are overcrowded and can't hear or see the presenter properly. The quality of the activity is severely compromised.

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Perceived lower quality becomes real lower quality in a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking cost is of paramount importance to teachers. Certainly it is a factor, but only a limiting factor. If a wonderful project is aimed at year groups facing exams, is not tied to the core curriculum, does not fit easily within the constraints of the timetable or has an unrealistic delivery timescale, then it simply does not matter how little it costs. There are some schools outreach projects you can't even give away. 'Free' does not equate to 'schools want it'. I'm not even convinced that 'free' guarantees 'broader reach'. In my experience, the teachers who make the most of 'free' projects are the ones who are already poised to make the most of any project - the highly-engaged group. Even if the project is highly desirable for teachers, offering it for free can actually degrade its perceived quality. In the eyes of those you wish to engage, 'free' often equates to 'not very good'. A violinist can't be that great if he is scraping a living from the odd dollar thrown in a hat. A STEM activity can't be that great if they have to give it away for free. If given the choice, we prefer to charge a very nominal fee. Even a token amount is enough to ensure that teachers require sign off from senior staff. This in turn ensures that they have a vested interest in making the activity a success, avoiding many of the common problems. If we stress the real cost and how much they are saving, they wish to prove their 'worthiness' to receive such a huge discount. Care is more likely to be taken over reading and complying with any technical requirements. Audiences are more likely to be the promised target group. Disruptive behaviour is less likely. Drop-out rates are vastly reduced. Some providers operate a cost neutral system e.g. a deposit returned upon attendance. In the good old days, this could be an uncashed cheque, so no cold hard cash needed to change hands.

The actual price the audience pays is only important due to its effect on their perceptions. With our theatre show we can still offer discounts and giveaways to reach target groups. Sometimes, payment in kind can be enough to secure buy-in from the customer. If a teacher has to enter a competition, describe why they deserve the opportunity and complete a compulsory feedback form, this can be enough to confirm that they have been given something worth fighting for. We don't have 'free show' issues when we do pilot events. Partly, because the audience understands the reason why the show is free and partly because they are often repeat customers who know us well. If you watch the online video of Joshua Bell's metro performance you notice towards the end a lady stops to watch. She recognised who he really was and could not believe her luck seeing him perform live. She alone understood the true value of that experience. In a similar way some providers benefit from their reputation or associations. For example, if a project comes from a highlyesteemed institution it may reassure those booking that this is a free activity worth having. Context is important. Context sets the audience expectations which are hugely influential on engagement success. When we busk on the street we can demonstrate our competence without needing to charge anything - the audience haven't had to choose to attend. They have no preconceived ideas. We are judged right then and there. However, for any activity which requires booking in advance, then it's vital we consider how to reinforce its real value - by requiring a token investment of time or money: disclosing the undiscounted rate: creating special offers for target groups: or by emphasising our reputation. The bottom line is if the price is lower than comparable activities in that particular context, and the audience are unaware of the true value, the resulting engagement suffers.

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The true cost on the presenter Part 2: Jamie Gallagher When we‟re asking “the true cost of free?” we are asking a many faceted question. How do free events reflect upon audience expectations and enjoyment? How are free events professionally structured? How do we ensure successful running? For my part I would like to question the impact of free events on the performers and volunteers themselves. When an event is to be provided free to an audience, funding quickly becomes one of the primary concerns. Event planning is an expensive business and even small scale events can quickly tot up to terrifying totals. What better way to save some money than by enlisting volunteers? As the worlds of academia and industry cotton onto the importance of public engagement and communications skills it is easy to find a plethora of volunteers looking to gain experience. Volunteers will come from all walks of life and will have different hopes from the activities they are involved in. Many will have an interest in science communication and will be looking to get one foot on the ladder. They will hope to gain some experience that they can add to a CV or perhaps use as a stepping stone to further their own career in communication. It was in this vein that I started my own science communication experience. While doing my PhD. in chemistry and electrical engineering I began volunteering at my local science centre. They were happy to give me space and let me do my own thing. I took a little stall and showed anyone who would listen a little about my research. I gave up many weekends for this and I was happy to do so, more for love than experience. Then I developed a little show, again I didn‟t expect to be paid or the audience to pay a ticket, it worked out rather well. Soon I found myself doing slightly larger shows and somewhere along the line I started getting expenses, then a fee and by the time this is published I will be a full time public engagement officer.

This is directly because I was allowed to cut my teeth on free events. I was able to gain vital experience and establish a passion as a career. Had I wanted to be part of events in front of a ticket paying audience I would have needed a back-catalogue of experience but a free event provides an excellent training ground for new enthusiasts. With a free event where performers or facilitators are unpaid they are allowed to gain experience, give that line on the CV and gain good networking opportunities. Volunteering also comes with the advantage of often having flexible working hours and people will have a choice as to which activities they want to be involved in and for how long. But all is not as rosy as it seems as free events and volunteering can be a doubleedged sword. Where does the fine line between experience and exploitation lie? Someone volunteering is by no means taking an easy path. When volunteering I have worked myself hoarse and often found to be somewhat abandoned while the stars of the show are ferried around with every courtesy. It is possible for volunteers to be neglectedsomething unlikely to occur when a guest has been transported in at great expense. This is in spite of the fact that the invited and paid guest will work for perhaps an hour while a volunteer may put in an incredibly long day. There is also a limit to how much “CV” experience someone can gather. Someone could fill all their time with school talks and STEM volunteering and it is likely that the volunteer may incur an actual loss after transport, food and potentially props are purchased.

The ubiquitous use of volunteers can also impinge negatively on the professional communicators. When a school is faced with choices between hiring a professional communicator at several hundred pounds a day or inviting in a group of local PhD students for the price of a bus fare and half a dozen lunches, it is easy to see how we put professionals in an increasingly difficult position. There is a risk that in the cost becoming the primary concern we run the risk of not focussing on the quality. 21 British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013

We need to work hard at ensuring that professional communicators get the respect they are afforded as it is an often underappreciated area. Communication and engagement areas are one affected by the “friend‟s wedding phenomenon” where musicians are constantly bombarded with requests to do a gig for free for friends and friends of friends. Would an electrician get the same treatment? Would you ask a lawyer for free representation or a cleaner to “do a favour” or “gain some additional experience”?

In the science communication industry we must continue to use volunteers to increase the audiences, scale and numbers of activities we can deliver. We need to ensure these volunteers are also getting something from the activity- enjoyment, experience and encouragement. We must understand the role of the volunteer and the skills of professional communicators so that they can learn and support each other. Perhaps with the growth and increasing professionalisation of the science communication industry we must look to organising ourselves. As freelancers without a union or professional body we leave ourselves in a potentially weak position. Science communication is still forging itself, making itself strong. It is establishing the importance of its own role and we must continue to grow with it and, like the science we preach, look objectively at its strengths and weaknesses. We must ensure each new project is a fair, welcoming and sustainable endeavour for all involved.

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


ASK FOR EVIDENCE Síle Lane, Sense About Science When a patient support group told us recently that they were battling again with an illegal stem cell clinic offering miracle cures to people with multiple sclerosis that they thought they had knocked back 3 years ago, they wondered what they should do. Exposing dodgy science claims has often been effective – stem cell clinics have been shut down – but as soon as attention is turned elsewhere they crop up again. Regulators and science communicators are making efforts to chase down bad science but they can‟t be everywhere all the time. And what is the patient group supposed to do police every post that is put on their forums? That probably wouldn‟t work even if it was something they wanted to do. We hear daily claims about what is good for our health, bad for the environment, how to improve education, cut crime, improve agriculture or treat disease. Many of us wouldn't want the level of regulation and policing necessary to prevent unfounded assertions. The only solution is to give people the tools to make sense of these claims for themselves. More people need to be evidence hunters. Everyone has to critically engage with claims, whether in adverts promoting products, from scientists exaggerating research or government bodies announcing policy. Over the last decade Sense About Science has campaigned to put scientific evidence higher on the public agenda. Over 6,000 scientific researchers and hundreds of organisations have been working with us to encourage different communities to engage with evidence and they have answered thousands of questions from the public. In doing so we‟ve engaged people, scientists and non-scientists alike, in a discussion about evidence. We talk about what we know and how, about the basis of claims, and such things as peer review, replication, fair tests, stability of findings and levels of confidence. This isn‟t the same as taking people back to school for a science lesson. Instead it involves scientists and the public working together to call people to account for the claims they make, testing those claims against evidence and what else we know.

You don‟t have to study for a Masters in epidemiology to ask questions about claims about links between mobile phone masts and cancer. You can ask whether evidence exists, how conclusions have been reached, whether there has been a fair test, whether results have been peer reviewed, replicated or challenged. We know that people who don‟t naturally see themselves as interested in science can really use the insight that the status of findings is as important as the findings themselves. This has become the backbone of all our campaigning work. We launched the Ask for Evidence campaign to start helping people to request the evidence behind news stories, marketing claims and policies for themselves. We developed postcards to make asking for evidence easy and public figures and organisations joined the campaign. The campaign has seen people ask a retail chain for evidence behind its MRSA resistant pyjamas; ask a juice bar for evidence behind wheatgrass detox claims; ask the health department about rules for Viagra prescriptions; ask for the studies behind treatments for Crohn‟s disease and hundreds more. Even in its modest form we have seen organisations withdraw claims and public bodies held to account. Medical research charities are making it their business to take on claims that hit the headlines; organisations like Which? scrutinise product claims, and parenting groups are encouraging their members to ask for evidence about claims for fertility treatments. The claims we all hear daily may be based on reliable evidence and scientific rigour but many are not. How can we make companies, politicians, commentators and official bodies accountable for whether claims stack up? If anyone wants us to vote for them, believe them or buy their products, then we should ask them for evidence, as consumers, patients, voters and citizens. This is geeks, working with the public, to park their tanks on the lawn of those who seek to influence us. And it's starting to work.

British Science Association - Science Communication Conference 2013


Science Communication: State of the Nation 2013  
Science Communication: State of the Nation 2013  

Essays inspired by the annual Science Communication Conference. Published by the British Science Association, in partnership with the Wellc...