Author: Daria Dvorzhitskaia – CERN, ITMO University, Russia


  • Lauren Elwin – University of Geneva, United Kingdom
  • Ana Godinho – CERN, Portugal
  • Leonore Saade-Augier – University of Geneva, France
  • Annabella Zamora – University of Geneva, France

CERN (European Laboratory for Particle Physics) Open Days traditionally take place every 5-6 years, attracting tens of thousands of visitors. The key component of this large-scale event is an opportunity for the public to visit CERN’s facilities and interact with the CERN scientists, engineers and other members of personnel who volunteer for the event. The communication outcomes of such interactions, however, were never measured systematically until this year, when, for the first time, the implementation of the Open Days was accompanied by a communication-focused research project.

Research questions

This study set out to evaluate communication outcomes of the Open Days through the diversity of aspects. What did volunteers intend to communicate and what did visitors take home as messages? How did visitors’ and volunteers’ perception of CERN and of each other change after the Open Days? Were the strategic goals defined for the Open Days achieved? How can ‘engagement’ be understood in the context of such an event? Which new questions about public-scientists interaction does the study raise?


These aspects were explored by using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. Web-based surveys, mainly comprising semantic differentials and open questions, were applied before (summer 2019) and after the Open Days (September 2019). Overall, 6817 visitors (ca. 9%) and 1381 volunteers (ca. 49%) responded to them. In addition, survey data were complemented by structured observations of visitor-volunteer interaction at 97 activities during the event.


The findings will inform CERN’s public communication activities, such as future editions of the Open Days, permanent exhibitions, guided tours and social media campaigns. More broadly, the insights provided by this study will benefit practitioners communicating about fundamental physics or for large scientific institutions, as well as researchers evaluating communication outcomes of similar events.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Transformation

Author: Daria Dvorzhitskaia – CERN, ITMO University, Russia

Angelos Alexopoulos – CERN
Alexander Gerber – Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences
Achille Petrilli – CERN
Alexander Struck – Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences

The goal of this study was to explore which models of science communication prevailed in the views of people affiliated with CERN. The analytical framework of science communication models proposed by Brian Trench (2008) served as the theoretical basis. The theoretical models were operationalised into short statements. The participants were then asked to choose the most suitable continuation of the phrase ‘When you publicly communicate fundamental physics, you…’ Data was collected via an anonymised online questionnaire. The respondents (N = 418) mainly worked in physics (64%), came from 60 different countries (73% from Europe) and were 30 years old or younger (63%).

The Deficit model was the most important for the majority (52%) of the respondents, excluding cases where a variant of this model (Defence or Marketing) was specified. The results suggest that, in order to represent the Deficit model more accurately, these two variants should be complemented by another one, which would encompass the desire of individual scientists to share scientific results or passion for science with the public. It is also necessary to investigate further how different models (e.g. Deficit and Dialogue) coexist in the minds of communicators.

Some interesting points were raised concerning the value added to fundamental physics by science communication. One idea was that it enabled scientists to reflect on their knowledge and goals. Another one stated that non-scientists had an unbiased, creative perspective on the subject, making it a valuable input for the common search for knowledge. Some respondents also expressed an opinion that ‘science communication was the ultimate goal of any fundamental science’.

The study was carried out at CERN in March-September 2017. It set a starting point of identifying the specifics of communication in the field of fundamental physics with regard to science communication theory, providing ideas for further research on this topic.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication