Preaching to scientifically converted audiences: Evaluating social inclusion at science festivals and events

Preaching to scientifically converted audiences: Evaluating social inclusion at science festivals and events

Author: Eric Jensen – University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Co-author: Eric Kennedy – Arizona State University

Scientific institutions internationally are increasingly embracing values of social inclusivity and public engagement with science. But how do these dimensions of social inclusion and public engagement with science intersect? Science festivals and events have rapidly expanded in recent years as an outgrowth of these values, aiming to engage and educate the public about scientific topics and research. While resources invested in public engagement with science by scientists, universities, and governments are admirable in principle; this study indicates that their ambition to broaden the reach of science may be going unrealized in practice. Using data from three major UK science festivals, we demonstrate such events are disproportionately reaching economically privileged and educated audiences already invested in science, as opposed to diverse and broadly representative samples of the general public. Our results demonstrate that these science festivals are falling short of their aims to make science accessible to a broad audience. There is a clear need for improved practices and on-going evaluation to ensure science festivals include those who are not already scientifically converted. To complement these findings, results are presented from recent research conducted with a diverse range of young people in different European countries around their responses to science communication events. This European Commission-funded research project (PERFORM – shows another potential side to science communication events, revealing the role of participatory approaches in developing social inclusive science communication. Meanwhile, this same research project highlights new social inclusion challenges relating to the role of social media in engaging young people with science in the contemporary age.

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

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices