In 2013, we received an STFC Large Award to engage students with STFC research in 27 I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer zones over three years. During this time, we’ve measured every activity we’ve run, and we have stopped to look more closely at aspects like widening participation, or the impact of the events in researchers and students.
The STFC has been one of our most important funders, after the Wellcome Trust, in the last three years. This is a summary of how the collaboration has impacted I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer:
- 135 scientists and engineers have engaged with 10,602 students from all around the UK between June 2013 and March 2016.
- STFC zones reached a diverse set of students. 276 teachers, from 242 different schools geographically spread around the UK took part. Of these schools, 15% of them are Widening Participation schools.
- Students and teachers leave positive comments on I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer. But as fans of evaluation and data, we have used pre and post event questionnaires for the students to measure how taking part affects their attitudes towards STEM. We have actually seen how the more active students are on the site, the more positive the change in attitude observed.
I have learnt how fascinating science can be and the wonders of space.(…) I now know science can be cheesy but you can discover things that you have never know before (…). I am very happy that I was able to take part in this chat” – student, Gravity Zone March 2016
- I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer are good starting points for science communication. The scientists who did very little public engagement before taking part increased their number of outreach activities from an average of 1.6 activities per year, to 3.7 activities after the event. Scientists like Clara Nellist, who took part in 2014, are now putting a great emphasis on the communication side of their science careers:
After seeing how much you can do online, I was motivated to find more ways I could use the internet to communicate the research at CERN. Now I even manage all of the social media for my experiment, ATLAS.” – Clara Nellist, scientist
- We have distributed £13,000 to 26 zone winners, 24 of which were STFC related scientists, who use the prize money to communicate STFC related research.
And there have been challenges too:
- Recruiting a diverse range of researchers, whose work is related to STFC, has not always been easy. However, towards the end of the award period we were able to work more closely with the STFC outreach team and use their input to choose zone themes and recruit scientists and engineers.
- We are trying to reach new audiences. We created a Harwell Zone to allow Harwell Open Day visitors to text in questions to exhibitors. Visitors were able to text a question, get a response to manage their expectations and a notification when someone answered the question. Even though, there was not enough publicity to reach the public in significant numbers, we started the development of future zones open to non-school sectors of the public.
If you want to explore our findings in more detail, download the full report PDF here.
Have you been awarded with an STFC Award too? Have you faced similar challenges? How do you reach new audiences? Hop in, join the conversation and let us know what you think.