Royal Institution Online Youth Summit 2020 – Report


Each year the RI run a youth summit on a subject related to the CHRISTMAS LECTURES. The Summit takes place at the RI and consists of a series of talks, and provocations in the Faraday Theatre interspersed with breakout sessions in various rooms around the building. 

In 2020 it was decided to run the Summit prior to the filming of the lectures so that the views of the delegates could be communicated to the lecturers. However the Covid-19 pandemic intervened and the RI building remained closed to the public.

The decision was taken to bring the summit online and I’m a Scientist was chosen as the platform because of a strong record of safeguarding and working with the RI on the Lectures.

The Summit was scheduled for October 16th 2020.


  • Through deliberation, to provide three messages from young people to the Christmas Lecturers
  • To test new methods of online public dialogue avoiding safeguarding concerns presented by video conferencing
  • To involve up to 150 students in discussions on Sustainability

The Summit

Screenshot of completed home page of RI Youth Summit

Screenshot of completed home page of RI Youth Summit

  • Schools were invited by the RI to sign up on a form at the IAS site.  
  • Teachers were sent log in details and instructions for providing access to students
  • Students were asked to abide by a Code of Conduct for the day
  • The activity on the day was guided from the Zone home page (right – as it appeared at the end of the day).
    • As the day progressed content was added to the top of the page
    • Banners appeared as new content was added
    • Moderators in chat rooms directed delegates to new content
  • Stimulus material was mostly in video form provided by the RI and contributors
  • Throughout most of the day a general chat room, The Coffee Shop, remained open to ask questions and provide a space for delegates to chat outside the specific discussions.
  • The day progressed as follows:
    • Video introduction from Tara Shine – Christmas Lecturer & Lisa Derry – RI Host
    • Delegates self-selected on a matrix about how they were feeling about the future of the planet. Their selection led them to a chat room. This placed delegates with like-minded people to start the day. It gave them a chance to get accustomed to the platform before entering into contentious discussions.
    • An 8 minute film from Dr Dani Rabaiotti introduced some of the subject matter for the day. This was followed by a short chat in their classrooms or in the Coffee Shop.
    • Following a break delegates were invited to view 3 video Postcards from the Future provocations. The videos were presented in random order to each delegate and followed by a chat about each. 
    • Facilitators drew out themes from the chats and a list of ten themes were presented to delegates. They were asked to vote for the themes they would like to discuss in the afternoon session.
    • Chat rooms were created for the five most popular themes and delegates were assigned to one of those rooms based on their voting preferences.
    • After another short break delegates were asked to work together on a message for the Christmas Lecturers and nominate a spokesperson to present their message in the final plenary session.


  • Schools were invited by the RI to sign up for up to 15 places using a form on the I’m a Scientist site.
  • 34 schools applied
  • 220 students signed up and 198 participated from 23 schools 
  • 9,075 lines of chat were posted
Students Allocated Lines Lines per student Avg length of line of chat (chrs)
Coffee Shop 1 189 1526 8 65
Building Site 76 370 5 84
Route Map 20 92 5 64
Into the mist 53 293 6 77
Carried Along 19 102 5 95
Coffee Shop Two 95 590 6 43
Grey Future 65 420 6 81
Shiny Future 79 744 9 73
Green Future 80 687 9 99
Population Control 110 29 1179 11 65
Inequality 91 38 789 9 75
Political Change 55 36 413 8 90
Future Technologies 61 34 691 11 80
Renewable Energy 58 33 413 7 83
Coffee Shop Three 115 766 7 53
 Total across day 198   9075   72


David Owen, from Gurukula Ltd, observed the summit. His observations are published here. [Royal Institution Youth Summit Observation report – PDF]

In  summary he said:

The Youth Summit appeared, based on the interactions and initial feedback to be a rewarding and engaging experience for the young people who took part. The I’m a Scientist team has developed a simple but effective platform which can help facilitate dialogue online. The platform uses the same heavily relied upon communication methods many have come to know through social media platforms, message boards and SMS messaging. It is known that such technologies when effectively moderated can contribute to emotional and social well-being and can provide a safe environment for learning and challenging perspectives.


A feedback form was provided for delegates.

Please enter your opinion on the following statements using the scale below. Blue is Strongly Agree and Orange is Strongly Disagree.

Select quotes in response to being asked what one thing would they remember from the day:

  • Being able to have a range of discussions about our future with the rest of the generation of tomorrow
  • That more people my age share my interest in these topics than I thought, although many don’t get involved in worthwhile discussion.
  • People’s point of view vary significantly 
  • Although the future seems bleak, there are options and are perceptions make all the difference.
  • Able to discuss ideas with others whom I usually might not interact with
  • Hearing other people’s passionate and interesting views on the environment and what we should do in the future and what the future holds for us as a generation.
  • The unique format and virtual experience
  • How people can have views VERY different from mine!
  • The mixture of opinions I encountered when discussing different topics.
  • Being able to appreciate everyones opinion


Posted on October 30, 2020 by ModShane in Evaluation, News. Tagged . Comments Off on Royal Institution Online Youth Summit 2020 – Report