I’m a Scientist is based on I’m a Councillor, Get me out of Here! (www.bigvote.org.uk), a youth engagement event for local councils which Gallomanor run for Local Democracy Week. I’m a Councillor has been running for five years and in that time 15,000 young people have talked to hundreds of councillors around the UK and asked them tens of thousands of questions.
The project leader (Sophia Collins) has worked on I’m a Councillor for four years and also has six years experience in science communication. She realised that the I’m a Councillor format could also work extremely well for science. Science and local politics have some similarities in their difficulties in engaging young people, in that both can be seen as ‘boring’ and remote. Young people may also have negative stereotypes of those involved.
We have lots of evidence that I’m a Councillor addresses these problems and it seemed natural to try it.
Gallomanor conducted some preparatory research into the feasibility of the idea, using desk research and informal chats with science communicators, science teachers and spending a day in a school. The message from this research was overwhelmingly positive.
The first, pilot, I’m a Scientist event was run in 2008, funded by a People Award from the Wellcome Trust and proved to be very successful. The project was then awarded a Society Award in 2009 to run the event at a much bigger scale. I’m a Scientist now runs twice a year, with a smaller event in March leading up to the main June event.