Evaluation

Royal Institution Online Youth Summit – 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. Continue reading

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

COVID-19: Students’ questions

With schools across the UK due to close this week, the impact on the daily lives of students and young people of the COVID-19 outbreak is clear. We wanted to do a little analysis to look at what young people are concerned about, what are they asking?

Finding ourselves in the midst of the March I’m a Scientist (IAS) and I’m an Engineer (IAE) events, means that for the past few weeks, young people across the UK and Ireland have had the opportunity to ask any questions they like to groups of scientists and engineers. Continue reading

Posted on March 19, 2020 by modjosh in Evaluation, News | Comments Off on COVID-19: Students’ questions

Are Single Sex schools more likely to take part in I’m a Scientist?

Slightly. A recent request for help resulted in a surprisingly large number of girls schools responding. We wondered if participating schools were biased along single sex education lines. A quick analysis gave us the following percentages of UK schools taking part: 20.4% of secondary schools 19.9% of mixed schools 27.7% of Girls Schools 19.0% of Boys Schools So we have a slight bias towards girls schools, but as they constitute only 7% of secondary schools, we can live with that bias. And here’s the Venn diagram that illustrates the figures, and illustrates how dreadful venn diagram generators are.

Posted on January 15, 2020 by modemily in Evaluation | Comments Off on Are Single Sex schools more likely to take part in I’m a Scientist?

Reflecting on I’m a Scientist participation: Academy Zone pilot

 

I found a lot of students were asking questions that weren’t directly related to my work, so initially I kept quiet, but then talking about it with Hannah and the other scientists, and reflecting on the Academy Zone questions made me consider my work in terms of ‘social influence’

Ian, PhD researcher

As part of the ChallengeCPD@Bath project, last year we showed that engaging with school students in I’m a Scientist (IAS) functions as effective, accessible, experiential learning, especially for communication skills.

We wanted to further improve IAS as a training opportunity for researchers. The Academy Zone was created to help participating scientists better understand principles of good public engagement through reflecting on their IAS experience while it was happening. The ultimate goal: help build capacity for effective, high quality, public engagement in the research community. Continue reading

Posted on July 25, 2019 by modemily in Evaluation, News, Scientist Benefits | Comments Off on Reflecting on I’m a Scientist participation: Academy Zone pilot

I’m a Scientist – Live! at the Ridgeway School for STFC Bringing Science to Swindon programme

On Tuesday 19th March two shows of I’m a Scientist – Live! came to the stage of the Ridgeway School as part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Bringing Science to Swindon programme. The event helped STFC reach a new audience and engaged school students with the people behind the science funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) councils, all based in their hometown.

In total, 200+ secondary school students from 5 different Swindon schools (Ridgeway, Kingsdown, Abbey Park, Commonweal, and Warneford) attended the shows.

They put their questions to 12 members of the UKRI community, between them representing STFC, EPSRC, BBSRC, NERC and MRC: scientists, engineers and staff from the research council head offices at Polaris House. Continue reading

Posted on March 28, 2019 by in Evaluation, I'm a Scientist - Live | Comments Off on I’m a Scientist – Live! at the Ridgeway School for STFC Bringing Science to Swindon programme

Experiential public engagement training through I’m a Scientist

We looked at whether taking part helped scientists from the March 2018 event improve their communication skills and if so, explore why IAS worked as experiential training. The results showed scientists became more confident communicating with public audiences and helped them develop effective ways of talking about their work. The opportunity for frequent practise, honest student feedback, and the text based nature of interaction were among the elements highlighted by scientists as particularly helpful. Continue reading

Posted on October 12, 2018 by in Evaluation, Scientist Benefits | Comments Off on Experiential public engagement training through I’m a Scientist

Scientist Interview Narratives

Here are narratives for each of the five interviews carried out as part of the I’m a Scientist element of the ChallengeCPD@Bath project, funded by UKRI. These interviews investigated how I’m a Scientist works as experiential training for scientists communicating their research Continue reading

Posted on October 11, 2018 by in Evaluation, Scientist Benefits | Comments Off on Scientist Interview Narratives

5 reasons I’m a Scientist is worth your lesson time… even for exam classes.

Project Wrangler Katie was a science teacher before joining the I’m a Scientist team, so has first-hand experience of the intense curriculum pressures teachers face. Here she talks us through how I’m a Scientist benefits your students with 5 reasons why it’s worth allocating lesson time to the activity.
Continue reading

Posted on June 26, 2018 by admin in News, Science Capital | Comments Off on 5 reasons I’m a Scientist is worth your lesson time… even for exam classes.

Researcher Development Framework and I’m a Scientist

It’s well established that scientists doing I’m a Scientist gain just as many positive outcomes as the students they talk to. Using the Vitae Researcher Development Framework to frame these benefits allows us to articulate them in a way that resonates with universities.

Recently, we surveyed event alumni from centres of doctoral training (CDTs) to quantify the effect of taking part on relevant RDF descriptors. This is part of our ongoing strategy to build relationships with these institutions. In total, 37 alumni who had taken part in I’m a Scientist or I’m an Engineer at least 3 months prior responded. Continue reading

Posted on May 15, 2018 by in Evaluation, Scientist Benefits | Comments Off on Researcher Development Framework and I’m a Scientist

Increasing students’ confidence with I’m a Scientist

“Many of our students lack confidence in their academic ability so they were buzzing when they realised they can hold their own in a conversation with intelligent, educated people and this helped them realise they are all scientists too!” – Julia Anderson, FE College Biology Lecturer


This general further education college is split across 3 sites in a large, post-industrial, non-university town. Students at the college took part in the I’m a Scientist Immune System and Genes Zones in March 2018. Julia tells us how meaningful engagement with the scientists increased her students’ confidence. Continue reading

Posted on May 14, 2018 by admin in Case Study, Evaluation, News, School, Teachers, Widening Participation | Tagged | Comments Off on Increasing students’ confidence with I’m a Scientist

Using I’m a Scientist to increase participation in higher education

“Traditionally, not many of our students go on to university. I’m a Scientist helps by allowing students to relate to scientists and helping them see the value of studying at a higher level.”

– Mark McNally, Science Teacher


A mixed 2-19 academy, where over two thirds of the school population are students from disadvantaged backgrounds, took part in I’m a Scientist in March 2018. Mark tells us how the activity helped interest his students in science careers and consider higher education.

Continue reading

Posted on May 2, 2018 by admin in Case Study, Evaluation, News, Science Capital, Teachers, Widening Participation | Comments Off on Using I’m a Scientist to increase participation in higher education

Providing STEM opportunities for distant schools

Baltasound_Junior_High_School_in_the_snow_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1725784“As we are a remote rural community we do not have a huge variety of careers on our doorstep but these events help to bring them closer to pupils. More students should be getting these funded opportunities across the UK.”

– Emily Tulloch, Science teacher on the island of Unst.


The most northerly school in the UK is located in one of our most distant areas in the Shetland Isles. Emily tells us how I’m a Scientist allowed her remote students to explore a range of STEM careers and increased motivation to learn science. Continue reading

Posted on April 6, 2018 by admin in Case Study, Evaluation, News, Science Capital, Teachers, Widening Participation | Tagged | Comments Off on Providing STEM opportunities for distant schools

Broadening horizons for students in a deprived area

“It was a really easy project to engage with for both children and teachers; it only took me about 30 minutes to prepare for all 3 lessons. I was pleasantly surprised with just how excited students were to get responses from serious adults about their work and the adults’ interests.” – Vicky Heslop, Year 6 teacher


A junior school that meets our widening participation criteria took part in the Climate Zone of I’m a Scientist for the first time in March 2018 with their three Year 6 classes. The activity broadened student aspirations, improved enquiry skills and challenged their perceptions of scientists.

Continue reading

Posted on March 27, 2018 by admin in Case Study, Evaluation, Teachers, Widening Participation | Tagged | Comments Off on Broadening horizons for students in a deprived area

School engagement in STEM enrichment: Effect of school location

In recent years funders of public engagement and outreach activities have made a priority of reaching underserved audiences.

Wherever we looked we found anecdotal evidence that while, as a sector we were becoming increasingly effective at reaching schools in deprived parts of our metropolitan areas, rural communities continued to miss out.

But anecdotal data only gets you so far. We wanted to find out just how much the more remote schools were missing out. We also wanted to know what constitutes a remote school in this context. Continue reading

Posted on November 30, 2017 by modjosh in Evaluation, News, Widening Participation | Comments Off on School engagement in STEM enrichment: Effect of school location

Thinking about Science Capital

We’re thinking increasingly about Science Capital and how we apply it to our projects. It is a powerful concept that resonates strongly with what we aim to do and we want to make sure our projects make as much of a positive contribution to young people’s Science Capital as they can. We are looking for ways to evaluate in relation to Science Capital to show whether we are achieving this. What is Science Capital? If you’ve read the 2013 ASPIRES report you’ll be familiar with this striking graph showing that although nearly 80% of UK students value science, less than 20% aspire to be scientists. Why is this? Graph courtesy of ASPIRES/ASPIRES2: ucl.ac.uk/ioe/departments-centres/departments/education-practice-and-society/aspires Based on their research, the ASPIRES team have developed the concept of Science Capital; the combination of experiences, personal connections, knowledge and attitudes that contribute to how much a young person identifies as a “science person”. The … Continue reading

Posted on October 6, 2017 by in Evaluation, News, Science Capital | Comments Off on Thinking about Science Capital

How do students from different schools engage with IAS?

Thousands of school students meet scientists through I’m a Scientist every year, and they ask thousands of questions. In June 2017, over 3,000 students took part, asking scientists more than 2,500 questions in the ASK section alone. This is also the event that we implemented our question coding system across all the zones to see what students are asking about. This all got us thinking: Do students from different types of schools ask more or less of certain question types? We’ve identified two groups we want to look at: Under-served: Schools more than 30 minutes travel time from a major research HEI Widening Participation: Schools with an above average number of students eligible for free school meals Taking the questions from the I’m a Scientist zones in June 2017 it appears that: Overall, the split of questions is similar across all groups of students Under-served students ask more “science topics” … Continue reading

Posted on September 14, 2017 by in Evaluation, News, Widening Participation | Comments Off on How do students from different schools engage with IAS?

“I’m a Scientist is great, but wouldn’t it be better if students could see and hear the scientists too?”

This is a question we get asked from time to time. Here we explain why we’re confident that text interaction remains the best format for effective, inclusive, online engagement because it makes students and scientists more comfortable, levels the playing field between adults and children, makes the events accessible to a wider audience. Students are more familiar with text-based chats. There is growing evidence¹ that young people communicate most via text and less and less through phone or video and we’re hearing that anecdotally too. Feedback from teachers has pointed out that students are not only more familiar with a text format but also more comfortable with it. All parties feel more confident about not being visible. As an ex-teacher myself, the thought of making a class visible online to an unknown person via a webcam makes me uncomfortable. I’d also be concerned about scientists inadvertently displaying confidential or inappropriate material … Continue reading

Posted on August 4, 2017 by modemily in Evaluation, IAS Event, News, Science Engagement | Comments Off on “I’m a Scientist is great, but wouldn’t it be better if students could see and hear the scientists too?”

What do students ASK about? [REDIRECT]

Our events generate huge amounts of interesting data, which we know contains all sorts of valuable insights. When there’s so much of it, it can take a while to work out how to make best use of it. One example of this is thematic analysis of the questions students post in ASK. Over the years of running the event we’ve developed a pretty good sense of the types of things students ask about and will always showcase great examples of questions. Converting that into a systematised, reportable analysis is more difficult, but can be done. So, we have developed a system for coding questions based on a set of themes that students often ask about, and after some trials in March, we’ve applied it to all zones in the June event (read the latest reports here). At their broadest level, most student questions fall into one of three areas: questions about the … Continue reading

Posted on July 17, 2017 by in Evaluation, News | 1 Comment

Gender differences in online engagement

“I thought scientists just looked like they do in the film Flubber and experimented on aliens or weird stuff but when I found out you liked Taylor Swift I realised you are more down to earth and not like mad scientist :)” – Student, November 2015 I’m a Scientist is about connecting pupils with real scientists. Something we want to find out is what effect this interaction has on different groups of students. Recent research by the Institute of Physics has done just that. The IOP has carried out an independent research project to gain an insight into the behaviour and attitudes of boys and girls who do I’m a Scientist. As part of their Improving Gender Balance project, the IOP funded two zones: Terbium Zone and Osmium Zone. The researchers anonymously surveyed the students’ attitudes to science and scientists before and after the event. We also provided them with all the student’s interaction … Continue reading

Posted on October 21, 2016 by in Evaluation, News | Comments Off on Gender differences in online engagement