This March, Enquiry Zone returns in I’m a Scientist. This zone is where you help school students design and carry out their own research. By talking with students in live chats and answering their questions in ASK, together you’ll come up with a potential citizen science project related to your research that can be done in a school environment.
In our experience, the longer it takes for a scientist or engineer to reach a school, the less likely those students are to have visits. We’ve done some research that suggests schools more than 30 minutes travel time are less likely to receive visits.
We also think looking at Widening Participation schools is useful to understand the variety of schools we have wanting to take part.
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
After every event we ask the winning scientists to write a short post to be sent to all the students who took part in the zone. It’s the perfect way for the scientists to reflect on the previous two weeks, thank all the students for voting for them, and talk about how they plan to use their £500 prize money.
If you’re a scientist keen to experience the ‘best crash course in scicomm’, apply now for the next event, taking place 5th–16th March, at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply
Some say there are no new ideas, just new interpretations of old ideas: primary school students designed the Blackawton Bees paper with the help of a parent scientist; citizen science runs online at scale with Galaxy Zoo; the BBC, with Terrific Scientific, help primary schools conduct their experiments. There is an idea missing in this panoply: School students helping to design and run a new experiment at scale. In March 2017 we ran the Wellcome funded Enquiry Zone, a zone created with one fundamental question: Could we use an I’m a Scientist zone to give hundreds of school students the chance to help design an experiment, which they could then carry out themselves? Yes, we could. And what’s more, it’s clear there is value in giving students input at all stages of the project. It gives students ownership over research, and they gain real insight into how science works. What happened … Continue reading
“The Gold Standard”; “Diamond Option”; “Go Platinum!” There is a continual pressure to strive for the biggest, best, most committed options in life. Sometimes, however, we should recognise that our organisations and partners might not want, or be ready for, the “Ultimate Mega-Package.” In the Public Engagement sector there is a consensus that the best engagement is: two-way upstream involving researchers and interested public in-depth considered includes knowledge transfer novel and innovative* NCCPE “Perspectives on Partnership” Tool It was a real pleasure at last week’s NCCPE organised SUPI review seminar to witness Sophie Duncan and Paul Manners reveal their Perspectives on Partnership (POP) Tool to help universities and schools assess what type of partnership they have and desire. The tool recognises four types of partnership: Spontaneous Inspired Thoughtful Strategic The participants are then asked to consider a partnership from each of four participants perspectives: Researchers Teachers Students Partnership brokers I … Continue reading
We’re looking for two moderators to work with us on our November 2017 events! The events will run from the 6th to the 17th November 2017; I’m a Scientist UK and Ireland, I’m an Engineer UK and I’m a Medic. First rule of moderator club… This is a paid, 10 day job. If you aren’t free from 8:30 – 4:30pm on all 10 days, please don’t apply. Your key responsibilities will be: Checking and approving questions Adding appropriate keywords Logging and keeping track of questions, comments and dialogue Checking the site for errors and inappropriate content and usernames Moderating live chats Helping to run the site It’s actually a lot of fun as the students (and scientists) are quick and funny and full of energy. And hey, promoting science engagement is a good thing, am I right?! What we’d like from you.. You should be bright, thoughtful, pick stuff up easily, ideally with an interest … Continue reading
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
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
“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 online engagement: it makes students and scientists more comfortable, levels the playing field between adults and children, and 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 in … Continue reading
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
After every event we ask the winning scientists to write a short post to be sent to all the students who took part in the zone. It’s the perfect way for the scientists to reflect on the previous two weeks, thank all the students for voting for them, and talk about how they plan to use their £500 prize money. If you’re a scientist keen to experience the ‘best crash course in scicomm’, apply now for the next event, taking place 6th–17th November, at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply Sanjib Bhakta, Birkbeck University of London, Drug Resistance Zone I never believed live-chat could be so easy and often stress-busting! My special thanks to all the students for engaging constructively and asking brilliant questions all round. I am reassured that all your intensely inquisitive minds, love, passion and extended hands will make global health emergencies like drug resistance appear trivial and under control in the near … Continue reading
Partner with I’m a Scientist on Strategic Support to Expedite Embedding Public Engagement with Research
Research Councils UK have announced the Strategic Support to Expedite Embedding Public Engagement with Research (SEE-PER) programme. The aim is to help HEI’s and Research Institutes embed Public Engagement within their organisations and to address identified challenges stopping it being embedded. I’m a Scientist is offering to partner with an applicant or multiple applicants for SEE-PER to help address issues of: Supporting Public Engagement in Research Motivations for PER Making PER sustainable We have a strong track record in public engagement not just with the event itself, but in the follow-on activities carried out by all participants. One clear message that comes from participating scientists is that they want to do more Public Engagement and the evidence is that they do go on to do more engagement. We would like to work with HEI’s and Research Institutes to investigate why I’m a Scientist acts as a boost to researchers public … Continue reading
In the last year I’m a Scientist has developed more than at any other time since we launched in 2010. We’ve hired new people, moved offices, moved servers, launched and relaunched multiple international projects (Vietnam, Spain, and Kenya), started projects like I’m a Medic and I’m a Researcher, developed a new Live Chat system (see Tim Peake using it for the I’m an Astronaut event), we even celebrated our company 15th anniversary… And to meet the needs of all these developments we’ve created a sleek new theme for the site. The ‘theme’ is like the skin of the website. It doesn’t really change the functionality, just the style and way it looks. This new theme is a huge improvement over the previous one: It’s fully mobile responsive – making it more accessible for scientists and students on whichever device they might be using. It’s flexible and easy to implement – meaning we can roll … Continue reading
We’ve just let down about 8,000 students. Their teachers, 84 of them, wanted to take part in I’m a Scientist this June and we simply don’t have room for them. We need more funding. The graph shows the number of class places requested by teachers (box outline), against the funded places we were able to run (colour-fill) for each event. Demand has consistently exceeded places available for the past 9 events; indeed for the past 6 events, we could have run double the number of zones we did. Double the number of young people seeing that scientists are normal people like themselves. Double the number of scientists taking part in “the best crash course in science communication”. The Wellcome Trust and the British Psychological Society are funding zones this June. If you are interested in getting more physicists, chemists, non-biomed scientists involved in outreach, if you think more students should get the opportunity to … Continue reading
I had the chance to ask real scientist about questions I was interested in and I got really interesting answers. I had the chance to learn something from the experience of these scientists instead of learning from books. Student, March 2017
After every event we ask the winning scientists to write a short blog to be sent to all the students who took part in the zone. It’s the perfect way for the scientists to reflect on the previous two weeks, thank all the students for voting for them, and talk about how they plan to use their £500 prize money. If you’re a scientist keen to experience the ‘best crash course in scicomm’, apply now for the next event at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply Let’s take a look at what the March Winners had to say… Carrie Ijichi, Animal Behaviour Zone The students have blown my mind with their open, creative inquiries about animal behaviour and how much they care about the subject. To be voted the winner at the end of all that fun was such a surprise and made me feel really special. I want to thank all the students who asked questions … Continue reading
We’re looking for a moderator to work with us on our March 2017 events! I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer are award-winning online events allowing students (from 9 – 18) to interact with real live scientists and engineers. The events will run from the 6th to the 17th March 2017; I’m a Scientist UK and I’m an Engineer UK and Ireland. First rule of moderator club… This is a paid, 10 day job. If you aren’t free from 8:30 – 4:30pm on all 10 days, please don’t apply. Your key responsibilities will be: Checking and approving questions Adding appropriate keywords and tags Logging and keeping track of questions, comments and dialogue Checking the site for errors and inappropriate content and usernames Moderating live chats Helping to run the site It’s actually a lot of fun as the students (and scientists) are quick and funny and full of energy. And hey, promoting science … Continue reading
This afternoon we apologised to 47 schools, telling teachers that we have not been able to offer their students a place in I’m a Scientist this March. The graph shows the number of class places requested by teachers (box outline), against the funded places we were able to run (colour-fill) for each event. Demand has consistently exceeded places available for the past 8 events; indeed for the past 5 events, we could have run double the number of zones we did. Double the number of young people becoming more enthused about science. Double the number of scientists taking part in “the best crash course in science communication”. Our limiting factor is funding. We need more funding to run more zones and increase the capacity of the events. Unfortunately the Royal Society of Chemistry has withdrawn their funding planned for this year and the STFC funding we had has not been renewed, meaning spaces for chemistry and … Continue reading
This March’s Enquiry Zone is something new for I’m a Scientist. This time, it’s all about you helping school students design and carry out their own research. By talking with students in live chats and answering their questions in ASK, together you’ll come up with a potential citizen science project related to your research that can be done in a school environment. After two weeks of online discussion, the students will vote for one project to receive £500 in funding. You will then help the schools carry out the research in June 2017, recording and sharing your results using the nQuire-it online platform developed by the Open University (www.nquire-it.org). You don’t need to have a research question decided now: Your aim during the course of the zone is to help the students come up with and refine a research question and the appropriate methods. This process is called ‘co-creation’ and it is a … Continue reading