About The Science Festival Alliance


Our mission

The mission of the Science Festival Alliance (SFA) is to foster a professional community dedicated to more and better science and technology festivals.

When the SFA began in 2009 only a handful of science festivals existed in the United States, and they were not working (or even communicating) with each other. Since that time, the country has enjoyed a surge in the number of science festivals, and the SFA is now networking together dozens of independently operated festival initiatives. Whether you are considering starting a new science festival, would like to partner with existing festivals, or are just interested in learning about the latest developments, the Science Festival Alliance is the best place to begin.

The SFA is not an independent organization, nor is it the exclusive project of a single institution (though two full-time staff members dedicated to the SFA are housed at the MIT Museum). It is a collaborative network involving institutions, initiatives, and individuals that have committed to work together to best serve our communities through the festival format.



In 2010 the Science Festival Alliance (SFA) started a formal membership program open to science festival initiatives. In many ways the SFA’s membership now defines what the Alliance really is. Instead of paying dues, members are asked to participate in the SFA network in ways that support the SFA’s mission. This volunteer support allows the SFA to take on projects that are in the interest of many festivals. Learn more about SFA membership.

Annual Reports

2015 SFA Annual Report: The 2015 Annual Report showcases festivals across the network engaging with almost 2 million people in their collective communities. With the SFA website officially up and festivals able to access resources more easily, and create their own, this year provided more opportunities than ever for members to engage with the Alliance. In addition to the SFA, EvalFest has reached the one year mark and is sharing some of their first numbers with us. Utilizing data collected from almost half of the SFA member base – this project will allow us to see impact of festivals across the nation in ways never before analyzed.

2014 SFA Annual Report: in 2014 North America witnessed an unprecedented level of science festival activity. Thanks in large part to funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation new festivals launched all over the country, with 11 celebrating for the first time. Meanwhile, established festivals pushed their celebrations to even greater heights. The collective reach of the 41 SFA members is highlighted with some staggering numbers and stunning images in the SFA’s 2014 Annual Report.

2013 SFA Annual Report: The 2013 SFA Annual Report provides a useful snapshot of member activities in 2013 based on voluntary self-reporting. In addition, this report provides a glimpse into the kinds of SFA network activities members have found useful within the past year—including sharing advice and inspiration with fellow members, trading festival planning documents, and participating in the SFA’s meetings over the phone and in person.

2012 SFA Annual Report: This first annual report provides an overview of the SFA and snapshot of SFA and member activity in 2012. With 13 SFA member festivals (membership has grown since!) reporting on the over 1,600 events they produced in 2012 the numbers add up quickly. How many of these events drew more that 1,000 visitors? What percent of attendees gave the events evaluated positive ratings?

Funded Science Festival Alliance Projects

SFA Projects are funded initiatives with products that benefit all SFA members. Projects are administered by members or SFA staff, and must coordinate with other SFA projects.

2015 – 2016 Simons Foundation: Just Add Science

This gift from the Simons Foundation supports a dozen science festivals as they experiment over two years with different ways of reaching people where they are by integrating science learning opportunities into events that people are participating in already. The Just Add Science project will launch this month, and is administered by the MIT Museum from the office of the Cambridge Science Festival.

2014 – 2019 National Science Foundation: EvalFest

This five-year project funded by the NSF brings together 24 science festivals to build the capacity of individual festivals to measure impact, and pool data from these many sites to uncover new learning about public science events. As EvalFest evolves the project will also experiment with various research methods, and consider how evaluation use changes when it is community-created and multisite.

This project is administered by the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center (at UNC Chapel-Hill) from the office of the North Carolina Science Festival, in collaboration with the Bay Area Science Festival, and Karen Peterman Consulting.

2012–2014 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: Public Understanding of Science and Technology

This two-year project funded by the Sloan Foundation supports the growth of science festival initiatives in communities with relatively small resource bases. Four science festivals with experience of launching on budgets of $60,000 or less are serving as models and mentors for 12 new festival initiatives. SFA staff will coordinate the project, which includes:

  • Challenge grants for 12 new festival initiatives;
  • Site visits and conference attendance for festival organizers; and
  • How-to materials specifically addressing festivals in communities with relatively small resource bases.

This project is administered by the MIT Museum from the office of the Cambridge Science Festival, in close cooperation with four festivals: Wisconsin Science Festival, St. Petersburg Science Festival, Colorado Springs Science Festival, and SCOPE Science and Technology Days. National collaborators include AAAS, ASTC, and COPUS.

2012–2015 National Science Foundation: Broad Implementation

This three-year project funded by the NSF is a significant investment in the SFA’s basic mission, and provides support for staff at four festival sites, for in-person meetings and conferences, and for an array of online tools and information. To support the development of more independent festivals in the US the award includes resources for mentoring and travel for new festival initiatives. The project is also designed to help all initiatives make the most of the festival format with an emphasis on four distinct strengths of festivals:

  • The capacity for positive impacts on large public audiences;
  • Serving traditionally hard-to-reach audiences (including underserved communities and the science inattentive);
  • Involving STEM practitioners directly in public outreach; and
  • Extending festival impacts through regional collaborations.

This project is administered by the MIT Museum from the office of the Cambridge Science Festival, in close cooperation with three other festivals: Philadelphia Science Festival, Bay Area Science Festival, and the North Carolina Science Festival. Major collaborators include AAAS, ASTC, howtosmile.org, EUSEA, and the Association for Community Organization & Social Administration (ACOSA).

2010–2012 National Science Foundation: MENA Supplemental

Building off of 2009’s NSF award, this supplemental funding provided for in-person workshops, travel, and educational programming that support the growth of science festivals in Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries, beginning with Egypt’s Cairo Science Festival. A science festival network for the MENA region is now forming.

2009–2012 National Science Foundation: Full-Scale Development

This three-year project funded by the NSF kicked off the SFA with direct support for four independent initiatives: Cambridge Science Festival (existing), San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering (in formation), Philadelphia Science Festival (new), and Bay Area Science Festival (new). These four festivals served as case studies for independent evaluation into festival impacts conducted by Goodman Research Group. (See an overview summary of evaluation findings from this project.) Additionally, this funding provided the first resources for a national science festival network with a full-time staff member based at the MIT Museum.


Thank you to David Wimberley for donating the sciencefestivals.com url address.

Professional Announcements

Science In Vivo Informational conference Call

Call for Applications Deadline: Science In Vivo

IPSEC 2018: The Science Events Summit