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.
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.
2017 – 2020 Science Sandbox: Science In Vivo
In early 2018 the Science Festival Alliance publicly launched Science In Vivo, a multi-year project focusing on science experiences that “go where the people are.” The Science In Vivo project is supported by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.
2016 – 2018 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: Science Festival Accelerator
With funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Science Festival Alliance launched the Science Festival Accelerator in 2016. The Accelerator is specifically designed to support new science festivals in communities with a relatively small resource base, and includes both matching sponsorship funding and professional development resources. In June of that year three existing festivals were named as Accelerator leads, and by the end of 2016 nine new start-up festivals were selected from a competitive application process. Start-ups and leads were organized into smaller cohorts for a six-month program of professional development in the first half of 2017, culminating in the International Public Science Events Conference. Start-up festivals celebrated between the summer of 2017 and the spring of 2018.
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.
2015 Science Learning Plus: Science Live
Every year in the US and UK millions of people enjoy science experiences at a huge range of live events. How many people exactly? We’re not sure, but know it is many millions. How many different kinds of events? We have some categories, but we’re not sure we have an exhaustive answer to that either. Surely all of these event experiences have distinct outcomes and impacts? Surely…though we don’t have many publicly available studies that we can point to, and we’re not sure how to translate findings from event to event.
If it sounds like live public science events could benefit from a bit of sector-wide thinking, we agree. The Science Live project launched in 2015 with the hopes of starting up this sector-wide thinking. Funding from the Science Learning+ program provided for a one-year survey of the landscape of live public science events. This landscape survey is now available as a single PDF report on the Science Live website.
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:
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:
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.