Surveying the Landscape of Live Public Science Events

Ben Wiehe - Tuesday, February 9th, 2016




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 field of informal science learning and communication is comprised of many sectors–after school programs, science center exhibitions and programs, television and film, print and new media, to name just a few. Each of these is understood to make unique contributions, present unique opportunities, and require unique support. It is now time to similarly acknowledge the practice of live public science events.

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 [down for maintenance].

To get you started, here are the 10 sections of the landscape survey:

  1. Live events are as relevant as ever.
  2. Every year in the US and UK millions of people enjoy science experiences at a huge range of live events.
  3. Public science events constitute a distinct category of activity.
  4. Events are ideally suited for generating new relationships with audiences.
  5. Public science events are reshaping institutional involvement in science communication.
  6. Public science events bring scientists and the public together.
  7. Public science events produce meaningful outcomes, some of which are unique.
  8. Public science events offer opportunities for novel research.
  9. Public science events represent an incredible set of opportunities as a sector, but require special kinds of support.
  10. There is an emerging community dedicated to public science events.