PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Science Live
The appeal of live public science events in a digital age

Laura Fogg-Rogers  

Presented by Bruce Lewenstein: Live public science events are increasingly being acknowledged as distinct formats within science communication activity (Bultitude, McDonald, & Custead, 2011). Despite being a 'digital age', millions of people still attend a live science event in person every year, ranging from intimate science cafes to massive science festivals (Ipsos MORI, 2014). However, while the industry is flourishing, the practitioners behind live science events are comparatively not well networked, and best practice isn't comprehensively defined or evaluated, or connected to research. Science Live (http://livescienceevents.org/) was an international research project between the USA and UK which aimed to provide insight into this ecosystem. A literature landscape study was integrated with qualitative feedback from academics and practitioners running live science events. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 UK practitioners; semi-structured focus groups were also conducted with 33 UK practitioners and academics, and 42 practitioners and academics in the USA. Audio transcripts were transcribed verbatim and analysed using the general inductive approach for themes. Data was also supplemented with notes from three workshops; featuring 56 participants in Cambridge, USA, and 87 participants in Cambridge and Norwich, UK. Thematic analysis identified three main themes; definition of live public science events, live science event styles, and evaluation and learning. Consensus was reached on the concept of live public science events as a distinct sector; identifying the need for further support to grow practitioner to practitioner and researcher to practitioner connections, with the aim of maximising beneficial impacts of live science events and widening participation in such activity. Opinion was divided about the role of online and social media interactions in live public science events, along with roles of practising scientists or professional science communicators. The research provided insights and tangible ideas to enhance conditions for a flourishing professional live public science events sector.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.