Transforming tradition Evaluating the iconic Christmas Lectures series
Margarida Sardo – University of the West of England, Bristol. United Kingdom
Laura Fogg Rogers – University of the West of England, Bristol United Kingdom
Hannah Little – University of the West of England, Bristol United Kingdom
The Christmas Lectures are an internationally known landmark of the Science Communication landscape, and one of the earliest examples of scientists engaging with the public with institutional backing. Physicist Michael Faraday initiated this series that has run at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, in the UK, since 1825, without interruption except World War II. The series, televised annually for the past 50 years, has included presenters such as David Attenborough, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins. A centrepiece of the national conversation about the place of science in our lives, the lectures are now designed to be engaging and mind-expanding viewing for people of all ages but particularly children.
In this paper we present research we have conducted to explore strengths and opportunities for improving and modernising the Christmas Lectures. In our 18 month evaluation we have used a variety of methods to collect data, such as semi-structured interviews, online surveys, structured observations and feedback cards. We have found evidence suggesting that the Christmas Lectures are still very much a family tradition in the UK, amongst those who self-identify as “science enthusiasts”. The audience reported their enjoyment of the shows, in particular the engaging and interactive demonstrations.
With viewers changing their habits and how they watch TV/consume video material, we argue the Ri should re-evaluate its target audience, as it is not clear who the lectures are aimed at. In addition, the Ri should consider cutting down the lectures into short video clips which can be viewed on social media or YouTube, as this is how young people consume video material.
A full evaluation was conducted and in this presentation we will share our findings and explore how the Royal Institution can modernise the iconic Christmas Lectures.
The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.