European Researchers’ Night was a unique opportunity for us to engage with the wider public and share our mission of determining quality in science communication. Read on to find out about our various activities in Venice, Rome, Tallinn and Dublin.
European Researchers’ Night is an annual, pan-European event first initiated by the European Commission in 2005. Taking place in more than 300 cities across 30 countries on the last Friday of September each year, it is designed to bring researchers closer to the general public, increase awareness of European research, support the public recognition of researchers, create an understanding of the impact of researchers’ work on citizens’ daily life, and encourage young people to embark on scientific careers (EC 2014). Each year, more than 1 million participants engage in events, including workshops, lectures, debates, interactive demonstrations, panel discussions, and tours.
On September 27th, 2019, QUEST partners and stakeholders participated in European Researchers’ Night events across four cities; Venice, Rome, Tallinn, and Dublin. Each organised and hosted an event or stand centred on the QUEST mission; to determine quality in science communication, with particular focus on bringing clarity to the contentious topics of vaccination, climate change, and artificial intelligence.
In Venice, Università Ca’ Foscari (UNIVE) hosted Ca’ Foscari Research Week from September 26th to October 3rd. On European Researchers’ Night, a series of interviews with researchers from various fields were conducted by a television presenter on a boat moored outside the university’s main building. Additionally, a round table discussion on social media and the role of the YouTuber in science communication was held with Roberta Villa, of the channel su salute e vaccini, Adrian Fartade, of link4universe, and Alberto Toso Fei, of Venezia in un minuto. A recording of the discussion can be found on the UNIVE website, here.
European Researchers’ Night was hosted in Rome by Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, a children’s hospital and research centre. The hospital is part of the Italy-wide “BEES – BE a citizEn Scientist” initiative, co-ordinated by Frascati Scienza, and as such, their event was organised under that theme. The evening featured laboratory tours, science themed stands, and interaction with researchers, as well as activities tailored specifically for children, including a science themed magic show. QUEST was privileged to host a stand in the ‘EU corner’, designed to showcase European research, and to share our project with a wide variety of people, including scientists, students, journalists, and citizen science enthusiasts.
In Tallinn, the Tallinn University (TLU) organised a 90 minute workshop for high school students about science communication and social media which received positive feedback from its participants, who engaged in two exercises designed to gather data on how best to talk about science on social media platforms. In the first exercise, the students viewed various social media content and gave feedback on their perceptions of it, for example, did they consider it trustworthy or engaging, etc. Following on from this, the students were given a scientific text and tasked with creating a social media post based on it, the results of which can be found on Instagram.
Finally, at Trinity College Dublin, young adults were given the opportunity to participate in an experimental art and science workshop, in which they were tasked with co-creating a triptych of artwork relating to the current state of science communication and the challenges facing today’s society. Thematically, this was organised to tie in to the current Science Gallery exhibition, which is entitled “Perfection”, and participants were encouraged to explore the beauty and flaws of the natural world as showcased by the exhibit, and consider how they may be affected by arising issues, such as climate change and artificial intelligence, going forward.
QUEST ultimately seeks to determine how we may most effectively communicate with citizens about science, particularly on the relevant, and sometimes urgent, topics that impact their daily lives. European Researchers’ Night provides a unique venue through which we may connect with the public, share our mission, and receive invaluable feedback. It’s our hope that in 2020, we can build on the successes of this year’s programme, and deliver even more engaging research to citizens across Europe.
Thanks to Aaron Jensen and Joseph Roche