Why community engagement?

Science centres, museums, universities and informal science learning organisations need to carefully consider who we work with.

As science engagement professionals, we see STEM not only as a potential career choice, but as a valuable life skill, a force for social good and an essential part of culture. Science enhances lives and should be accessible for all for the benefit of individuals, society and for the validity of science itself.

Shaaron Leverment, Chief Executive, Association for Science and Discovery Centres

According to the BSA audience model, the “Not interested” (seeing science as not for them) and “Inactive” (interested but make no particular efforts to engage) audience segments make up three quarters of the UK population. Similarly, according to the 2019 Public Attitudes to Science survey, only about a fifth of the population felt actively connected with science or scored as having high science capital. If an organisation such as a science centre or university only works with those who are already coming to events and engaged with science, this is not a neutral decision.  

Building on years of research on science capital, researchers have emphasised the importance of changing ‘the field’, and have called for placing young people, their families and communities at the centre of programmes to value them for who they are.

Improving how we approach more inclusive science communication and engagement with our local communities not only enhances our ability to deliver educational programmes that have meaning and relevance to a more diverse audience, but also empowers young people and members of the public to have influence over decisions that affect them and their communities.

One of the guiding principles I try to consider is thinking about the fact that if we're not closing the gaps, we are fundamentally maintaining them... I often think about equity of opportunity as opposed to equality of opportunity - the "usual offer" may attract those who are already easily engaged, but targeted interventions, tailored access support and specific invites are needed if you want to work with other groups.

Lewis Hou, Science Ceilidh

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What does science bring?

Informal science learning spaces are being called to move beyond inspiring and exciting people in science, towards supporting more equitable outcomes, such as critical STEM agency, or using STEM practices and knowledge to take action on things they care about.

What does science bring?