Science and Society

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Review of BIS Science & Society Programme

Science and Society Review 2012/13

“I have been following the Science and Society review since it began and am pleased to be able to provide this summary of our progress. I look forward to letting you know more about the actions described below in the coming months.”  David Willetts, Minister for Science

Latest news

On Tuesday 11th March 2014, David Willetts launched a new Charter for Science and Society which takes forward the idea of the manifesto described in Next steps below.

Alongside this Charter, BIS has also launched a new Community Challenge Grant Scheme to address the key messages that emerged from the review about reaching currently underserved audiences and going to where people are. The scheme aims to build on BIS’s commitment to the Charter and encourage innovation in science engagement practice by funding pilot projects. Details of the scheme can be found here.

Key findings

The review has produced some clear messages:

  • Simplify the landscape of interventions for young people. There is an enormous amount going on to target young people. This is where the majority of duplication of ideas emerged. This implies that the existing initiatives do not have the visibility that they should and that the crowded landscape is not coherent to delivery bodies or users. This is consistent with the findings of the Wellcome Trust study into Informal Science Learning.
  • Target new audiences. Public Engagement with science in general is gaining momentum but the current audience is largely already interested in science. This means that there is a collective need to do more to take science to those not currently engaged.
  • Engage with people where they naturally congregate, rather than expecting them to come to you
  • Be ready to react. Crises are an opportunity for science and research to raise their profile as that’s when the general public is more likely to pay attention. This requires that institutions, organisations and researchers are ready, willing and able to step up and that intermediaries provide opportunities for this to happen.
  • Communicate consistent core messages. The ideas and activities generated through the review are largely policy interventions with few requiring a purely communications approach. However, we would like to test a theory that one of BIS’ key roles could be to do more proactive communication of a set of core messages and encourage partners and stakeholders to do likewise.

Programme of activity 2013/14

The Science and Society programme has now been agreed and the activities listed below form part of this.

In April 2013 BIS submitted a report on the outcome of the review and plans for 2013/14 to the Cabinet Office. We can now confirm our continued support for the following activities as part of a transition year for the overall programme:

  • British Science Festival (7-12 September 2013) – contributes to aims to improve public policy and debate, providing a platform for research and through local, national and international media;
  • National Science and Engineering Week (14-23 March 2014) – contributes to aims to improve engagement between all sectors of society and particularly those who do not normally engage with science and engineering;
  • Finals of the National Science + Engineering Competition at the Big Bang Fair (13-16 March 2014) – contributes to aims to improve STEM skills at all levels and encourage young people, from all backgrounds, to study and work in STEM.

Revised Vision, Aims and Criteria

Early on  in the review our stakeholders identified the need for BIS to take a leadership role, providing a vision and umbrella framework for science engagement activity in the UK to ensure more effective communication by public, private and third sector partners. We revised our  vision, aims and criteria to reflet this.

Updated Action Plans

We also reviewed  and updated the Action Plans, which were initially compiled in 2010 by the Expert Groups from the Science and Society community

Next steps

  • Manifesto

In addition to ideas for activity, the review process also generated a set of common principles of behaviour for those delivering Science and Society initiatives. These will be developed into a Manifesto for Science and Society, in partnership with BIS funded partners and stakeholders, reaffirming its importance to economic and societal growth in the UK and providing a framework for collaboration.

  • Science and Society Landscape

Our last workshop also identified a large number of organisations and initiatives working in the ‘science and society landscape’ and considered the list of ideas and activities (new and existing) which could potentially form part of a future Science and Society Programme.

We are currently clarifying both the stakeholder and Government ‘science and society landscapes’ with stakeholders, BIS partners and Government Departments with the aim of developing a simplified but dynamic landscape map which will help both partners who are, or are seeking to be, part of the landscape and ultimately users of the initiatives within it. This final phase  identified a need for further research into the information needs of key influencers of young people (e.g. teachers, parents), to inform work in simplifying the landscape.  

  • Potential Pilot Activities

In addition, the review identified a number of potential pilot activities, including schools as a hub for community science, science journalism training  and ‘Science in a box’ (virtual materials to enable community groups to organise their own science events). The latter scored highly in the prioritisation and we therefore intend to do further research into what already exists before deciding how to take this forward.

Review Workshops

The Science and Society team held several workshops with stakeholders throughout the review process. These workshops helped us develop ideas for practical, impactful, relevant ways that will help meet the revised aims of the Government’s Science and Society programme. Details and outputs from all of our workshops, including key emerging themes and prioritisation are listed on the Outputs of Review Workshops page.

Please let us know of any existing work in these areas or if you have any further comments on the review, please email the Science and Society team

March 2014