Review of BBSRC Public Dialogues

BBSRC has a long-standing commitment to using deliberative public dialogue to inform policies around their research. As part of this, they have been working with the dialogue experts Sciencewise to support dialogue processes for their research institutes.

So far, three BBSRC Institutes have run their own public dialogues in order to inform internal policy*

Graphic Science was commissioned by BBSRC to review the three dialogues collectively to see what could be learned that can inform future dialogues.

Using a mixture of desk research based and interviews and focus groups with internal and external stakeholders, we analysed the findings from all three dialogues to look for commonalities and insightful points of difference.

*John Innes, Rothamsted Research, Babraham Institute

Cardiff Science Festival Evaluation

In 2014, Graphic Science was commissioned to evaluate the Cardiff Science Festival and help the organisers to better understand who the audience for the different elements of the festival were, their motivations for attending and how satisfied they were with the events and activities they attended.

We refined the paper-based evaluation tools we had previously developed for National Science and Engineering week in order to gather data that looked at the attitudes, opinions and demographics of festival-goers. As well as this, we attended events ourselves to collect observations and conduct short interviews with members of the audience.

The data was synthesised into a highly visual report which segmented the feedback based on each type of event and found noticeable differences between those who attended paid-for or free events and those who came to the exhibition.

Mapping schools enrichment provision for RCUK with NCCPE

Research Councils UK are currently in the process of considering next steps in their ongoing work to connect researchers and schools.

As part of this we worked with NCCPE to undertake scoping work looking at the enrichment landscape for schools in all subject areas to inform RCUK and Research Council colleagues regarding the policy pushes and pulls, strategic governance and on the ground provision of opportunities for schools.

The work was based on extensive desk research looking at government publications and other grey literature relating to the funding, policy drivers and impacts associated with enrichment as well as relevant academic publications. The work was underpinned by a small number of interviews with representatives from arts and heritage enrichment.

Great British Bioscience Festival Evaluation

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) marked their 20th anniversary in 2014. As part of this celebration, they supported researchers to engage the public with their research throughout the year. This activity culminated in November with the Great British Bioscience Festival, a three-day science exhibition held in Bethnal Green, London.

Graphic Science evaluated the festival using a combination of observation, visitor surveys, visitor self-recording feedback, researcher self-reflection questionnaires and data collected by BBSRC.

Anne Osterrieder@AnneOsterrieder

Amazing #scicomm evaluation props. MT @MorrisJFM: Amazing feedback from #GBbioscifest , great work from @BBSRC

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More information of the festival and the full report is available from the BBSRC website:

BSA Media Fellowship Scheme Review

The British Science Association’s Media Fellowship scheme offers researchers placement opportunities and media outlets such as the BBC, Guardian and Financial Times.

The programme has been running since 1987 and has been reviewed and revised extensively. For this periodic review as well as looking at the scheme’s quality, we took more of a strategic consultancy perspective.

As a result of this, we examined issues such as sponsor expectations and benefits, potential new placement hosts and programme growth and sustainability and made recommendations for the future of the scheme in each of these areas.

We reviewed this BSA scheme and looked at stakeholder expectations.

Creative Computing Evaluation

Creative Computing is a series of computing clubs for 11-16 year olds which gives them the opportunity to make their own Arduino-based project.
The project has been created and run by Science Oxford, is funded by a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious Award and is being supported and run by professional engineers.
We are evaluating the project to find out its impact on engineers and the young people taking part using a combination of in-club activities, surveys and reflective feedback diaries.

Impacts on the engineers

  • Greater understanding of how to engage young people with programming
  • Increased understanding of how programming fits within the educational curriculum
  • Greater appreciation of the personal and broader value of undertaking engineering activities with young people
  • Greater appreciation of value of communicating about their work and engineering in general
  • Increased confidence in running activities with young people
  • Increased confidence in talking to others about what they do in general
  • Better understanding of how to plan and develop activities for children (advisory panel members)

Impacts on club members

  • Knowledge of how to program
  • Confidence to experiment and be creative with new knowledge
  • Skills to find and interpret information and develop their abilities independently
  • Enthusiasm for programming that will last beyond the duration of the project
  • Greater understanding of who engineers are
  • Greater understanding of what engineers do
  • Increased awareness of careers in engineering

Evaluation of Science Oxford’s Arduino computing club.

Mid-Term Evaluations of The Prince’s Trust Cymru Enterprise Programme

The Prince’s Trust Cymru Enterprise Programme (funded by the Welsh European Funding Office) provides a service to young people in Wales who wish to explore self-employment as a means of financial independence.

It provides information sessions on setting up in business, one-to-one support from Trust staff and business volunteers, and small test grants for those who go on to start a business. It also guides young people towards further education, training and employment if they find that self-employment is not for them.

The Trust was granted European Social Fund part-funding from April 2008 until March 2014 to deliver the Enterprise Programme throughout Wales and asked us in 2012 to carry out mid-term evaluations in two ESF areas of Wales.

We looked at the success of the programme so far through observation of its information sessions, analysis of statistical data and programme materials, and interviews with staff, business mentors and programme participants.

Pretty smiling woman with a laptop computer sitting on the sidewalk

Phys & Astronomy Outreach Review for Southampton

“Graphic Science produced an evaluation of our Outreach and Public Engagement work which was extremely helpful and insightful.  Graphic Science were able to offer us a great deal of advice regarding effective methods of evaluation for our activities – and they were also able to help us structure our overall strategy more efficiently.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.”

Pearl John, Public Engagement Leader for Physics & Astronomy, University of Southampton

Graphic Science worked with outreach staff from Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southampton to review their provision of outreach and public engagement with a view to:

  • Improving their administration and delivery
  • Recommending ways in which the Unit could develop the activities they offer
  • Setting in place an evaluative framework that will allow the Unit to carry forward existing and new activities that offer value for money and demonstrate impact

Physics and Astronomy already has an active and varied programme of outreach and engages with large numbers of young people each year. The School had reached a stage where they felt it was important to review and consolidate their activities and look for new opportunities for public engagement that would have reportable impact.

We worked with them to understand:

  • their current portfolio of outreach activities
  • how these related to university-wide initiatives
  • how they were administrated; and
  • how they could be placed in a broader range of public engagement

We spoke to contacts in relevant external organisations to discover possibilities for collaboration and skills sharing and developed a set of recommedations and an evaluation framework that they could use to develop strategic activities with measurable value.

Bristol Dinosaur Project Education Programme Evaluation

The Bristol Dinosaur Project is a research and education programme based round the fossilised remains of the dinosaur Thecondontosaurus which were found in a quarry in the Bristol area.

In 2009, the project received Heritage Lottery funding to develop public engagement and schools’ outreach activities. Under this funding, the project has been running schools’ workshops delivered by the project’s Learning Officer, Ed Drewitt with the assistance of postgraduate students from the University of Bristol School of Earth Sciences.

Our evaluation looked at the success of these workshops through focus groups, debrief sessions, direct observation and teacher feedback questionnaires and made recommendations for future roll-outs of the workshops.

University of Bath Engaged360 Evaluation

Graphic Science undertook a baseline review of public engagement at the University of Bath. We carried out an online survey and a series of interviews with academic staff in order to gauge attitudes and behaviours with respect to public engagement. Our report and recommendations are being used to inform the University’s strategy on public engagement as they develop their  Engaged360 programme.

In 2012, the University of Bath was one of eight HEIs to be granted RCUK Catalyst funding. The Catalyst scheme represents the second wave of funding from RCUK aimed at embedding a culture of public engagement in higher education.

The University has called their project Bath Engaged360, based round the concept of embedding public engagement across the whole 360 research lifecycle. The aim is to embed a public engagement culture at all phases of the research lifecycle, from conception to impact. Led by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research, the Engaged360 project team has established a new Public Engagement Unit headed by a Director of Public Engagement and supported by a Public Engagement Officer.

Graphic Science were written into the bid as the project evaluators.