Science Cafe is an international concept that was developed in France. The main premise is that the visitors and the scientists are removed from the formal situation of a lecture, theatre, or laboratory and meet in the comfortable, informal atmosphere of a café or in another informal setting with the chance of refreshment. Citizens can exchange with the expert(s) and learn something about his work and are encouraged to ask critical questions. Often its starts with a moderator introducing shortly the topic, the experts and the concept of a Science Café that is, it involves a two-way communication between the visitors and the expert(s). Then one or more experts (max. 3) give short preamble statements (max. 10 min) in which he/she introduces his/her field of work and summarises the central issues. Following this, there is a discussion with the audience, facilitated by a moderator. The goal is to create a vivid dialogue and interaction between the experts and the public so that both gain new perspectives.
A Science Café provides a good opportunity for a dialogue between experts and general public. Everyone is welcome, and while sipping at a cup of tea or coffee people can inform themselves about and discuss current issues. The activity provides space for inspiring ideas and encourages participants to take up new perspectives. Furthermore, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to arrange.
The Science Café format can be adapted successfully for specific target groups (students, policy makers, citizes).
Everyone who is skilled in organising such an event.
- Decide on an interesting topic
- Invite enthusiastic expert(s)
- Decide on a good venue
- Consider the material you need (e.g. technical equipment, pens, cards, …)
- Promote your event
For the café to be successful, the main speakers should not sit at one table, but mingle amongst the audience. This helps to emphasise the “café atmosphere”. As with a debate, an experienced moderator is very important. He/she has to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate, rephrases any difficult question and should keep an eye on the time. It might me a good idea to prime someone in the audience to ask the first question to kick off the discussion. Further, it is important that each participant can see and hear the expert(s) well. For that, a microphone is recommended. Although it might be tempting to invite a panel of experts from different fields, the risk is that the experts prevail the discussion and the visitors become more observers than participants. Lastly, keep in mind that there might be some costs like fees for the venue or for the experts.