Fresh ingredients, hot content and spicy thoughts on the future of life science events in times of COVID19

On April 29, 40 EUSEA members joined via Zoom for the first “EUSEA Hot Pot”. The premiere of this new delicious meeting space focused on “Science Festivals Going Digital: Ideas, Examples, Challenges”. Facilitated by EUSEA Director Annette Klinkert participants shared ideas, visions and concerns about the future of life science events in times of Corona.

Find out more about the idea behind the EUSEA Hot Pot: https://eusea.info/news/welcome-to-the-eusea-hot-pot/

Take a glimpse at the summary of relevant outcomes from this co-creative get-together:

INPUT I: Amanda Tyndall, Simon Gage, Edinburgh Science Festival, #EdSciFest

Webpage introducing the digital version of the festival: https://www.sciencefestival.co.uk/all-fired-up

This year’s topic: ELEMENTARY – was used to structure the content of the digital festival.

Examples for online activities

Challenges

  • We are experts in Science Festivals, but no experts in digital events. We lack key qualifications that are needed now.
  • We are competing with other digital formats on a crowded online market place.
  • There is an increasing “digital fatigue”. In this context we need a new quality and uniqueness for our festivals
  • The challenge today is how to do make the best of our events in terms of reusing all the existing resources.
  • Sponsors were kind so far, they let us keep the money for this year. But from now on, we don´t expect sponsoring but a recession. We are going to be very cautious, 50% maybe for next year. Tough times are coming…

Opportunities

  • Media is excited about all events taking place. News coverage is better than before, interviews are being offered.
  • Sponsors may like the fact that they can reach more audiences via digital formats
  • We can use a digital version of the festival for a substantial overhaul of our digital strategy
  • We can create on-demand content

INPUT II: Edward Duca, Science in the City, Malta

Video introducing the Science in the City Festival: https://www.facebook.com/ScienceInTheCityMalta/videos/446972396160277

Example for an activity combining arts and science: https://vimeo.com/238043141

The festival so far has around 100 partners, funding mainly comes via the European Researchers Night. 30,000 people attend the festival each year, 50% families. This year the festival was moved to the 27th Nov.

Examples for plans on going digital

  • Chicago collaboration: We plan to organise virtual community meetings in Malta and the USA. A virtual interactive online exhibition will generate feedback from our followers and specifically sent to community members to comment on. In 2021 the artists will incorporate this feedback and develop it into a real-world expression to benefit the Valletta Community.
  • Community engagement: We want to co-create activities with the community — parish church, community kids group and band club (currently not responding but we are chasing) — we are moving these to Zoom.
  • Topic: activism, biodiversity. Output: Escape Room or walkthrough during the festival. NGO GREENHOUSE: calls, photo sent to us of creatures living in their urban environment.
  • STEAM Experiments: revisiting old projects that have online resources and updating or reinvigorating them.

Opportunities

  • We are now revisiting old resources that can be shared online, so people can do things in their places.
  • We have a strong Social Media strategy and we do have a very strong social media campaign during the festival, that engages 200,000 people (500,000 total population in Malta).
  • We can use the digital activities to collaborate with partners that are not in the audience, e.g. via a live streaming of science performances.

Challenges

  • Going online with the festival is something new for all of us! We need to learn!
  • How do we keep the engagement of so many people alive?
  • How do we train our core team with remote work?
  • How can we keep social isolation measures for real world interactions when lockdowns are removed?

INPUT III, Joachim Lerch: Science Days Freiburg

Website introducing the festival: https://www.science-und-technologie.de/science-days-22-24-102020

Ideas for going Digital:

We have already created a set of digital activities called “Science Days at Home”:

https://www.science-und-technologie.de/science-days-zu-hause

Our topic this year is “Health”. In the online version we will:

  • invite national institutions and companies to create live podcasts
  • ask scientists to record virtual tours through their labs or institutions
  • offer lectures for adults, from different institutions
  • organise competitions and mass experiments

Ideas from the Group Discussion

General Thoughts and Ideas

Ideas for online Science Festivals

  • We could invite our audiences to create short science videos themselves, as shown in this school science video competition shared by David Price: http://scicast.org.uk/
  • We could invite competitions such as the Marble Machine Competition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN0Wn0XgPXQ
  • We can invite people to write a short novel together
  • To combine real life with digital experiences we could
    • ask families to use household-materials to do hands-on-activities during the festival
    • send materials to families prior to the festival and invite them to work with the experimentation kits
  • We could adapt established formats such as the Science Communication Triangle to develop an online version: https://eusea.info/activity/science-communication-triangle/
  • We could learn from the immersive experience of Secret Cinema: https://www.secretcinema.org/
  • We can invite audiences to join Mass Experiments: https://scicommtoolbox.se/mass-experiments/
  • We can ask partners to record physical experiments and share them online
  • We could schedule our Festivals over longer periods, maybe a whole week, to allow more people to access the digital activities

Ideas for joint activities for the EUSEA Community

  • We could produce a science show in English and share it with the EUSEA community, as in the FP7-project WONDERS
    We could invite our audiences to joint mass experiments such as the star-spotting experiment conducted in Cork, inititated by Vetenskap & Allmänhet in Sweden: https://corkdiscovers.org/starspotting/?fbclid=IwAR2sYqiECwgXz_bDqal7yuFuaw3EdMZWaa-TlgZc2MhuO9ZvovzsrL4upVQ
  • We should have a new section in the Science Engagement Platform for digital activities.
  • We could share materials in our respective languages and offer them to international audiences at home – thus reaching out to new communities.

Opportunities we see

  • In digital versions of our festivals we can be both local and European, even global
  • We could use our festivals to address global challenges together, such as the SDGs

Challenges we see

  • How can we keep the “look and feel” of a festival when going digital?
  • How can we allow interaction and participation in digital activities?
  • How can we create a group feeling?

Thank you all for this productive discussion!

 EUSEA, 29 April 2020