Scientific Art - Reflecting on a Science City: a proposal for a Partnership in Public Engagement in the West Midlands Region.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Physics


We propose to implement and extend a Scientific Art competition to spark a meaningful and targeted public engagement process. The science and ethos underlying this bid is defined by the 'Birmingham Science City' (BSC) project, which was initiated by our current Prime Minister Gordon Brown MP when he designated 6 Science Cities in 2005. As a result, the Regional Development Agency, Advantage West Midlands (AWM), was in receipt of a large grant, which it chose to invest (since 2007) in the capital research infrastructure of the region within the two Russell-group research-intensive universities, Birmingham (UB) and Warwick (UW). The big-picture is the ambition to make the West Midlands region a major hub for science, technology and innovation on the world-stage with the cultural, educational and economic benefits to the people of the region that will follow. By combining AWM's funding with investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), it has been possible to invest across three major Themes: Advanced Materials (20M), Energy Futures (17M) and Translational Medicine (20M) in UB/UW. The PI is the Research Director of these projects for the two universities. Crucially, the appreciation by the public of the importance of Science in our every-day lives, is a major outcome of the wider BSC programme, which has the motto Ideas for Life . Public engagement activity is a key element of the overall Science City package; hence the willingness of BSC to partner with us in this proposal.The scientific research encapsulated by the three Themes is some of the most visually inspiring of all science. The 80 or so researchers who work directly within the Science City projects on these themes at UW and UB will be contacted and asked to submit entries to the SciArt competition. The scope of the call will cover photographs, graphical depictions of results of simulations or experiments, micrographs or even pages from notebooks. The criterion by which SciArt entries will be judged is: the images must be visually striking with artistic merit independent of their scientific interest, however the story behind the picture , the technical expertise and scientific merit will also be taken into consideration. shortlisted entries by Nick Barker and Ally Caldecote.The six winning images, produced as professional posters, will be exhibited , as part of the British Festival of Science, which is to be hosted in Birmingham in September 2010. Science City Research Fellows will contribute their time to staff the exhibition, explaining the science behind the images, and the impact of that science, to the members of the public who attend it. A composite poster will be constructed from the six images by a graphic designer and this will be mailed to 500 schools for Year 6 with an example lesson plan suggesting how it could be integrated into their regular classroom activities. We expect responses in the form of prose, poems, pictures, photographs, and possibly even experiments of their own .These responses will be judged in the SciArt schools competition with a prize ceremony hosted in prominent venue, to be decided in consultation with partner Birmingham City Council, in December. Most importantly, Teaching Fellows based in Chemistry and Physics will proactively engage with schools in Delivering the Science behind the images through their regular visits to school classes at all stages of the education process, and across the full range of socio-economic backgrounds and through working on curriculum-based material to be delivered both on-site and more widely via the web. Visits to UB/UW to experience experiments connected to the images will be hosted as a follow-up. The final output will be a calendar for 2011 featuring the 6 winning images and 6 winning school responses - the aim is to distribute this at no charge to participating schools and to sell it at a commercial rate to other interested parties.

Planned Impact

This PPE project has the potential for enormous impact within the West Midlands region, both educationally within schoola and culturally via the Ideas for life motto of Birmingham Science City (BSC), which is one of our partners. The project is designed to have an impact particularly with primary school children. This impact will be achieved by careful engagement with schools around a scientific art competition, to be launched with media attention (through Marketing Birmingham) at the British Festival of Science (BFOS) in Birmingham (September 2010) and brought about by an interactive response from school classes to the scientific art posters created for this activity. The core engagement activities described in Phase 2 and Phase 3 in the Case for Support are aimed at school pupils and teachers, through them we hope to also reach their families. Phase 2 is specifically targeted at Year 6 pupils; informal consultation with teachers suggests that this age group are both the most likely to engage in and the most to likely benefit from this kind of activity. We will send out roughly 400 posters to 200 schools (there are 84 in Coventry alone), a process facilitated by the project partner Birmingham City Council and by existing links with Coventry Local Education Authority. These will directly reach up to 10,000 primary students (an average of 25 per class, with one poster per class). The impact will be widened by emailing links to the website and poster to all the schools in the West Midlands, and providing posters to those that request them. This will create a different type of engagement with a further 70,000 Year 6 students. Phase 3 will use targeted active outreach to engage with local schools in Coventry and Birmingham. Last year 3500 school students were involved in this way with the Chemistry department at Warwick alone, the SciArt material will support most of these interactions. We estimate a further 4000 students of all ages will be involved in this way, spread across all the age groups and socio-economic backgrounds. Lesson plans will be designed for all the Key Stages, however we expect the greatest uptake to be for Advanced-Level studies where the research can most directly be linked to the syllabus, as in the attached SciArt example. We hope that a few thousand students will benefit from these lesson plans. Impact will accrue via dissemination of the art material to the wider public. Phase 1 will ask the professional scientists working on EPSRC-funded work within the Science City Research Alliance (SCRA) Themes (Advanced Materials, Energy Futures, Translational Medicine) to provide images to be judged in a competition, both on aesthetic merit and for the story behind the science and particularly how it can be related - perhaps surprisingly - to everyday life. These will be produced as professional poster images for exhibition at the BFOS, thus giving the potential for a cultural impact of these images in themselves. Subsequent display of these through Birmingham City Council (BCC) at prominent sites around the city, will invite further public curiosity and engagement - viewers will be invited to the SciArt website showing iCasts that tell the story behind the images: professionals will find teaching- and research-relevant material linked here. As Director of SCRA, the PI in partnership with BSC and BCC, will have a natural conduit to extend the impact of SciArt and to raise the profile of the activity in sectors other than the educational and the academic, including both further public bodies nationally and internationally, and particularly with the commercial and industrial sectors via the business links inherent to Science City. Sustainability and longevity for SciArt will be sought through these sectors together with greater visibility and prestige via sponsorship over a sustained period by a well-known company - it is intended to create a lasting legacy, with the 2011 calendar as an immediate memento.


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Description Birmingham Science City 
Organisation Birmingham Science City
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Birmingham Science City were supportive despite the changes to the Regional Development Agency (to be abolished at end March 2012) taking place and the difficult climate. The connection with Birmingham City Council was through their support for Birmingham Science City and for the marketing work of Jo Lumani at Marketing Birmingham. Therefore, this project partnership with BSC is the only one germaine to the project as it was ultimately run.
Start Year 2010