When a butterfly flaps its wings.........

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of England
Department Name: Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences


To increase awareness of the extent to which world-class UK [STFC] research utilizes, illustrates and elaborates Chaos Theory

The project will specifically focus on raising awareness of the deterministic nature of Chaos Theory and how this is used in research areas funded by the STFC. It is likely that while many adults may have heard of chaos theory, they will not understand how it is used in research or to understand complex systems. As such, the project seeks to illustrate how chaos theory is currently being used to study complex phenomena, including those of human systems, highlighting the relevance of physics research to everyday life.

The project specifically seeks to engage a range of general audiences, including those who are not traditionally interested in science, as well as engaging young people (14-18). To reach out to non-traditional audiences for science events, the project takes an innovative approach combining both science and the arts. The choice of performance venues (a Science and an Arts Festival and two secondary schools) allows us to engage the audience in familiar (comfortable) venues as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of the performance in engaging different types of people (both those who are already interested in science and those who are who do not normally attend such events). This effectively eliminates the barrier for some audiences of attending an event in an unfamiliar space.

Furthermore, such 'Sci-Art' projects can effectively embed scientific ideas in a wider cultural context - taking science out of its traditional spaces of the research facility and placing it within other cultural institutions (e.g. festivals). As this is an emerging approach to science communication, which focuses on 'normalising' science, making it part of everyday life rather than setting it appart as something esoteric or difficult. As this is an emerging field, evaluation will focus on understanding the impacts of the approach on the audience. Evaluation of such Sci-Arts approaches is sorely needed, as there is insufficient evidence at this time of their immediate and wider impacts. Thus, the project is likely to have impacts beyond awareness and interest raising amongst the audience attending the performances, and to influence the nature and direction of future arts-based science communication initiatives.

Planned Impact

Both the Cheltenham and Canterbury Festivals have already indicated their willingness to include Butterfly in their programme for 2014/2015. Marketing of the project will be undertaken in conjunction with these festivals and will focus on reaching each festival's core audience (e.g. science interested audiences at Cheltenham and Arts interested audiences at Canterbury). Both Festivals are successful at attracting their core audiences through traditional marketing approaches, including leaflets, posters and mailing lists and these will be used to promote Butterfly. In addition, the project team will be promote Butterfly on relevant forums such as the IoP's PTNC and the Science Communication community's PSCI-Com mailing list.

The two performances are planned in secondary schools, one in Bristol [Cotham School; a specialist Performing Arts College] and Canterbury [Simon Langton Boys School; specialist science school].

Science Festivals have included performance pieces in their programmes for some years, but recently Arts Festivals have realised the potential for including science within their programmes. Burnet, for example, is working with Canterbury Arts festival to develop a science 'stream'. Arts festivals are of particular interest to science communicators as they offer the potential to reach beyond traditional audiences for science events and performance pieces opening up the possibility of reaching out to people who do not attend science festivals. Demonstrating that a performance that tackles a challenging scientific topic in an accessible way, such as Butterfly, will be of interest to science communicators and Arts Festival organisers more widely as they explore the potential of science themed performances to engage their existing audiences and to attract new audiences to the Festivals. This provides an opportunity to disseminate the findings of the Butterfly's evaluation to this wider community through professional publications and mailing lists. This is also likely to generate interest in Butterfly and further opportunities for performances (beyond the life of the STFC funding requested here).

The project will also be highlighted on the Science Communication Unit's website and will be used as an example by Weitkamp as part of her regular teaching (MSc in Science Communication and PgCert in Practical Science Communication) and training (e.g. UWE Masterclass in Science Communication) activities, raising the profile of the project within the Science Communication Community.

Evaluation of the Butterfly project will feed into journal publications exploring both the potential of science-based performance pieces to engage non-traditional audiences for science communication activities and the nature of the collaborative process of devising a performance piece. Dissemination will focus on both the academic (science communication and physics communities) and practitioner communities, through articles in publications such as Science and People, Physics Today and Public Understanding of Science. The final evaluation report will be lodged on the British Science Association Collective Memory website.


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Title Score for Chaos Cabaret 
Description The score for the Chaos Cabaret has been created and performed. 
Type Of Art Composition/Score 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact The score has been premiered at the Canterbury Festival. 
Title Script for Chaos Cabaret 
Description A first narrative or script for the Chaos Cabaret has been created and premiered. It will be revised for Cheltenham science festival. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact The script was performed in the premier of the Chaos Cabaret. 
Description A theatre/music performance exploring Chaos Theory was created. This was performed at the Canterbury Arts Festival (2014) and the Cheltenham Science Festival (2015). In addition, two workshops were held in schools in the Kent (Simon Langton Boys School and the Norton Knatchbull School, Ashford). Both schools workshops were aimed at 6th form students.
The theatre performances and schools workshops were evaluated and showed that the audience had enjoyed the performances and participation in the workshop. Audiences also report that the performances had facilitated their understanding of chaos theory.
Exploitation Route At this stage, I have presented draft findings regarding the audience attending the Canterbury and Cheltenham performances at the International Science in Popular Culture conference, Klagenfurt, Austria (17-18 September, 2015). This was well received with considerable interest in the audience evaluation as little is known about the impact of science theatre on audiences.
In addition, the project team has been awarded a further STFC public engagement grant to develop the work with schools.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education

Description An initial conference paper has been presented. Work is underway to develop a full academic report of the findings from the study.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Description Chaos Cabaret Canterbury 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Preformance took place and a post show discussion was held. Evaluation questionnaire was distributed and collected.

None as yet.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.canterburyfestival.co.uk/whats-on/science/chaos-cabaret.aspx
Description Chaos Cabaret Cheltenham Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a performance piece (and there is no category for this type of activity). The performance was designed to prompt thinking about the relevance of Chaos theory to everyday life. The performance stimulated a number of questions from the audience. The performance was sold out.

Feedback forms suggest that the audience found the performance engaging and interesting.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description Chaos Cabaret schools events (X2) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We took the script and music for Chaos cabaret into two schools and ran workshops to stimulate thinking about chaos theory. These workshops provided pupils with an extended opportunity to discuss and learn about both the relevance of Chaos theory to contemporary physics but also it's application in other contexts (e.g. medical, financial).

Pupils reported (through a post event questionnaire) that they had found the workshops engaging and the topic stimulating.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015