Nature Beyond the Skies

Lead Research Organisation: Bristol Natural History Consortium
Department Name: Head Office


Our project brings STFC science, particularly astronomy and space science, to a general public audience through the delivery of six activities within the 2014 Festival of Nature. The Festival of Nature is a free, outdoor, city-centre science festival, attracting 25,000 to 30,000 visitors each year. It has been shortlisted as the "UK's Best Medium Sized Festival" at the UK Festival Awards (award to be made December 2013) and currently holds the title for "Bristol's Best Tourism Event of the Year".

The Festival of Nature delivers free educational activities to 1200 primary school children and a large public audience each year. We have piloted activities each year across a wide range of scientific topics under the theme of "natural science" including chemistry, physics and biology. We piloted a small STFC public engagement project in 2010 focused on hands on activities and films on the BBC big screen. This project and our ongoing Festival evaluation with the University of Bristol have informed this bid.

We would like to make STFC science, particularly astronomy, a central theme of the 2014 Festival of Nature. We have developed six activities within this bid which will allow a minimum of 6000-8000 visitors to interact with the project in some way. The activities have taken into account learning styles and different levels of scientific interest. We would like to inform and inspire our visitors through the development and delivery of new and exciting content, and allow them to think about 'natural sciences' from a new perspective.

We would like to develop new and exciting partnerships that will have a life beyond the project. This includes the researchers taking part, working with artists and local volunteers. Our scientific advisor, Haley Gomez, will be an important source of scientific content and brokering of new partnerships to increase the impact of the project.

We want to support researchers interested in building skills in public engagement, by facilitating opportunities to meet a wide cross section of the public (especially those who do not attend traditional scientific events) and through the provision of training and use of the arts.

We want to put astronomy and space science in the news. The festival has an extensive local and regional marketing and PR presence. Although classified a science festival, the event attracts a much wider visitor base than traditional scientific events. In 2014, we will also be working closely with Universities Week. The dates of the annual week coincide and will provide additional PR support for our activities involving researchers.

Overall, our project will inform and inspire thousands of visitors with ideas drawn from STFC funded science, and will provide an opportunity to reach a wider audience base that a traditional science activity. We want the project to add to the body of public engagement resources, through the opportunity to develop new activity models that can be used by other science communicators.

Planned Impact

The primary deliverables for the event will be activities held across the Festival site. These will be documented through our evaluation strategy, which is a crucial element of the Festival plans. The evaluation is delivered each year by the University of Bristol School of Management in partnership with the University of Bristol Centre for Public Engagement. The overall evaluation of the festival will also include a specific evaluation of this project, and will assist the festival team in generating a separate monitoring report.

The evaluation output of this project will be:
- online report
- activity photos and videos
- film lists and contacts for further screenings of STFC work
- short "how-to" activity sheets for ideas developed during the project, including busking ideas, art performance ideas, and other ideas generated by STFC-funded researchers taking part in the project.

Currently, BNHC makes evaluation information available to partners through its website and through regular networking and involvement in the UK's science communication community and all material will thus be freely available to view and download. In addition, we are in the process of restructuring our website (aiming for a January 2014 launch date). Our updated website will include a specific research and evaluation section that will be fully navigable and more widely publicised, in order to be a more useful resource for other science communicators.

The other important audience for our dissemination plan is the volunteers that take part in delivering the festival, many of whom take part in order to develop their own practice and knowledge base in science communication.


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