Inspiring Australia update: Fringe Science? And is it effective?

This IA update for ASC readers is focused on arts based science projects and asks us for measures of how these activities engage Australians with science. Better sharpen up your evaluation skills.

Some of these IA funded projects are attracting other investment partners and that in itself is worthy of ASC members’ comments.

An IA grant is supporting an October event in Melbourne and several more IA funded arts-science activities are in the pipeline. Read on for the IA team’s article about this interesting tact in science engagement.

Fringe Science?

The Melbourne Fringe Festival is home to any number of unusual performance pieces, but perhaps one of the stranger artistic efforts this year is all the more left-field for its focus on science.

Art, Science and Schizophrenia is an event exploring the science and history of schizophrenia, drawing on the art and experiences of those living with this particular mental illness. Developed and produced by the Cooperative Research Centre for Mental Health in conjunction with the Dax Centre, the event is also one of Inspiring Australia’s 63 Unlocking Australia’s Potential projects.

Inspiring Australia has funded a number of arts-based science projects through the Unlocking Australia grant round, National Science Week and other Government funding. This investment has attracted others to co-contribute, and to build interest in further exploring the art-science dynamic.

But are these art-science events having the desired effect? Are they opening up clear lines of communication to everyday Australians? Are they providing an avenue for scientists to engage with new audiences and if so, what has been the effect on those audiences?

Projects like this can have some great outcomes, such as the photo book on Tasmanian Seaweed and the poetry books from Science Made Marvellous supported through National Science Week. One would expect there is an overall positive effect in its relation to promoting science engagement, but it would be great to hear of some stories of tangible impacts of art-science events.

In addition to Art, Science and Schizophrenia, other Inspiring Australia supported arts-based science projects include:

  • Insight Radical, where artists and scientists in Melbourne are combining their knowledge and skills to produce artworks reflecting the science of free radicals;
  • The Science of Ageing, a theatrical event touring regional South Australia in 2013, focussing on the processes and impacts of ageing;
  • Fact or Fiction Road Show, which asks what in popular sci-fi really is science-fiction and what is science reality. Fact or Fiction will be touring nationally in 2013;
  • Dream of the Thylacine, a live show based on the thylacine using puppetry and addressing themes of ecology and biology, to be held as part of the Tasmanian Ten Days on the Island festival; and
  • Harvesting Traditional Knowledge, a series of workshops held across the Northern Territory to build understanding and skills in cultural conservation.

The Inspiring Australia strategy is continually being developed and updated to help support the best practice and the best outcomes for science communication in Australia. Why don’t you get along to some of these activities or others you know about and let us know how effective you think they are?

Art, Science and Schizophrenia will be showing at The Dax Centre on 10and 12 October at 6:30pm. Admission is free.

For more information on Inspiring Australia or Unlocking Australia’s Potential projects, contact the team at inspiring.australia@innovation.gov.au or on (02) 6270 2912.

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About Jesse Shore

Jesse Shore is passionate about engaging the community with science and in looking for ways to weave together the arts and sciences. He has been developing science based exhibitions and events since 1984, and was President of the Australian Science Communicators from 2010-2012. His business, Prismatic Sciences, produced five travelling exhibitions for the Royal Australian Chemical Institute for the 2011 International Year of Chemistry and he manages the ongoing national tour. He previously worked at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney as an exhibition project leader and Senior Curator of sciences. While at the museum he was one of the founders of the Ultimo Science Festival, a major National Science Week activity. He is currently collaborating with an artist to create artworks which have a science slant.