Thank you to Nancy Longnecker for the update.
As many ASC members know, the government’s Inspiring Australia program provided funding aimed at building the evidence base that underpin science communication efforts. In a national audit conducted by Metcalfe, Alford and Shore (2012), some providers reported using feedback forms and surveys but relatively few used systematic methods to critically measure the impact of their events. In order to assist event providers to collect consistent and useful information, a set of evaluation tools were produced, trialled and reported on. Tools include surveys and bean polls.
In 2012 1,508 surveys were received from 36 events held in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia during National Science Week. In 2013-2014 2,177 surveys were received from 23 events held in South Australia, New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania. Bean polls were conducted at five public events in 2013 and 2014 eliciting a total of 6,259 responses.
Key findings in terms of addressing Inspiring Australia’s desired outcomes:
- a society that is inspired by and values scientific endeavour
- almost all respondents enjoyed science engagement events and found the topic of the event important and relevant to them. Events increased people’s interest in science and made participants feel more inspired by science.
- a society that attracts increasing national and international interest in its science
- this outcome was not measured in the survey because it is more appropriately captured through other measurements like media monitoring.
- a society that critically engages with key scientific issues
- a majority of respondents intended to take actions, talk to others, or search for information on science after attending events. People strongly agreed that science engagement activities should be available to the public, would recommend events to others and attend future events. Some events provided participants with new insights and deeper understanding of issues.
- a society that encourages young people to pursue scientific studies and careers
- students felt more inspired and confident about career options in science and events helped them understand pathways to science careers.
Our findings indicate that science engagement events provided across Australia represent value for the time, energy and money spent and that science engagement events examined in this study were achieving the intended outcomes of Inspiring Australia. By attending events, people stated they felt more inspired by science, interested in science and valued it. In many events that are designed to increase understanding, participants came away with new insights or different ways of thinking about the issue. Students attending career-related events said they felt more inspired by science and confident about careers in science.
NB: The author, Nancy Longnecker, is now Professor of Science Communication at the University of Otago in Dunedin. She is continuing to research about evaluation and is happy to discuss it but is not currently connected with an Inspiring Australia project.