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Researcher's Night in Sweden - ForskarFredag 2009

Final Report Summary - FF09 (Researcher's Night in Sweden - ForskarFredag 2009)

The 'Swedish Researchers' Night initiative 2009 - ForskarFredag (Research Friday)' united fifteen events with one associated event throughout the country. The idea was to bring the general public closer to researchers at informal and fun events that would compete with other friday night entertainment. Hundreds of activities aimed to show the general public how exciting and relevant research actually is in our daily lives and that researchers are ordinary people with extraordinary jobs.

Local events took place in the cities of Boras, Eskilstuna, Goteborg, Kalmar, Karlshamn, Karlstad, Lidkoping (associated event), Lulea, Skelleftea, Skovde, Stenstorp, Stenungsund, Stockholm, Trollhattan, Uppsala and Orebro. Activities offered included experiments, workshops, hands-on activities, science shows, exhibitions, science cafes and many other opportunities to meet researchers face to face. In addition, a mass research experiment conducted by school classes in Sweden, Denmark and Norway was part of the project. Children and young people were also invited to take part in the European poster competition for Researchers' Night 2010.

As in 2006, 2007 and 2008, the Swedish activities were coordinated by the non-profit association Vetenskap & Allmanhet (Public & Science). The national initiative was supported by the Swedish Knowledge Foundation, the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems and the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research.

The specific objectives of ForskarFredag were:
- Creating festive meeting points where researchers could meet the general public. The expected number of visitors was 17 900.
- Raising awareness about Researchers' Night. The press coverage was expected to total at least 75 media items. The websites were expected to receive 20 000 hits.
- Presenting researchers as people among us. The expected number of participating researchers was 250.
- Generating direct exchange and interactivity between researchers and the public.
- Initiating two-way communication between researchers and the general public.
- Emphasising the European aspect of research.
- Creating an interest in scientific careers among young people.
- Generating interest in the role of researchers among young people.
- Gaining experience, drawing conclusions and disseminating results.

Fifteen events and one associated event with a total of 280 activities were arranged. The number of visitors at all events totalled 18 582. The total number of participating researchers was 416, of which 215 were women and 221 men. The poster competition received about 200 entries. The mass experiment attracted 504 classes of which 238 classes from 135 schools reported results. The media coverage totalled 140 media items, of which 25 were broadcast reports on national and regional TV and radio channels. The media coverage reached a potential total audience of about 2.5 million people. The project website had more than 11 300 unique visitors.

The coordinator designed questionnaire templates for event visitors and participating researchers. FF event visitors filled out 1 880 questionnaires, representing 10.5 per cent of the total number of visitors. 21 (in 2007: 29, in2008: 21) per cent stated that after visiting the event, their attitude towards researchers had improved. 66 (59, 67) per cent stated their attitudes remained unchanged, but good. 52 (58, 60) per cent claimed that they might consider becoming a researcher. 75 (89, 82) per cent of the respondents would consider visiting FF again. The impact assessment was much improved in 2007, making comparisons to 2006 figures difficult.

Some of the questions from the coordinator's annual opinion polls were included in the visitors' questionnaires. A figure-by-figure comparison between FF responses and the above-mentioned surveys is not possible due to differences in methodology but the questionnaire results are valuable as an indication of the impact of the FF events. FF visitors' attitudes towards science and research were in line with those of the Swedish public at large, although slightly less positive. This probably relates to the comparatively low average age of the respondents, 22 years. Several studies show that young people in western countries have a less positive attitude towards science than adults.

Researchers participating in the FF events filled out 131 questionnaires, i.e. 32 per cent of the researchers. 78 (in 2007: 64, in 2008: 77) per cent believed that through their participation they had inspired young people to embark on a research career. Of those having participated earlier, 56 (40, 44) per cent had developed their activity based on previous FF experiences. 99 (93, 98) per cent would consider participating in the event again.

Some of the statements from the coordinator's 2003 survey of Swedish researchers' views on communicating with the public-at-large were included in the FF questionnaires, although a figure-to-figure comparison is of course not possible. Researchers participating in FF activities showed a tendency to be more positive to public engagement than the researchers taking part in the previous broader study.

The coordinator established a project management plan and timetable. A comprehensive communications plan built on previous experiences, including national and local awareness campaigns, was agreed upon at the start of the project. In collaboration with Researchers' Night events in Denmark and Norway, an experiment where students measured the amount of carbon dioxide in their classrooms was developed and carried out.

Each local event chose topical themes, interactive experiments/demonstrations and appropriate dialogues with support from the steering committee and advisory board, implemented local awareness campaigns including local websites, executed a festive local event, distributed questionnaires and compiled experiences and conclusions in an event report. The national poster competition was coordinated by VA. Ten events organised local competitions.

The steering committee, in which all event organisers were represented, held seven meetings, two of which included the advisory board, consisting of nine experienced science communicators. The coordinator compiled the final report.

The FF network has grown substantially since the first coordinated Researchers' Night events took place in nine Swedish cities in 2006. Local organisers take advantage of previous experiences and exchange ideas and advice concerning successful activities and topics. The project results and conclusions will also be used to planning future events.

The coordinator has presented the FF project at various conferences and at meetings with several organisations involved in public engagement, among them the European Science Events Association conference in May 2009.