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DNA traveling exhibition and science theatre

Final Report Summary - DNA-TEST (DNA traveling exhibition and science theatre)

The objective of DNA-TEST was to develop a travelling exhibition on selected life science topics combined with a short live theatre performance. These user-friendly and low-threshold scientific information products are specifically directed towards members of the public unfamiliar with research and science, including senior citizens.

The aim was to develop an exhibition kit that is easy to integrate into a standard rented trailer and a science theatre kit allowing users to set up the theatre performance. Via a 'user's network' that brings together European bioscience communicators interested to buy the developed materials at limited cost, the kits will be available for distribution throughout Europe and beyond the partners of the project.

An elaborate communication and promotion campaign has been staged to disseminate DNA-TEST to potential partners. These project objectives are still valid today. Research and innovation are important pillars in Europe's knowledge based society. Many aspects of research and especially life sciences, have a direct impact on our lives. Unfortunately not all communities are aware of ongoing research and innovation projects. It is however imperative that the European society as a whole is well informed and engaged in the dialogue on scientific research.
Therefore it is essential that the communication on various topics of life sciences research is taken up with all members of society and does not exclude specific groups, including those with little or no access to science .Life sciences and biomolecular research are sensitive topics that deserve special attention.

There are different science communication programmes up and running throughout Europe, addressing various target groups within the European society. But there are different hurdles in the current science communication efforts. An important barrier is that many science information products presume prior basic knowledge of the addressed science topics, or require a certain degree of science education. This limits the number of people and the communities that can be reached via 'traditional' public outreach projects. These approaches exclude the majority of our senior citizens and also younger adults with limited knowledge or interest in science.

Nevertheless it is important that these target groups are addressed; they too are confronted with the results of life sciences as many applications have a broad use, but citizens are often unaware that they are the result of scientific research. If the citizens are to support the goals of Europe to develop into a strong knowledge based society, it is imperative that they are more aware of science, innovation and scientific breakthroughs leading to various applications.

An exhibition kit allowing third parties to use the information to develop the exhibition themselves was made available through the website of the coordinator (http://www.vib.be; October 2008). The exhibition however has not been designed to fit within a rented trailer. Instead it was developed within three tents, allowing a much broader use (see work package progress). Brochures with low-threshold scientific information on these topics have been developed in four languages (Dutch, English, French and German) and were distributed at several occasions.

In addition, the live theatre performance has been completed and all information is covered in the science theatre kit. The project has been presented at 'ECSITE', organised in Budapest from 29 to 31 May 2008. It was selected by the ECSITE organising committee for a combined oral/poster presentation. Promotional flyers were distributed via the EC booth, during the workshops, and at various other distribution points throughout the conference and exhibition venue.

Several science communicators have expressed their interest in using the kits for developing their own exhibition and science play. Many others are looking to use the developed materials (available in Dutch and German). One of the partners (PAN) will 'exploit' the developed exhibition and play further and make it available for interested parties. Third parties, which will be contacted via PAN, are to pay for the costs that are needed to set up the exhibition and play for the required time. Both PAN and the Austrian partner (DGT) will continue to include the exhibition and play in their public outreach activities.

The project realised a tour in three countries: the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium. The different locations were carefully chosen in order to address different target groups. The information that has been acquired at the different locations has been used to update and complete the exhibition and science theatre kit. The project has performed in the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria. In the Netherlands more than 2 500 people have watched the show or actively participated in the hand-on experiments. In Belgium more than 5 000 people did the same; Austria addressed 700 people. This project shows that many people are interested in science when it is presented in a playful way.

Children are the ones that are most enthusiastic and often bring their parents. Although adults are often shy to participate in the experiments, they will watch the children and hence also receive the information. The setting allows them to ask questions easily. A broad network of science communicators has been made aware of the project and how it is available to them. The concept, texts and full details are available at http://www.vib.be. Pandemonia also offers the complete show at small cost, see http://www.pandemonia.nl.

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