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ERC = ScienceSquared

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - ScienceSquared (ERC = ScienceSquared)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-03-31

Since its founding, the ERC – on the strength of its science, assisted by skillful media management – had built a sterling reputation for excellence in science. The scale of this achievement, in less than a decade, is unprecedented in the world; it took the NSF, NIH, DfG and other international counterparts a few generations to create this kind of image. But by 2015, interest in trying some new communications tactics, and reaching out to a wider audience, grew inside the agency – in part to defend its budget, but largely to extend its mission to increase the impact of its science across the EU.

From October 2015 through March 2019, the ERC=Science² consortium conducted a 42-month programme of communications to experiment with channels, messages and media, and thereby to find the best avenues for the ERC’s science to find its way to a broader European audience. Led by media company Science Business Publishing and joined by seven academic and association partners, the ERC=Science² project generated masses of content in text, video, audio and events based on ERC research in six popularly engaging scientific themes and released through large scale communications campaigns launched every 6 months:

• The Human City, February 2016
• Food, October 2016
• Longevity, March 2017
• Sensory Experience, October 2017
• Music, April 2018
• Artificial Intelligence, October 2018

The partners' task was to select from the vast range of ongoing ERC research a relative handful of projects that, in our view, would resonate with a wider European audience – in short, break beyond the scientific community.In the themes, we interviewed ERC researchers, wrote and published engaging long-form articles with interactive features, produced attractive videos, and developed “augmented reality” apps for smartphones. We managed a Web site with e-newsletters, promoted the researchers to press and social media, and organised events at science museums, universities and other venues.

Thus, the project found us organising a Turkish music ensemble in Toulouse (the researcher specialised in east-west musicology); an olive-oil tasting in Manchester (the researcher studied the Mediterranean diet); science cafés in Granada and Pilsen; visits by our travelling pop-up tent to shopping malls in Gdynia and Tartu - in short, we used every means possible (and affordable) to reach people, to spark their curiosity about science and their interest in one of the EU’s most successful undertakings. At the same time, we provided communications training to the researchers, and – not forgetting the ERC’s political stakeholders – organised public conferences and private VIP dinners in Brussels with MEPs, corporate executives and academic leaders. In short, no conventional communications channel was left untried.
"Below is an overview of the main results achieved:

• An official website launched and regularly updated for the project, 120,745 unique page views
• The successful launch of six themes, ‘cities’, ‘food’, ‘longevity’, ""sensory experience"", ""music"" and ""artificial intelligence""; and the production of a content-rich and interactive snowfall article including animations and cartoons;
• Dissemination about ERC= Science2 activities in regional press, radio and TV across Europe
• A Twitter feed to promote project’s content and engage for grantees, with a constantly growing number of followers (3600 at the end of the project)
• A dedicated YouTube channel with 20 videos and +4800 views
• A science pop-up stand that has travelled to ten countries, from the UK to Czech Republic, from Portugal to Estonia
• Printed materials such as posters, flyers and postcards that have been translated into Estonian, Czech, Polish, French, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian and German;
• 40 events at science museums, universities, shopping malls, exhibitions and science festivals, with 21K+ participants coming into direct contact with ERC=Science2 promoted grantees and/or content.
• 3 high-level policy dinners with CTOs, MEPs, academic leaders, plus 4 segments in Science|Business public conferences
• Promotion of 148 individual ERC grantees from 24 European countries, through online content, science communications training, events and social media to emphasise the larger message of the way science does and will continue to impact our lives.

Within the 42 months that ERC=Science2 has had to communicate about the excellent research done by ERC grantees, the project has set its focus on 6 target areas.

1. Media – primarily regional titles, TV and radio, social and online media, and specialised press
2. Policy makers at EU and member-states involved in research, education or innovation
3. Industry executives in technology industries, entrepreneurs and investors, internationally
4. Post-docs, university faculty and other public-sector researchers, across the EU
5. Undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in science
6. Public at large with a potential interest in science, across the EU and some associated countries

The goal of this project was to reach each of these groups in as many counties as possible across Europe. To do that, ERC=Science2 built its consortium and succesfully carried out activities in many countries.

Through tight focus, high creativity and a powerful distribution network, we attracted science enthusiasts of all types to the work of the ERC. The combination of intensive and on-going online communications, in particular through the website and social media, as well as local events made the ERC more visible and have contributed to spreading the cool science supported by the ERC funding schemes. More than 40 ERC grantees involved in the project's activites benefitted from a science communications training to help them communicate about their research, address the large public and amplify the voice of the ERC across Europe. As a result, the wider audience of non-scientists that probably never heard of the ERC before will start associating European excellence in science with this ‘other EU body’ as they associate the Nobel Prize with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences or the Oscars with the Academy Awards.
Michael Ellison giving a concert at the ERC=Science² stand, at ESOF 2018 Toulouse