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Cork Discovers: Learn, Live, Love Research

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Cork Discovers (Cork Discovers: Learn, Live, Love Research)

Reporting period: 2019-02-01 to 2019-10-31

Cork Discovers is a series of free and exciting interactive events for all ages taking place in venues across Cork City in 2018 and 2019 as part of European Researchers Night. The event aims to showcase research in fun, creative ways and promote engagement between researchers and the public. The 2018 and 2019 events featured interactive events with topics ranging from Archaeology to Zoology. There were over 100 researchers involved each year.
The event is organised and run by the Cork Discovers consortium. Cork is Ireland’s largest county and has a population of over half-a-million people. It is home University College Cork (UCC), the project coordinator, which sits in the heart of Cork and is ideally located to attract people from throughout the region. Its research strengths, as well as that of its consortium partner Teagasc, are closely linked to the local economy and community interests. This research has been the basis for a programme of outreach activities that are of relevance and interest to the local community including themes such as Marine, Technology, Health, Agriculture & Food, Environment and Cultural Heritage. UCC and Teagasc was supported in running the project by Cork City Council, the largest local authority in the region with extensive local knowledge and networks, and by UCC Academy Limited, a project management company with expertise in outreach and research communication.

The project objectives are as follows:

o Organise a fun outreach event in Cork showcasing the work of over 100 researchers each year. The consortium will organise an ERN in 2018 & 2019 which will span more than 6 venues throughout the city and will target an audience throughout Cork City and County;
o Increase awareness of exciting research being carried out in Cork and the impact it has on the local economy and daily life;
o Encourage engagement between researchers and the public in Cork. The Cork Discovers programme comprises interactive events such as workshops, forums and Q&A sessions which will promote dialogue between researchers and their audience. This will help the public to get to know the enthusiastic and passionate people behind the research, breaking down common stereotypes.
o Encourage young people in Cork to pursue research careers. Emphasis will be placed on engaging young people in Cork with a view to promoting research as a career option both inside and outside of academia.
The first Cork Discovers event took place on September 28th 2018. It took place across 11 venues throughout Cork and was attended by over 2,000 people. Events were held on UCC’s historic campus as well as in Museums, Heritage Centres and pubs across the city. Over 100 researchers participated presenting research from diverse fields ranging from Archaeology to Zoology.

Cork Discovers celebrated its second European Researchers Night on September 27th 2019. It took place across 6 venues throughout Cork City and was attended by over 2,500 people. 134 researchers contributed communicating their research to a large and diverse public audience. Celebrations started early in the day with a series of workshops that were run for local school groups. A busy programme of workshops, talks and demos took place on campus in UCC, including a roundtable discussion on the challenges and rewards of sharing research in a civic space in the Glucksman Gallery; workshops that extracted DNA from a banana; hands-on experiments in Spanish and a series of talks in the Boole Library. Events also took place throughout the city, with Cork Public Museum, Nano Nagle Place (NNP), Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork City Council and An Spailpín Fánach pub all hosting events.

A wide range of awareness raising activities were undertaken to ensure audience turnout and to raise awareness more broadly about European Researchers Night and research in general. Different social media channels were used to reach a wide range of audiences. Original content was created including a series of videos which are now available through the YouTube channel including official promotional videos and videos made by researchers involved in the events. The social media activities were run alongside other advertising activities including, press releases, radio adverts, adds in local publications and event guides, adverts on city busses, interviews on local radio and dissemination of posters and brochures via local schools and businesses. A number of research ambassadors also visited local schools to advertise the events.

On the night of the 2018 and 2019 events, members of the public were approached to take part in an impact assessment study. Those who registered completed a short questionnaire on the night and were contacted shortly after the event to complete a longer 'follow-up' questionnaire. These surveys were analysed by Qualia Analytics to evaluate their experience of the event and to measure the impact of this public engagement event on their thoughts about and understanding of science. Two reports was completed following the completion of this assessment.
Impact 1: Increase in the awareness of the importance of research and innovation;

A cobmined audience of over 4500 people attended Cork Discovers events over the course of the 2 ERNS with a further 2000 accessing the activities via live streaming, maximising the impact of the communication activities involved. All events at the 2018 and 2019 ERNs were designed to communicate the importance of research and innovation to a lay audience. Contributing researchers were given the opportunity to avail of a range of communication training courses to maximise the impact of their activities. Suitable activities were also captured on video making it possible for them to reach a wider audience through the Cork Discovers YouTube channel.

Impact 2: More favourable general attitude towards its funding and a better understanding of the key benefits that research brings to society;

All researchers involved in Cork Discovers were asked to communicate their research in terms of how it benefited society and they were provided with training that allowed them to do so. Activities demonstrated how research impacted on matters from air quality (‘There’s something in the air’ exhibition) to the creation of the perfect crisp (‘In search of the perfect crisp’ exhibition). This approach seems to have been successful with all respondents of Cork Discovers survey in 2018 agreeing that research affected their daily lives.

Impact 3: Reduction in the stereotypes about researchers;

Over the course of the two ERNS, members of the public had an opportunity to meet and discuss research with researchers from a wide range of countries and backgrounds. These researchers were asked (and trained) to communicate their research in fun and energetic ways in order to tackle negative perceptions i.e. that research is ‘boring’ . Events like Bright Club (a show in which researchers discuss their work through the medium of comedy) ensured that members of the public saw a different side to researchers and their work.

Impact 4: Increase of people taking up research careers;

A large number of hands-on activities were run on the night in 2018 and 2019 including the ‘Cell Explorers’ workshop and the ‘Solve the Crime’ workshop. This gave children an opportunity to actively ‘try their hand’ at research. It is hoped that this will inspire them to consider a future career in research.