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Science and Nature

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SCINAT (Science and Nature)

Reporting period: 2020-04-01 to 2020-12-31

Under the International Year of Plant Health and related to the fact that Lisbon was the European Green Capital for 2020, the 'Science & Nature’ project aimed to involve citizens with research activities and scientific knowledge that are underway to help answering societal concerns about how to face global changes by preserving natural and cultural heritage, also responding to Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and societal goals of the EU framework program. It specifically aimed to (i) raise citizens’ awareness, particularly young people, from North to South Portugal, towards innovation and research being conducted in Europe in order to preserve natural and cultural heritage, ecosystems and resources and to contribute to the quality of life, facing the impact of global changes; and (ii) bring researchers closer to civil society, enabling meaningful opportunities for communities to express their concerns and expectations about research, while engaging young people with science.
The consortium of this project, coordinated by the University of Lisbon through the National Museum of Natural History and Science (MUHNAC-ULisboa), combines efforts between researchers of major universities in Portugal – University of Minho, University of Lisbon, Nova University in Lisbon, University of Évora, the Lisbon University Institute – and University of Coimbra as associated member. This joined expertise was determinant to overcome difficulties brought by the COVID 19 pandemic situation and made a full online program possible with more than 200 activities from different scientific backgrounds, also approaching the relevance of science and nature conservation to explain and avoid pandemic situations. The Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotel Studies in Estoril contributed to the cultural heritage preservation approach while disseminating sustainable tourism and food security practices and the Lisbon municipality was a central partner for the engagement of diverse audiences and civil society stakeholders while promoting the European Green Capital activities. The project covered urban areas in Portugal from north to south, bridging the gap between researchers and society and contributing to bring societal actors together for the research and innovation process.
The COVID-19 national contingency plan restrained the possibility of onsite activities, forcing beneficiary institutions to change their plans concerning the onsite program into online activities, both for buid-up and for the ERN event. Nevertheless, the online format brought some advantages, the most relevant being the transversal work done to present a national program using the SCINAT website, and the team work in between Universities, joining a national expertise to reach the maximum people using the online channels and promoting a broader involvement and potential interaction of people that do not usually visit the onsite venues of the event.

From April to December 2020, we estimate to have targeted about 500 000 people in the Awareness Campaign, counting the joined effort using all communication channels of all participating organizations, from consortium and research institutions, besides the SCINAT’s channels, national written press and city advertisements. The SCINAT project involved large segments of the scientific community in public engagement and science communication through online activities, for build-up and during the ERN, targeting all age groups. The ERN program reached 14550 participants/viewers, including 605 single registration on the project's website allowing the online impact assessment, and involved 188 principal researchers and up to 1700 researchers in their teams. The online open day build-up activity targeting schools involved 532 students – who are considerably exposed and pressured to adapt to the consequences of global changes in the next decades – and encouraging them to actively contribute with solutions by choosing scientific careers.

A mixed format is proposed for future editions, taking into account the success achieved with the online ERN event and build up activity (targeting schools) in 2020, in order to optimize the conveying of the massage and participation.
The SCINAT impact assessment results highlight:
• The online format does not allow the identification of the exact number of participants, nevertheless the number of participants/viewers was high (14550) even considering duplications.
• There were 605 registrations on the SCINAT online platform. This was the number considered for the impact assessment, avoiding duplication. Although the response rate was quite high this year (around 50%), the number of respondents decreased compared to previous years, since the survey population was smaller.
• The event attracts visitors of all ages. However, this year, given the online edition, two thirds of the public is over 34 years old. Nevertheless, the build-up activity targeting schools engaged 532 young students with online activities.
• Among participant adults, the majority are highly qualified people (graduates), with a considerable increase in individuals with a PhD.
• Female audience is higher than the male one, in line with previous years.
• The event still captures the interest of newcomers, but to a lesser extent than in previous years. Newcomers are mostly men, young and slightly less educated.
• In this edition most people were by themselves during online activities.
• In 2019 visitors got to know the event through people close to them, but this year it was mainly through schools and research centres as well as social networks.
• The public adhered to both live and recorded activities, the youngest being those who most often opted for games/quizzes.
• As in previous editions, the public shows a very positive attitude towards science and towards researchers.
• The public has a positive opinion about the event (general organization, activities, topics, etc.) and its impacts; Nevertheless, the positive opinion about the event is generally lower than in previous editions, especially in what concerns the opportunity to interact with researchers and to actively engage with the activities.
• The event continued to mobilize several Portuguese institutions and researchers committed to engaging directly with the public, most of whom have prepared specific activities for the ERN 2020 event.
• The reasons for researchers to participate are aligned with some of the main objectives of ERN.
• The majority of researchers already had previous experience in this type of activities; participating researchers tend to be women, with a PhD degree, from various scientific areas, a few with European funding. The number of science and technology managers and communicators has also grown.
• Participating researchers express high levels of satisfaction with the event, although lower than in previous years. Due to the online format, they had some difficulties in perceiving the impact of the event on the public.
• Almost all researchers say they are interested in participating in future editions: about half will do so regardless of the format of the event, but little less than half prefer the onsite format.
• The response rates (public and researchers surveys) are very satisfactory, and the reward system for public adherence to the online survey has proven to be effective.
Logo of the SCINAT project