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Find Research Everywhere, SHare and expERience

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FRESHER (Find Research Everywhere, SHare and expERience)

Reporting period: 2020-05-01 to 2021-04-30

Building on the Consortium’s existing understanding developed through previous local initiatives including Researchers Night, and addressing findings of research, the project FRESHER focused on enhancing public engagement with research and shortening the gap in the decision of young people and girls in particular to choose STEAM careers.
FRESHER combined an interdisciplinary approach to the International Year of Plant Health, which was the central topic of the Night. This topic also lent itself successfully across all disciplines represented through our Consortium partners, to provide a comprehensive view of how science relates to the lives of people.
Specific objectives of the project were to Increase public engagement in and selection of education pathways, research and innovation careers; to Contribute to overcoming stereotypes of researchers and transform them into role models who are accessible, creative, public and supportive members of society; to Improve citizens’ engagement in and access to the results of research and their understanding of the impact of science on all aspects of their lives; to Upgrade communication skills of active researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs and stimulate their appetite to engage with various groups of non-specialist audiences, sustaining and developing young people’s research curiosity.
Our Communication strategy included the conception and production of a new, complete project brand portfolio, dedicated and mirror websites, marketing and promotional materials.
Our promotional campaign involved various online and offline channels, outdoor billboards advertising, the broadcasting of video films in 27 Sofia metro stations around the city, print media. Other awareness formats like publication of articles, media announcements, pre-events, mailing campaigns, airing of interviews on national and local radio and TVs were also applied. Thus, we reached an audience of 4,188,422.27 mln people, and 780,377 engagements, the latter exceeding 25 times the targets set, thanks also to the huge contribution from all Consortium members.
Based on the impact analysis surveys data, the following trends have been observed:
- There is a clear trend of recognizable image of the Night.
- The information campaigns during the years were successful in establishing that fact.
- The events contribute to creating an active audience with an interest in science.
- The efforts to generate a loyal, dedicated audience over the years have succeeded.
Despite the challenging situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we managed to organise the Night in all cities, towns and villages planned. We run the Night in a digital format, organized a first ever for Bulgaria live ERN TV studio where we aired the “National programme”. The core of the programme was on the 27 November 2020, but it continued also for the next 2 days. We balanced entertainment with learning and contributed to enhancing the public recognition and appreciation of researchers and their work.
We conducted an online training to improve the digital communications skills of scientists on ‘Communicating Science in a Virtual Environment’.
The programme was vivid and diverse and included DIY experiments, hands-on science, talks, collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders and providing informal opportunities to meet scientists virtually.
With FRESHER 2020, we succeeded an unprecedented geographical spread of venues across Bulgaria. Together with the project partners we organised the staggering 200 events that took around 103 hours of scientific content streamed mainly on Facebook and YouTube. The Night was delivered on 45 different social media channels of the 20 consortium partners and 30 associate partners. We engaged 505 researchers.
This was a 3-day programme of spectacular science celebrations!
The total of viewers was calculated at 140,740 based on over 3 sec. viewings of the events during the Night by unique visitors, while by the end of the project the produced online content of the Night was viewed by a double number and it is still growing.
European Researchers’ Night 2020 was our most challenging one so far, filled with the most uncertainties and it had to change on the move. Despite the obstacles we had to overcome along the project progress, we continued working and believing in the message of the Night – that behind science (fundamental and applied) there is a lot of effort, imagination and drive, and that achievements of scientists are proof that a solution can be found sooner or later. That science and scientists play a cardinal role in our lives.
In conclusion, we realized that the online broadcast multiplied our audiences, expanded the targets, broadened and diversified the content and the association of science with everyday life, with culture and art. We acquired new knowledge and skills in producing scientific video content. The online participation of researchers from different specialities and locations helped better the main objective of the project – to present researchers as artists, multi-talented people, occupied with interesting and valuable work and worth being in their role, thus attracting young people to research careers and students to scientific projects. Local researchers became accessible nation-wide and their work, labs and results were viewed from all over the country. Smaller towns and distant locations could also enjoy the performances.
The work performed resulted in a huge video content that is available online and can be seen at any time which is a valuable open access result.
The potential impact of science communication in general and particularly of the FRESHER project is a complex issue, which can hardly be broken down to mere quantitative indicators. Thus, we follow the rule of the thumb in assessing the wider societal implications of the events in our specific context.
The COVID-19 crisis brought both positive and negative implications to the events:
1. The digitalization of the events was substantially accelerated -> thus new target groups could be reached on the one side, on the other – the requirements for the science communication are growing.
2. The rise of fake news and conspiracy theories – the questioning of science and science achievement is growing exponentially; the Night audience is not influenced as shown from the impact assessment survey data but negative tendencies could occur in midterm.
The overall image of science in society is still very positive which is still a perfect condition to counteract to the negative developments – ex. recent anti-vaccination trends. There are many other issues that require the strong and well-grounded voice of science. The impact assessment clearly shows that it is possible to influence and change the attitudes towards research after visiting the Nights.
Adapting to the new forms of communication, dictated by the social media is a must, otherwise researchers would be hardly catching up and stay influential. On the other side the young people are thirsty to get insights, to be part of in-depth debates – science in the making is much more attractive. The coming generations are eager to experiment themselves, to find their own ways and discover their own solutions, what are marvelous opportunities for science and innovations.
Banner near the 33 Sofia school
Commissioner Gabriel greets the ERN visitors
The TV studio