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Society behind the Horizon

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SOCIETYnext (Society behind the Horizon)

Reporting period: 2020-06-01 to 2021-05-31

SocietyNEXT is the project of an European Researchers Night that intend to build the perfect occasion for a true, two-ways, engaging communication to engage a wide variety of participants, through the offer of a number of fun-based activities to attract a general public and ensure the participation of families with children. SocietyNEXT offer a wide and composite image of research and researchers, to suggest that research embraces all areas of knowledge, tools and approaches, well beyond stereotypes, and to inspire young students to embrace research career by showing research as a powerful tool to decrypt reality, which can be applied in any direction and exploits a wide range of personal capacities.
SocietyNEXT highlight the wideness of research horizons and emphasize the importance of inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches, seeking the involvement of a greater number of researchers coming from disciplines such as the humanities or social sciences that are usually underrepresented at the Researchers’ Night.
The Night organized by the project SocietyNEXT favour the meeting between citizens and researchers through a wide range of activities, promoting a mutual exchange between researchers and participants, and show that research consists of an effective approach to build knowledge and improve our understanding of the world in which we live.
For several months, the consortium worked to organize a small event with the presence of people in Bologna, the main venue. The organization of an event with the presence of the public posed significant challenges. Because of the date shift, from late September to the 27th of November, we could not organize outdoor activities, as we usually do. The safety measurements imposed by the pandemic posed severe constraints to the kind of suitable venues. But at the same time, the Steering Committee formed a working group to research the different kinds of online platforms and explore available options. This activity was crucial because of the worsening of the pandemic situation in Italy, and the decision to undertake only an on-line ERN, cancelling the in presence event.

Pre-events of the Night took place in different locations, and also online due to the pandemic. Pre-events have been publicized through social media and websites managed by both SOCIETYnext and the involved stakeholders.
A great effort has been made to involve schools. To reach that purpose we created a specific program, called “For and with Schools”, published in a dedicated page of the website.
This program has been shared by e-mail among teachers and schools since September 2020. Moreover, the Regional Office of the Ministry of Education contributed to spread the initiative throughout the network of schools in the Emilia-Romagna region. About 26 (23 upper secondary, 3 lower secondary) schools have been involved in the program, 4 of them collaborated to the project as third-party Institutions. 18 Schools are located in the Region Emilia- Romagna, 8 outside. A total estimated number of 2000-2500 students were involved in all events, together with about 110 teachers
In total about 680 people participated in pre-events with public presence, about 10000 (among which 2000-2500 students) in online pre-events. Videos published online received about 8300 visualizations in the period up to 27 November.

At the beginning of the project, the Steering Committee formed a working group to research the different kinds of online platforms and explore available options.

The Steering Committee finally opted for Sharevent ( which granted us the accessibility of the content for one year after the event.

The online platform was promoted through a specific awareness campaign, described in detail in D1.1. The platform required a simple registration to attend activities during the Night. Afterward, the platform was open and will remain available for browsing without registration until the 27th of November 2021.
The platform was personalized by adopting the project’s visual identity, and a greeting video welcomed visitors.
The homepage also hosted a virtual theatre, where all visitors could watch the inauguration ceremony and the following round table in streaming. The invited speakers participated through a videoconference application that allowed mutual interactions among them, but not with the public. The virtual theatre was the only space on the platform where live events did not allow the direct participation of the public.

The homepage also hosted a browsable virtual map where all cities participating in the project were represented through their iconic monuments. The map was meant to recognize and highlight the contribution that each town provided to the ERN. Visitors could click on each of the monuments to find out the activities proposed by the researchers working in that particular city.
Navigation of the platform was also possible through tabs linking: the Program of live events, listed according to their scheduled time; the Virtual stands, where all the activities proposed by researchers were listed alphabetically and distinguished by theme/colors (People, Planet, Partnership, Prosperity, and Peace); the Researchers, where all attending researchers were listed alphabetically, together with details on any related live events (357 researchers were listed); the Speed date, where visitors could find the photos and descriptions of 40 researchers available for one-to-one encounters.
Two virtual stands, each featuring a staffed virtual room, were dedicated to provide information to visitors (info point) and to assist researchers during the Night in case of technical difficulties (help desk). The press point provided all necessary information and materials to media professionals.
Visitors were all informed about the possibility to download two copies of the scientific magazine Sapere (Dedalo Edizioni) as an ERN gadget, upon completion of a questionnaire.
At the end of the Night, all the live activities were closed, and the Program tab was removed. Visitors can still browse a wide variety of contents, including some recordings of the live activities proposed during the Night.
At the end of the Night, the platform counted more than 5000 registered users. Commonly, one registered user granted access to a group of people (family members, or roommates). Based on information gathered on access to the website and to the Sharevent platform, we estimate the overall participation could have reached 10000 people. Although all activities were in Italian, targeting a local audience, 4% of visitors came from abroad. Among the Italian participants, 29% were from Bologna area and the cities involved in the project (for instance Rimini, 3%, Cesena 3%, Forlì 2%), but we had visitors from many other cities as well (Milan, 10%, Rome, 5%, Florence, 2%, Parma, 2%, Naples, 2%, and the remainder distributed in numerous other places in Italy to the 100% of the national public).