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Futures 2020

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FUTURES2020 (Futures 2020)

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

FUTURES2020 was part of European Researchers' Night. Activities were coordinated by the University of Bristol (UoB) and developed in collaboration with the University of Bath (UoBa), the University of Exeter (UoE) the University of Plymouth (UoP), and Bath Spa University (BSU). FUTURES2020 allowed the public to learn first-hand about cutting edge research taking place across South West England, how it is funded and its impact on society. We sought to showcase the range of high-quality research being conducted in the South West of England; to engage public audiences with EU research and its positive effects on their day-to-day lives; and to inspire young people to engage with science and consider scientific careers in future. In 2020, FUTURES took place primarily remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with many modifications from the original plan and no in-person events. However, the evaluation shows that the activities were still successful in achieving our aims, with events enjoyed by participants and researchers alike. Over 44,500 people interacted directly with a FUTURES2020 activity and awareness-raising activities reached nearly 1.9 million people.
FUTURES2020 comprised four work packages: an extensive awareness raising campaign; a wide-ranging programme of public engagement events and activities over the course of European Researchers' Night; a thorough evaluation; and the management of the project consortium.

FUTURES2020 successfully met the impact objectives for European Researchers’ Night, despite many pandemic-related challenges. FUTURES2020 ultimately comprised 42 different activities and events, designed to offer a wide range of people interesting, accessible, and appropriate opportunities to engage with research. Even in a country-wide lockdown situation, the 260 researchers managed to bring interest, insight and interaction to almost 45,000 people from across the South West of England and beyond.
The Covid-19 pandemic prevented us from conducting in-person activities, so we adapted the programme to make all the activities remote. This included events that were delivered online such as talks; written Q and As; a quiz; a research fair; story telling; and comedy, and activities delivered online including exhibitions; demonstrations; social media takeovers; online resources; and a competition. It also included activities that were off-line, such as radio shows; a mural; and hands-on experiments, and events that involved practical activities, such as art workshops and schools’ workshops. This combination of activities and methods of delivery helped to mitigate against digital inequalities and provided varied ways to engage with research. To increase accessibility and inclusivity, all pre-recorded video material had closed captions, and where possible captioning was provided for live video. The fully remote nature of the programme, far from being a negative, has actually diversified the audiences taking part and opened up events to people who otherwise would not be able to attend in person. Using social media platforms for activities has brought research to familiar online spaces, making it ‘everyday’ rather than inaccessible, and normalising conversations about it. More people than ever before have become aware through FUTURES2020 of the importance of EU research and researchers, and the benefits it brings to society. Participants continue to show a favourable attitude towards the European public funding of research, and increased understanding of the EU’s contribution, perhaps even more so as the ramifications of Brexit become clearer.
The conversations and connections between audiences and researchers have facilitated a better understanding of an incredibly wide variety of research topics; of researchers as people, thus reducing stereotypical impressions; and of the benefits and opportunities that a career in research affords. The large number of children and young people participating with their families means they have all been exposed to the same positive messages and are encouraged to stay curious and keep on discovering together, into the future.
University of Exeter's EU Corner Mural