Local development company Midlands Science has been continuing to provide science education outreach work over the past year in spite of the very challenging situation the world now finds itself in. In addition to virtually delivering plenty of science workshops and interactive events since March 2020, Midlands Science has also recently commenced a new project online around building Science Capital in the Midlands with participation from twelve organisations, providing vital capacity building in best practice in science outreach. This initiative is funded by Science Foundation Ireland through the Discover Award programme and training for the participants is currently underway with University College London and the Science Museum Academy.
Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland said:
“Science Foundation Ireland is pleased to support this Science Capital project, which will contribute towards the development of our nation’s scientific curiosity and literacy. By offering tools and training to understand what influences our engagement with science, we can facilitate more inclusive and diverse conversations, provide equal access to careers in science and encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to find personal meaning and connection with STEM.”
CEO of Midlands Science Jackie Gorman commented,
‘Science capital can help us to understand why people from all backgrounds participate in and engage with science and how their engagement can vary through a range of science-related experiences. It also sheds light on why particular social groups remain underrepresented and why many young people do not see science careers as being suitable for them. We have a diverse group of people on board for this training from fields of local development, youth work and heritage, all of whom interact with a wide range of people in their work. Each participant was were selected in 2020 to take part in this Science Capital training through Midlands Science with University College London and the Science Museum London as part of a Science Foundation Discover Award received by Midlands Science.’
The aim is that this Science Capital training will provide research not only around participation in science but will also focus on the many other important factors that come into play, including gender, teaching, education and culture. This training will be a valuable addition to Midlands Science’ own resources and will hopefully help us to continue to encourage more future generations to choose science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.
Miriam Harte from Camera Ireland who is participating in the training commented,
My experience of the Science Capital Training Programme has been incredibly positive. I’ve learned a huge amount of new information about communicating science, especially with harder-to-reach audiences. The standard of speakers and facilitators has been excellent, each sharing a unique and interesting way of approaching new science capital concepts. This training has definitely changed the way I look at my work and how I communicate with my target audience. I’m really looking forward to finding more ways to integrate my learnings within my own work and to sharing this with my colleagues. I very much felt that, during a time of great adjustment and stress in 2020, it has been reassuring to have this consistent group of peers to brainstorm the educational challenges which we’ve faced and the ways in which we can overcome these challenges with a bit of self-reflection and creativity.
Jackie Gorman continued,
‘As Covid19 hit a number of our annual programmes, it also impacted the execution of this training. We had to pivot delivery online and as part of additional supports, we then provided science communications training with Dr Niamh Shaw and online engagement best practice with Maebh Coleman of Technological University Dublin. The group also commenced training online with University College London and the Science Museum London and this will run into 2021. A number of participants will also undertake additional portfolio work which will allow them to become science capital trainers and spread their learning further in their networks and communities. The provision of this training is a vital part of Midlands Science work to develop capacity with partners and to provide access to international best practice in science outreach.’