By Kieran Higgins @KieranHiggins16
I recently attended the British Science Association Annual Communication Conference, a wonderful event that took place on the 18th & 19th June at the Manchester Metropolitan University and have decided to share what I’ve learnt. Previously, I covered “What is Science Communication?”, and the superb keynote from Jess Thom. Today’s blog post is about the use of pop-ups in science communication.
Empty space is a waste of space. That is the feeling behind pop-ups, whereby someone temporarily occupies a space for a certain purposes. Most of us immediately call to mind pop-up shops, primarily in the craft sector. But they’re not the only type of pop-ups. You can have pop-up restaurants, hairdressers, cinemas and art galleries. In fact, pop-ups are limited only be the imagination of the organiser and the size of the space.
This session was concerned with the successful science pop-ups, often run as part of Science Festivals. In my opinion, the best example we covered was ThinkCorner by the University of Birmingham. Its aim was to deepen understanding of what research is, who does it and how it can be of benefit to all of us. They achieved this by bringing researchers out from behind the university and institutes, from all disciplines, and repackaging their work for mass consumption. Some of the highlights (pictured clockwise, L-R) included a hand drawn Tree-of-Life, made from participants animal drawings, lots of interactive, touchable exhibits, papier-mâché microbes, and Bob the robot.
Pop-ups have benefits for all concerned. For the temporary occupants, it affords them lower costs than renting permanent space, can give them a high profile almost right away and provides a space for growth. For the owners of the space, they receive a break from the operating costs of an empty space, they know their space is occupied and secure, and it can act as a type of sales pitch for prospective tenants. The wider community benefit from the services of the pop-up as well as the visual improvement of an empty space being filled.
Primarily for scientists, it is a great way to reach sectors of the public who wouldn’t normally visit universities or museums, or break out from the confines of spaces like labs that are unsuitable for engagement or just downright dangerous.
If anyone would like to my help or input on an outreach or communications project, please let me know. I also have experience co-ordinating pop-ups, so if you are considering one of these, do get in touch. Keep an eye out for my report on our workshop on citizen science.