Article: Does the messenger matter? Studying the impacts of scientists and engineers interacting with public audiences at science festival events

What do we know?

  • This study was designed to explore what impact an interaction with a scientist had on science festival attendees. This is of interest since science festivals are one avenue for STEM professionals to interact with the public in an informal learning environment.
  • To explore scientist impact on an attendee’s festival experience, researchers examined five categories: overall festival experience, learning, inspiration, fun, and awareness of STEM careers.
  • Analysis revealed that interaction with a scientist had a “significant and positive effect” on festival attendees in all five categories. These findings held true, including when looking specifically at gender and URM status of the respondent.
  • These findings highlight the value of including scientists and engineers at public science events, like science festivals, and encouraging interaction between them and attendees.

How do we know?

This study utilized survey data from the EvalFest Attendee Survey coming from 14 science festival Expo events and included 5,498 survey responses. Data was analyzed from the five aforementioned categories (which are included on the Attendee Survey) and highlighted that interaction with a scientist positively impacted all of the survey items.

Where do we go to learn more?

Boyette, Todd, and J. Ross Ramsey. (2018). “Does the messenger matter? Studying the impacts of scientists and engineers interacting with public audiences at science festival events.” Journal of Science Communication, 18(02).