Crowd of people. Science in the National Park 2018. Philadelphia.
Article: “Understanding Engagement with Science Festivals:
Who Are the Engaged?”

What do we know?

  • In 2015, the British Science Association (BSA) began developing a framework to describe how various groups differentially engage with science. They posited the existence of four distinct groups who exist along a continuum, including those who are: Not interested; Inactive; Engaged; and Professionals.
  • In this study, cluster analyses revealed three distinct clusters within the Engaged group, with each cluster sharing both similarities and differences with the other clusters. Authors refer to these clusters as Hobbyists (i.e., high interest in science, has science-related hobby), Enthusiasts (i.e., high interest in science, no science-related hobby), and the Uninterested (i.e., low interest in science, almost half reported a science-related hobby).
  • In terms of local science festival attendance, Hobbyists and Enthusiasts show similarities and differences in terms of festival attendance and post-festival science engagement. Although Hobbyists were slightly more likely than Enthusiasts to report never attending a science festival, approximately equal proportions of each group identified as returning attendees. Unsurprisingly, the Not Interested group was most likely to report never attending a festival and least likely to identify as a repeat attendee.
  • After attending a science festival, Hobbyists were more likely than Enthusiasts to seek information about a festival topic, engage in a festival topic related activity, use festival information for work/study/personal life, and connect with groups introduced at the festival.
  • With greater understanding of the audiences served by science festivals, organizers may be better positioned to develop new programming and recruitment strategies that draw more intentionally from particular types of publics.

How do we know?

An online survey was administered to members of five different science festival listservs, who were asked to share more about their interests in and engagement with science. Cluster analyses were performed to identify clusters of attendees who resembled each other in key ways. Additional analyses helped uncover more similarities and differences among the groups.

Where do we go to learn more?

Jane Robertson Evia & Karen Peterman (2020) Understanding Engagement with Science Festivals: Who Are the Engaged?, Visitor Studies, 23:1, 66-81.