Science and Technology CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by At-Bristol science centre (CL0065)

1. Introduction

At-Bristol is an award winning science and discovery centre based on Bristol’s historic harbourside, and a landmark Millennium project. At-Bristol is a member of the national Association of Science and Discovery Centres UK (ASDC).

We are submitting evidence to this select committee as we strongly believe that At-Bristol, and other science and discovery centres in the our national network, are playing and can continue to play a significant role in engaging the wider public with climate change.

2. Context

At-Bristol’s vision is to “make science accessible to all”. We welcome over 200,000 visitors annually, working with diverse audiences including families, schools, teachers and community groups. The science centre is host to over 200 interactive exhibits, allowing visitors to have hands-on experiences with science, technology, engineering and maths. Changing learning programmes, including science shows, workshops, experiments, competitions, lectures and special events are tailored to specific audience interests and needs.

3. Experience

Since opening in 2000, At-Bristol has used core funds, grants and sponsorship to successfully engage the public with emerging “science and society” topics and issues, such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology and climate science. Some examples include:

Schools audience:

Time for Nano—EU funded nanotechnology engagement project .

Citizen science—secondary schools’ science and citizenship resources and programmes.

Green schools revolution (Co-operative funded).

Climate Science Outreach Project (with the Science Museum, London).

A Question of Taste—Polymerase Chain Reaction lab workshop with supporting DNA debate about the ethical and moral questions raised by PCR application.

Public audience:

Sciencewise-ERC—adult dialogue and consultation event on the feed-in tariff.

Decide project—deliberative process game around science and society issues (eg xenotransplantation, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, stem cell research) now widely used throughout Europe .

Inside DNA—UK touring exhibition investigating DNA and genomics .

“The future of Genomics” adult lecture with Sir John Sulston FRS.

“Synthetic biology: hope and hype” discussion event with the Synthetic Components Network.

Supporting public engagement and science research:

Public engagement training for the Synthetic Components Network (synthetic biology) researchers.

Embedding Dialogue and debate—national training programme of “Dialogue Academies” to develop science dialogue and facilitation skills within science centres .

4. Science and discovery centres such as At-Bristol are ideal venues for bringing science research and the public together, for investigation and dialogue.

Over the last two years, At-Bristol has undertaken a significant programme of energy reduction and sustainability activity. We have won multiple awards, from food procurement standards, to carbon and energy reduction. Achievements include:

12% energy reduction in 12 months—Cutting CO2 emissions by 107 tonnes.

GOLD Green Tourism Award.

West of England Carbon Challenge Carbon Champion Award.

10:10 Campaign Success Story.

A case study for the Green Tourism Business Scheme, West of England Carbon Challenge and 10:10.

Winner of a Silver South West Sustainable Tourism Award 2011.

We use the technology and systems of the science centre building (eg 50 kW peak Photovoltaic array, green roof, eutectic tank heat exchange system, advanced energy monitoring) to bring the science of sustainability to life, to act as a “living case study” and provide positive and engaging examples of success.

By leading the way as an exemplar centre of positive change for energy reduction, we provide an exciting and trusted informal learning environment, and a fantastic springboard for climate science discussion and debate.

5. At-Bristol and similar centres for informal learning and public engagement with science should be seriously considered as agents in successfully engaging the public with climate science and research. This activity is already underway in many centres. We offer:

inspiring and “neutral” environments for learning;

significant experience in engaging the public with challenging and emerging science;

significant experience of bringing science research and the public together (including public engagement training for researchers);

passionate, professional science communicators, with expertise in dialogue and facilitation;

large public footfall, and established databases of specific audiences, and existing relationship with key audiences; and

a shared passion for developing a scientifically literate and engaged UK population.

At-Bristol would welcome any further opportunities arising from this Select Committee enquiry

October 2013

Prepared 1st April 2014