The S Factor

Project aims:

Our aim was to engage adults with science, and give them opportunities to be inspired – in particular, people who had had limited exposure to science education.

We also wanted to forge a new partnership of organisations, one that would stimulate new ideas and lead to useful sharing of experience.

And we wanted to make sure that gender equality was on the agenda, through training and profiling women scientists, and through sharing expertise across the partnership.

To find out more, view a video, link to the partner organisations and download the S Factor booklet, visit:
For gender equality training and support, contact the UKRC:

Summary of activity:

The project ran a variety of lively and enjoyable science events for the public: radio phone-ins, public debates with high-profile figures, interactive science workshops on topical issues, a comedy show and science Q and A sessions in café settings.
At the same time, the project was a chance for the organisations involved to learn, through sharing new ideas on ways to get adults interested in science and –through gender equality training run by the UKRC, gaining a better understanding of why women are still under-represented within science and how they can make a difference through the work they do.
In addition, 20 women scientist were trained in media and public speaking skills, and were invited to take part in the S Factor events, often their first experience behind the microphone.
We finished with a seminar for all the partners and other interested organisations where we shared our experience and achievements.

Evaluation approach:

We asked participants to feedback on individual sessions, and conducted an evaluation among the partners at the end.

We found that there was a high level of satisfaction with the events, with many people (particularly in the areas of multiple deprivation) saying they had not been to such events before and would like to have more.

We found that timing events in afternoons and early evenings is great for family audiences, and questionnaires are a hit, especially if incentivised with a raffle – so is interactive hand held voting to engage the audience in debates.

What went well:

The overall partnership approach was a success, strengthening the project throughout its duration, and ensuring lessons learned were carried forward in the individual organisations.

The focus on gender equality was managed extremely well, embedded into the delivery of the project rather than overtly showcased throughout. The emphasis was on popular science, but behind this we were able to promote equality and diversity and train women scientists in communication skills so they could continue to act as role models.

The variety of events was a success. We were able to reach differing audiences with different kinds of content, and this meant some participants came to more than one event.

Our communications with external audiences were very strong, including a survey, new media and radio profile.

What was learned:

Science is engaging

Community groups appreciate talking about something new, not commonplace topics such as crime or litter.

People are inspired by interesting science events and want more.

Tweeting, blogging and on-line surveys help spread the word.

Partnership brings extra benefits

A sparky and focused partnership can achieve a lot in a short time.

Big museums and small community organisations both face the same issue: getting more and different people through the door.

Bringing big names into local communities is great for community esteem.

Partners provide new audiences, new contacts, including for speakers.

Provide as many chances to share knowledge as possible.

Timing is key

If the grant award is made late, shortened timescales have lots of knock-on effects.

Running a shorter project means it builds momentum just when it is coming to an end.

If we did the project again:

We would hope for earlier funding, and the possibility to apply for follow-on funding at the end, to continue to develop a successful model.

Top tips and advice for others

Form relationships with local community organisations that work long-term with the audiences you want to reach.

Work hard to get media interest in events like these as it’s not an easy nut to crack.

Get marketing out early – if timescale is shortened this can be problematic.

Use lots of ways to advertise – ‘pupil post’ to primary schools, door-to-door leafleting, event literature.

Free tickets can be counterproductive – some people won’t turn up!

Make as much as possible of online marketing – blog, twitter, vodcast and podcast.

Think about the equality and diversity agenda, in particular ensuring that women are spokespeople for science as well as men. Build this in to your programme from the outset.

Enjoy what partnership can bring, including the surprises!

About this project



Project type:

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Started (approximately):

October 2008

Ended: (approximately)

March 2009

Tags for this project:

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