In today’s science world, seeing diversity in STEM is as important as ever which is why it is equally important to see the same focus across science festivals. Here at FOSAC we understand the importance of promoting diversity in all aspects of our festival and we are actively taking steps to both understand and prioritise this.
Diversity and accessibility often go hand in hand and from the very beginning the festival has been all about making science more accessible for all. Since its inception the festival has aspired to actively engage new and diverse audiences with all things science and curiosity. The festival does this by taking activities out to accessible spaces in local communities, engaging with audiences who might not traditionally feel connected to the world of science. However, in recent years we have come to recognise our failings in explicitly tackling inherent racial inequality and lack of opportunity within our work.
The festival exists within a complex ecosystem with many players (schools, universities, research institutions, businesses) and many interwoven factors impacting the representation of people from different backgrounds within our programme. During the 2021 festival, we brought together some of these players for our Diversity in STEM discussion to openly explore the issues and begin to see how we can work together to make change happen.
This has impacted the way we have been working with our partner organisations to design a programme that is more representative of the diversity of people working in science and of course our young people and families in Nottingham, and to begin to target our projects for specific audiences. One of the key programmes we have been working on is with the Excel in Science programme at the University of Nottingham.
What is Excel in Science?
An innovative programme designed to provide and expose students from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM, to the ins and outs of working in a research lab and all that it entails. Its objective? To inspire a new and diverse generation of research scientists by promoting opportunities in an important sector of society where there is a longstanding lack of diversity.
It not only allows students access to what is otherwise inaccessible to them, but gives them the unique opportunity to really engage with their field of interest and equipping them with the knowledge, relevant experience, both practical and professional skills to embark on a journey to a career in a sector that is not only continually developing but one that really pushes the boundaries for development.
As part of this programme, the students will work together to develop a personal project for the festival – a community engagement initiative that reflects their enthusiasm for their subject areas, research projects and general passion for science. Earlier this month, we delivered a session with the students about public engagement, science capital and the variety of projects delivered through the Festival. We’ll be supporting the Excel students to develop their ideas and include them in the Festival programme.
A message from the Project Manager:
Charlotte May says, “Excel in Science is designed to address diversity challenges in Science and inspire future leaders. A part of our programme is a series of internships, providing undergraduate students with the opportunity to experience paid research opportunities and contribute to their academic community. Another key aspect of our programme is public engagement: we want to reach new and diverse audiences, demystifying what it means to be a researcher and conduct scientific research. The students undertaking these internships will be working with Rick and Megan from Ignite Futures to find new ways to share their love of research with communities to inspire future scientists.”
And still we are aware that there is more to be done. We’re working to ensure that we improve the representation across all our workshops and activities, and particularly on The Curiosity Show, our series of five hour-long children’s television programmes on Notts TV, as well as engaging with youth and community groups across Nottinghamshire.
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