Joining the Positive Tipping Points Community of Practice

We’re delighted to have been accepted into the Positive Tipping Points Community of Practice run by the University of Exeter’s Green Futures Network. Alongside 15 other individuals and organisations across the world, we’ve joined this group to learn and share ideas on how to put the Positive Tipping Points Framework into practice.

What are Positive Tipping Points, we hear you cry? The climate is a complicated system and sometimes very sensitive to small changes. A little nudge in the right direction could lead to a really big positive difference. These nudges could be anything from more people using electric cars to the regeneration of tropical rainforests. Small acts can collectively make a big difference. Here’s scientist Prof. Tim Lenton from the University of Exeter describing it in a bit more detail.

Climate exhibition update – in collaboration with our communities

We’re really excited to have received a grant from the Science and Technology Facilities Council to repeat and improve on our successful exhibition that we delivered in March 2022, all about climate: on Earth, and other planets.

The exhibition will be repeated in the second week of September 2023 during the British Science Festival in Exeter. As part of this funding we have taken on our first employee Ross Castle to lead on the community engagement and resulting re-design of the exhibition. Ross was an incredibly committed volunteer during our first exhibition and is using the next few months to meet with a wide range of people from our local community who will all help to improve and steer the new exhibition. We’re really excited to find out what matters to local people and how to help make climate science more relevant and accessible. You can check out the virtual tour of our previous exhibition here.

If you’ve got any ideas about how to improve it, or questions you want answered we would love to hear from you. Get in touch!

ESC Joins the Mindsets + Missions Cohort

We are thrilled to join the Mindsets + Missions cohort, as part of 45 UK organisations and individuals, with the aim of engaging underrepresented groups with knowledge, research and innovation.

The programme has emerged from a significant amount of work to understand the role of museums and science centres in a future society; we’re especially inspired by the Science and Discovery Centre Futures: Missions and Opportunities report and the Mindsets for Museums of the Future report.

This programme will help science and discovery centres and museums to reach new audiences, and enable “future citizens” from diverse backgrounds to contribute to making a positive future. This strongly aligns with our ambitions! In our application to the programme, we summarised our thoughts on our vision for future citizens, and the role of research, knowledge and innovation in supporting future citizens – here’s what we said:

We want a future citizen to be informed, inspired and empowered to help make the kind of fair and sustainable society we all want to live in. We hope they will have an awareness and understanding of global issues, and feel they have a role to play in tackling these issues both locally and globally, in the work they do and the way they live their lives.

We see research, knowledge and innovation (RK&I) as providing hope, motivation and opportunities to future citizens. RK&I have an important role in understanding and finding solutions to global issues, and we feel that if the public is better connected to this process, we can work together to enact the changes we need in society to tackle these issues. We see the important role of science centres and other cultural organisations as the bridge between researchers, industry professionals and the public, to facilitate this interaction.

We strongly believe that involving the public meaningfully with RK&I, through these bridging organisations, is the way to enable and get the support from future citizens and hence create a better society: which is why our entire (charitable) business model is based on this approach.

More details on the programme can be found on the Association for Science and Discovery Centres website (of which we’re an active member). Stay tuned for updates as we take part in the programme!

Mindsets + Missions is funded by UK Research and Innovation in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and delivered by Museums Association, The Liminal Space and the Association for Science and Discovery Centres.

First Exeter Science Centre Pop-Up!

First Exeter Science Centre Pop-Up!

Exeter Science Centre’s first ever pop-up exhibition, “Breaking the Ice” was a great success! We welcomed more than 1200 visitors over two weekends and had over 30 volunteers supporting us! Thank you so much to everyone that visited.

For two long weekends in British Science Week (March) 2022, we showcased an amazing exhibition in Maketank in Exeter, for people of all ages to meet the local scientists involved in some inspiring research, and get involved with our plans to make a STEAMM discovery centre in the city.

The exhibition was centred around climate modelling – which not only helps us to understand our own climate and how it is changing, but also the climates on other planets! With funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), we created the exhibition in collaboration with artists, astrophysicists and climate scientists at the University of Exeter and the Met Office, and with Space Youth Services.

Exeter is home to the largest number of meteorologists and climate change specialists in the UK, along with a world-leading astrophysics research department in exoplanet climates.

Through hands-on activities, out-of-this-world VR experiences, and chats with the exhibition Mediators, we took our visitors on a journey to explore current research into planetary climates, and to see how it fits into the bigger picture here on Earth.

Throughout the exhibition, we wanted to understand our visitors’ feelings about this pale blue dot called Earth. What makes it special? How can we better protect its inhabitants? As part of the event, we also launched our public consultation for the Exeter Science Centre building! We were delighted to read all the ideas and feedback displayed on our tree of ideas – and we’ll summarise these in our upcoming report.
To find out more about the exhibition, check out the resource page here.

Natalie and Alice in the February EXIST Insight Issue

Natalie and Alice have been featured in the February 2022 edition of Insight, a digital programme showcasing the leaders at the heart of Exeter’s STEMM community, produced by the Exeter Initiative for Science & Technology (EXIST).

The interview covers the story so far and Exeter Science Centre’s plans for the future. According to the Chair of EXIST, Conrad Gillespie: “The STEAMM partners’ passion for their new venture shines through in this interview and is a great read.”.

Check it out here:

Thanks to EXIST / One Voice Media for the photo!

Phage Therapy Citizen Science Project Launched!

We are delighted to be working with Dr Ben Temperton and his team from the University of Exeter to run an important citizen science project about phage therapy over the next year.

Phage therapy is a promising alternative (or a complementary treatment) to antibiotics. The historical overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to the global issue of antimicrobial resistance, where bacteria become strongly resistant to antibiotics or other disinfectants, leading to dangerous “superbugs” including MRSA. The World Health Organisation has recognised this issue as one of the top 10 global health threats facing humanity.

Phages (short for bacteriophages) are viruses, but unlike coronavirus or flu, they infect and kill bacteria. There are more phages on the Earth than there are stars in the Universe and they exist everywhere that bacteria do. The use of these phages to treat bacterial infections was developed predominantly in Georgia, Russia and Poland, even before antibiotics were discovered! With the rise of antibiotic resistance, scientists are starting to rediscover phage therapy as a treatment for bacterial infections, either in conjunction with antibiotics or as an alternative to them, and it is gradually starting to be used in serious “superbug” cases.

In this project, Dr Temperton and his team need the help of citizen scientists to become Phage Hunters, to seek out phages in the natural environment and help build a phage library for the UK.

We will be recruiting Phage Hunters from communities across the South West, particularly those who would not normally have opportunities to engage with scientific research – both school children and adults will be taking part. We are launching our first school workshops this term, and in early 2022 we’ll be working with community builders across the region to recruit more phage hunters. We’re really hoping this is the start of a significant project for both science and society, and we’re thrilled to be able to contribute!

Follow our progress on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and check out our resource page which we’ll be updating throughout the project.

Pop-up exhibition postponed until March 2022

We’re sad to say that we have postponed our STFC-funded “Breaking the Ice”, climate-themed pop-up exhibition until British Science Week in March 2022, due to concerns about another COVID-19 peak.

Although this is disappointing, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to engage the public much more in the whole process of creating it. Keep an eye on our social media for opportunities to be part of creating a really exciting exhibition!

Pop-up Science Centre in August!

NOTE: The pop-up has been postponed until March 2022 due to COVID-19.

We’re delighted to announce that we have been awarded an STFC Spark Award grant to fund a pop-up exhibition in August! For two long weekends, we’ll be showcasing an amazing exhibition in Maketank in Exeter, for people to meet the scientists involved in some inspiring local research, and get involved with our plans to make a STEAMM discovery centre in the city.

We’re collaborating with a fantastic team of scientists from the University of Exeter and local artists to make the exhibition, centred around climate modelling – which helps us not only understand our own climate and how it is changing, but also the climates on other planets! Exeter is home to the largest number of meteorologists and climate change specialists in the UK, along with a world-leading astrophysics research department in exoplanet climates. We’re excited to show how astrophysicists and climate scientists are working together to better understand the climate on Earth, along with other planets in and outside our solar system. By looking out into the Universe at the many wild and wonderful exoplanets – with day temperatures over 700°C or glass rain showers – we want to highlight how precious our extremely habitable planet is, and how we can better look after it.

As part of this event, we want to launch our public consultation for the Exeter Science Centre building! We’ll be exploring ways for the public to share their ideas and views with us and help us imagine what the science centre could be like. Stay tuned for updates!

Great Conjunction Article Published!

Throughout November and December 2020 we worked with the University of Exeter Astrophysics Group and Interwoven Productions to celebrate the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, culminating in a live stream on 20th December, which has been viewed over 300,000 times on YouTube!

Dr Claire Davies has written an article about this project, which was accepted for publication in the April 2021 issue of the Royal Astronomical Society’s Astronomy and Geophysics (A&G) magazine. The article is now available on the A&G website, as well as being freely available on the arXiv.

Dr Sam Morrell has presented a short talk on how the livestream was carried out, along with the engagement statistics, at the Communicating Astronomy with the Public Conference (CAP) 2021. He has also written this up in a conference proceeding document. The video can be viewed in full on YouTube and the conference proceeding can be read here (or in full on the CAP 2021 webpage here).

We’re keen to share our experiences and resources for others to emulate in future, so thanks to Dr Davies and Dr Morrell for preparing these articles and videos!

The resources from the event, including videos and details of the community outreach work with Interwoven Productions can be found on the dedicated webpage,