Increasing Access to Science Education Through Unconventional Approaches


Science Cafes Discussion

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

Imperial’s Global Development Hub celebrated the International Day of Education with a panel on unconventional approaches to science education.

Arising from a resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2018, the International Day of Education, observed on the 24th of January, is an annual reaffirmation of quality education as a human right and a key driver for sustainable development in line with the targets established in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4. 

SDG 4 encourages a practice of lifelong learning, although this does not need to be confined to a typical classroom setting. Science education in particular can benefit from informal, accessible settings and can flourish outside of the boundaries of a traditional classroom or laboratory. 

Inclusive Science Learning Spaces 

Science, with its highly technical concepts and the jargon-filled language often used to describe it, can sometimes be viewed as inaccessible, intimidating, and exclusionary.  

However, a variety of models have arisen to encourage public participation in science, while offering inclusive and accessible spaces of science learning. This could occur through lectures and speaker panels, such as those hosted by the Royal Institution, or as part of more grassroots science conversations through organisations such as Pint of Science or at Science Cafés. 


International Day of Education Speaker Panel Explores Science Cafés 

To celebrate the International Day of Education, Imperial’s Global Development Hub hosted a speaker panel to discuss Science Cafés – an unconventional approach to education.  

Dr. Mike Tennant, Vice-Dean of Education in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, chaired the event, moderating a discussion among panelists including: 

  • Wealth Okete: Co-Founder of Science Café in Nigeria 
  • Ana Antunes Gomes: Communications Manager at Pint of Science Portugal 
  • Dr. Daniel Glaser: Director of Science Engagement at The Royal Institution 

The event featured an open discussion about methods to raise awareness and engagement in science, with a special look at the role of Science Cafés.  

Dr. Daniel Glaser shared that Science Cafés, also known as Cafés Scientifique, were not originally convened in a typical science space. They were instead “held in a space that was owned and controlled by the audience.” These events have been held in community spaces, cafés, theatres, and even local pubs. 

Through informal spaces, away from labs or work settings, scientists and community members engage in conversation using clear and simple vocabulary so that there are no barriers to understanding. Because of this, Ana Gomes said that the power of Science Cafés and organisations such as Pint of Science are their ability to take “scientists to the people.” This act of sharing science is especially pertinent because, in many countries, scientific research is financed through public funds. Ana Gomes said that Science Cafés are able to give “back to the people the knowledge they allow us to produce.”  

Science Cafés promote conversations about science that include personalised and culturally relevant information. Wealth Okete said that Science Cafés bring together scientists and members of the public to “discuss science and look at how it affects their life.” A two-way dialogue allows the audience to discuss topics that are of interest to them, while scientists benefit from audience questions and feedback that may challenge them to look at their scientific research in a new light. This provides a space for co-education where people can learn from each other. 

Science Cafés put scientists and community members on a level playing field, aimed to empower the audience to take control and ownership of their science education. Dr. Glaser discussed the importance of cultivating an atmosphere that encourages a participative approach, or what he called a “lean forward approach” to science engagement. He expressed the importance of helping “people to understand that their voice should be heard in a scientific conversation, that they are allowed to participate.” 


Jaclyn Estrin

Jaclyn Estrin
International Relations Office

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