Our first academic journal paper from the Creative Science at Life research and development project has been published in Educational Action Research, in August 2017. Published by Routledge, the journal is concerned with exploring the dialogue between research and practice in educational settings. The focus of the paper is on the use of participatory action research (PAR) to enable university researchers and Science Centre professionals to co-design Informal Science Learning exhibits that enhance creativity and innovation in young people. We discuss how PAR enabled effective engagement with and creation of enriched knowledge and innovation, in both the academy and science-learning professionals. The added value of PAR and co-production to our project aligns with current calls in academia for a redefining of how societal impact of academic research is considered.
The team’s first poster ‘Simultaneous Human Behaviour Research & Public Engagement in Science Centres’ was presented at The European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association (EHBEA) 2017 Conference, held in Paris, 6-8 April 2017. EHBEA is an interdisciplinary society that supports the activities of European researchers with an interest in evolutionary accounts of human cognition, behaviour and society. The poster can be viewed and downloaded as a PDF. The poster is also being presented at the 2017 Culture Conference at the University of Birmingham, 25-26 May, where innovation in humans and non-humans and innovation’s role for cultural evolution will be the focus. More can be read about the project’s impact so far.
As the nights draw in and the temperature drops with the fall into autumn in here in the UK, a trip to Tampa, Florida in late September could be seen by some as an excuse to stock up on Vitamin D! Team members Andy Lloyd and Dr Hannah Rudman enjoyed a few moments in the sun in Tampa, whilst spending most of their time at ASTC 2016, the annual international conference for the Association of Science and Technology Centers.
They presented to c. 70 Science and Technology professionals interested in the interactive research pod, and the data and ethical consent gathering tools that we have “Embedded in the Exhibit”. The pod was also mentioned in the opening article of the June 2016 edition of Dimensions, the quarterly glossy magazine of the ASTC community which was given away to all conference participants.
The wider conference was launched by a lively and inspiring opening session that included “artistic astronaut”, Nicole Stott, the first person to paint a work of art in space! Her commitment to ensuring creative approaches are a part of scientific endeavour mirrors our aspirations.
Team member Dr Claire Bailey-Ross met another astronaut just a few days later at the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres’ 2016 national conference. She presented a Pecha Kucha about our project to c. 120 attendees, including UK astronaut Tim Peake, who was looking particularly 2D since his return from space…
Back at ASTC 2016, Linda Conlon, ASTC’s board chair (and chief executive of the International Centre for Life), then discussed why science centres must engage with refugees and migrants and rethink their business models if they are to survive and meet the needs of future audiences. Her key themes included the “new divide” between those who see an open world (with globalisation and technological change) as broadly beneficial and those who see these forces as threatening and destructive. The new politics of our age will not be “left versus right” but “open versus closed.” This idea links to the ASTC supported International Science Center & Science Museum Day 2016 experiment: a global citizen science observation of clouds. Science Centres and Museums all over the world are encouraging the general public to take images of clouds with their own devices between 1-22 October, then upload them via the Globe Observer app. The citizen science data will be shared with NASA to help them generate a global visualisation of cloud cover.
Back in the UK over the summer, we collected 2814 sets of data with ethical consent granted, a 79% acceptance rate from the general public to use their data for research. We are interested in how our research pod which is obviously already a popular science exhibit and research observatory, can begin to be used for/with citizen science projects. We are excited to consider how data generated and given ethical consent by the general public at the International Centre for Life can co-operate with and compliment official data, and can be shared openly.
The team have been busy again this month, developing pathways from the project for impact. Claire and Hannah were invited to share learnings and speak at the Evolution of Methodologies conference on 29th June, held at The National Glass Centre in Sunderland.
80 participants gathered to consider how artists and designers are evolving practice based research at the conference funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and organised by the Northumbria- Sunderland Centre for Doctoral Training in Art and Design.
Together, we critically interrogated practice-led research methodologies across creative disciplines. We discussed the Participatory Action Research methodology and design thinking practices which have informed the work to date. The slides of our presentation can be viewed here:
And the whole session can be watched on demand here (we start at 1:06:35):
The presentation generated a lot of discussion in the Q&A session, and the team has since been invited to contribute a chapter to a new book to be published by Routledge: ‘Transcending Disciplinarity; Reconnecting Philosophies of Research Design and Methodology in Art and Science’.
Team members Andy Lloyd and Bethan Ross shared the learnings and aspirations of the live research experiment ongoing through the interactive research pod at Centre for Life with the participants of the European conference for science centres and museums this month. The 27th Ecsite Annual Conference took place in June in Graz, Austria. It gathered 1,081 participants from 53 different countries, making it the second largest Ecsite Annual Conference ever.
As well as Beth and Andy presenting at the conference, Andy was interviewed for the European network of science centres and museums Magazine – Spokes#20 – June 2016. In it, Andy reports:
“I received a lot of interest in the live research exhibit in the Brain Zone. The experiment was devised by Anthropology researchers from Durham University. They are interested in social learning and “cumulative culture”, the way ideas are shared and passed on. Previous research with non-human primates suggest that copying is very common, but humans are especially good at innovating and being creative. Our exhibit explores how the environmental conditions influence the creativity people demonstrate. We can change whether people are able to see and interact with each other as they play with building blocks, and record what they make. Interest was very high from other science centre people, so we have created a free pdf to show what we did and how we did it, that anyone can access here. The researchers want to track how the research ideas spread, so if you do make use of any of this we would love to hear how it goes”.
We’ve added a new Resources page to this website so that anyone can download our free guide in pdf format: How To… create an Interactive Research Pod.
Over May, technical experts have been giving kudos to the interactive research pod‘s hardware set-up. Adam Boutcher, Centre for Life’s IT Systems Administrator, shared on hardware provider UBNT’s community forum the hardware set-up that he and project team member Bethan Ross have iterated to highly resilient levels. Within a week, the new post has already received 13 kudos points from community members, building on 8 kudos points Adam’s initial post received.
Adam explains in the forum post the improvements made to the original hardware set-up to solve some of the initial problems the team had during piloting phase (the camera viewing angles weren’t wide enough, and visitors tried to move the cameras). The hardware system solution had to enable automatic digital data collection, capturing user activity at an exhibit.
By using dome cameras on the pod, we were able to widen out the camera angle to capture more user activity:
We used heavy duty glue to secure the cameras in their housing to make sure the dome cameras do not move when they are touched. We also chose to keep on the plastic lens covers the dome cameras were packaged with (the cameras are part of a fixed exhibit which has to endure an expected lifetime of 5-8 years).
The overhead camera was mounted high enough above the pod to capture activity across all three workstations in the pod.
The interactive research pod’s final hardware list is:
- 3x Linx 10″ Windows 10 Tablets
- 3x Unifi Video Dome Cameras (UVC Dome)
- 1x Unifi Video Camera (UVC)
- 1x UniFi Switch 8 Port (Beta model)
- 1x UniFi AP (UAP)
- 1x Server (Dual Core Xeon, 6GB Ram, 128GB SSD, 2x 3TB HDD in RAID1) – Running Apache2, MySQL, (LimeSurvey) and UniFi Video
Adam also shared on the forum the shell script he wrote to join all the video camera recordings together, using ffmpeg to automate a daily video export, which has also received kudos. This allows the digital video data collected at the Centre for Life to automatically be transferred to Durham University’s secure server, where it is hosted to enable Durham researchers to analyse it.
Many thanks to Adam for his solution focussed approach to solving the IT hardware and data transfer issues. The external kudos he is receiving from the UBNT forum is echoed by the project team.
The Chair of the Wellcome Trust, Baroness Manningham-Buller visited the interactive research pod, and spoke to the Design for Creativity and Innovation in Informal Science Learning team of academic researchers and science centre practitioners. The team explained to the Baroness about the live science experiments we are undertaking with it, and the research outcomes we might see. The Baroness officially opened the Brain Zone gallery at the Centre for Life, where the interactive research pod is hosted amongst other exhibits that engage people with exploring how our brains work.
The Brain Zone has had input from practitioners and designers, and also from from a wide-range of scientists and researchers, from neuroscientists to psychologists. However, our multidisciplinary team of academics from Durham University broadened out the disciplines represented to include anthropology, digital humanities, and computer scientists! Continue reading “Chair of Wellcome Trust visits exhibit pod”