Audience monitoring and science capital

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Over the past thirty years, we have seen an evolution in audience insight and monitoring from measuring ‘bums on seats’ towards understanding reach and learning outcomes. Today organisations are collecting more participant data than ever before, yet there remain real challenges around how useful the data is to developing practice and the extent to which data can be aggregated at a system level to allow us to see ‘the bigger picture’.

This project set out to investigate the tools Informal Science Learning (ISL) professionals use to assess and monitor audiences. We focused on evaluating the potential of ScienceCapital-informed monitoring data, and tested the appetite for shared tools and methods amongst ISL practitioners. The work was funded by UKRI and jointly delivered with the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE), the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC),the British Science Association (BSA); with support from Professor Louise Archer, University College London, and John Knell, consultant and UK director of Culture Counts

Working closely with these stakeholders, we:

  • Collated and summarised the tools ISL professionals currently use to assess and monitor audiences and find out what the limitations are of these.
  • Explored what data practitioners, academics, policymakers and funders want to gather about audiences.
  • Investigated how people are using the concept of Science Capital to inform their practice and their monitoring and evaluation.
  • Investigated what other concepts and trends are informing data capture.
  • Scoped ways to explore the relationship between Science Capital measures and other audience data being collected or referenced (e.g. the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, demographic data, geographic location).
  • Tested the appetite for a shared tool for audience monitoring and measuring Science Capital.
  • Developed a set of recommendations which would then inform potential follow on activity initiatives to help people embed Science Capital in their work.

I conducted and oversaw forty semi-structured interviews with museums, universities, STEM engagement businesses, science festivals, science and discovery centres, civil society organisations and funders. A roundtable event informed our final report and recommendations.

The outputs from this project included a report outlining:

  • The current audience monitoring landscape, including challenges that organisations experience and innovative approaches to addressing these.
  • The uptake ofScience Capital approaches in informal STEM engagement, including barriers to implementation.
  • Recommendations to enhance how organisations monitor and share data about their audiences and participants, both current and potential.
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