Researchers´ Night in Madrid 2011 is a project which involves the main Universities and Research Centres in the Region as well as two National Scientific Associations within the framework of the European Researchers´ Night. University of Alcalá submit to European Competition for Best Innovations in University Outreach and Public Engagement the activities specially programmed for this project, which aims at bringing the researchers
closer to the public and at enhancing public recognition of researchers. This will be done by means of the development of festive activities, targeted to the public at large, in a special outdoor location -Royal Botanical Garden Juan Carlos I- at a special time: nightfall.
In line with these general aims, the project will focus on the following specific objectives:
1. Achieving a better understanding and perception of the researchers´ work
2. Showing how research careers benefit society
3. Putting in direct contact researchers and the public and fostering the interaction between them
4. Involving young people in the activities and showing them the attractiveness of research careers
5. Attaining a wide participation of the general public in the activities performed
The project included the promotion, organisation and assessment of the activities for the Researchers´ Night. The activities during the Night offered by University of Alcala were:
Bacteria light the night
The purpose of this activity was to show a new type of renewable energy. The biotechnology makes possible to turn the chemical energy contained in the vegetable residues into electric power by means of natural bacteria, cellulose degrader, whose natural habitat is the rumen or paunch of the ruminants as goats and cows. The activity includes two types of tests:
- A demonstration of the process on a small scale, where the audience were able to see and understand how a bioelectronic reactor works, where the microorganisms transform organic matter, as cellulose, into electricity.
- A field demonstration where the vegetable residues of the Botanical Garden were degraded and converted into electricity by action of the microorganisms obtained of the ruminants of the Ecological Farm of the Botanical Garden. This served to feed different electric devices, as small lamps.
The audience were get in touch with a new form of renewable energy that uses natural resources as the cellulose and the microorganisms of ruminants as natural catalysts.
Nine reserchears were involved in this activity, and they expected around 250 attendees.
(Bio)chemistry light for a bright night
The main objective was to teach and explain the different ways of obtaining light through (bio)chemical reactions involved. The variety of light were showed through luminous phenomena (fluorescence and bioluminescence) and pyrotechnical reactions. The activity was based on the audience’s participation during the explanations as an effective means for understanding the (bio)chemical phenomena shown. The activity took place in a scheduled circuit which began with a didactic video on pyrotechnic chemistry. The tour continued with an explanation of fluorescence, to show the effect of various fluorescent substances and to offer a summary of some of its applications in biochemistry and medicine. Following this, bioluminescence was explained, to show how light is also produced by certain living organisms. The circuit was completed by showing and explaining the chemical reactions occurred in different pyrotechnic devices.
Nine researchers were involved in the activity, and they expected around 300 attendees.
Five sessions of both activities were programmed in order to attend people as much as possible. "Bacteria light the night" started at 19:30, 20:15, 21:00, 21:45 and 22:30, and "(Bio)chemistry light for a bright night" started at 19:00, 19:45, 20:30, 21:15 and 22:00. In this way, anyone who came to our Researchers´ Night at University of Alcala Botanical Garden could attend all the experiments and to be in touch with researchers of both activities.
Chorus of University of Alcala, mainly composed of professors and researchers, put the final touch.
Finally, 788 people came at University of Alcala Botanical Garden between 18:30 to 23:30 h on September 23, 2011. One person of the organazing team was at the entrance counting attendees caming in all the time.
- Assess the impact of the event, special attention being paid to possible evolution of the public perception of researchers and their work.
- Identify possible evolution of public perception of researchers with respect to the previous edition.
According to the statistics of the latest Report on National Perceptions about Science and Technology, most of the Spanish citizens have an increasing positive perception of Science and Technology (56.4%). However, there is still work to be done in improving the public perception of science and science careers, in increasing the number of young people embarking in scientific careers, in tackling stereotypes of researchers and
research profession, etc.
Questionnaires addressed to attendees; 92 were answered. The audience was mostly family, especially in the early hours. Starting at 21:30 hours, it showed a greater presence of young people between 18 and 25 years old. According to the questionnaires, 43,47% of the public of the activities was above 25 years old, about 48,91% were women and 44,54% didn't have university education. 23,91% of the public declared to have a low level of scientific knowledge. 90% of the people asked would attend a new edition of the Researchers´ Night and about that percentage considered that initiative necessary and fundamental for the progress of society. 51,08% of the people declared to get better idea about reserachers work after attend the activities.