A great science event, family oriented, takes place all over Europe across more than 300 cities since 2005, on the fourth Friday of September. This is Researchers’ Night and it’s about showing what researchers really do for society, in interactive and engaging ways.

Ireland participated twice, in 2011 and 2012. Both times Galway city hosted the event and NUIG were the organizers. The chosen subjects were sea, sky and space and the event was called Sea2Sky.

Sea2Sky attracted up to 10 000 visitors and the organizers were interested to assess the promotion and the impact of the science event and to rate the public interest in these subjects: sea, sky, space. The assessment was done through surveys, which I distributed and collected on the day of the event. In 2011 about 500 surveys were distributed and 378 collected and in 2012 about 600 surveys were distributed and 248 collected. The surveys were similar, except a few questions.  The incentive for answering the questions was the chance to participate in a draw for an iPod in 2011 and for a gift voucher in 2012. It looks like the iPod worked better as an incentive, with a response rate of 75%. The surveys can be downloaded below:

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A bit of statistics theory before getting to the reports:
The analysis is based on significance testing: a number called significance probability or p value is calculated which quantifies the extent to which the data cast doubt on the null hypothesis –  the lower p value, the more evidence that the results didn’t occur by chance. In the analysis I used the level of significance α=0.05 and the null hypothesis was that there is no difference in answers between genders or age groups. Thus significant difference means that the results didn’t occur by chance, if the p-value is less than 0.05. Note that the p-value is not the probability of the null hypothesis being true, in other words p=0.02 doesn’t mean that the probability of finding a difference occurring by chance is 0.02, but we have conditional probability:p=0.02 is the probability of obtaining a difference as the one calculated from the data, assuming there is no difference.

Further I will present a few interesting results. The full reports can be downloaded bellow:
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In both years the proportion of females in the sample of respondents is greater than the proportion of males. In 2011 over 80% of the respondents and in 2012 nearly 60% were of school age . This is not surprising as before 2pm the main visitors were the booked in schools. There is no significant difference between genders within each age group.

First question was about where they found out about Sea2Sky the participants could choose more than one answer. Main source of information was school, as expected by the large number of school age respondents. Adults listed nearly equally school, newspaper, saw a sign and other sources (at work).

When asked to list the reasons for attending the event most of the respondents mentioned at least one reason. The distribution of answer is presented on the following diagrams:

In 2011 there was an interesting result. Only the answer “I am/want to be a scientist/engineer” produces significant difference between genders: 30.5% of males and 12.% of females are or want to be scientists/engineers.

The respondents were asked to express in their own words what they liked most or least about Sea2Sky festival and what else would like to see in the future.

In 2011 the most popular subject (20.2%) was Sea, double than the Space(10.1%) and in 2012 the situation reversed and Space (21.9%) was the most popular, Sea(12.6%) ranking third. In 2012 doubled the proportions of the respondents that mostly appreciated the various exhibitions and the interactive experiments. In both years about the same proportion of respondents appreciated the child-friendly atmosphere at the festival. For more details see the reports.

When asked what they liked least both years about the same proportion of respondents answered that they disliked nothing or like everything (41.1% in 2011 and 40.5% in 2012). The visitors mostly disliked the crowds, noise, heat, queues. Some didn’t like experimenting/feeling the seaweed. Some complained that there wasn’t enough time for so many activities in one day. For more details see the reports.

In 2012 most of the respondents reported that next year they would like to see even more science/experiments/shows. Others would like to know more about space and NASA discoveries, technology, robots, submarines, etc. Some would like just more entertainment and free or less expensive refreshments. More details to be found in the reports.



Females and males are about equally interested in Sea and Sky. The 2011 report indicates that males(71.%) are more “interested a lot” in Space than female(55.9%). The 2012 report indicates that children are more “interested a lot” in Sky(46.6%) and Space(72.6%) than their parents (37.2% and 43.9% correspondingly).

The organisers of the event were particularly interested how the visitors, especially the younger ones, interacted with the scientists/researchers, how they felt about participating and whether they got a better understanding of science. The following diagrams show the distribution of answers in 2012. The answers in 2011 were similar.






There are more questions about the interest in sea, sky, space and how well the organisers covered these subjects, also whether the respondents see improvement in 2012 comparing to 2011 in terms of location, parking, volunteers, cafes, crowds and queues. For more information download the reports following the links above.

Finally the respondents were asked whether they would come next year. About 98% said “yes ” in 2011 and about 95% in 2012. One curious thing is that just about 30% of the respondents in 2012 have been to the festival in 2011. It remains to see how is going to be 2013 festival.

Another science festival is taking place in Galway each November: Galway Science and Technology Festival founded to bridge the gap between young people and industry and encourage students to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects at third level. The event takes place over two-week period, during which a lot of science shows are brought to schools throughout Galway city and county. The festival is ended with a Final Day Exhibition at NUI Galway. In 2011 I prepared a survey similar to Sea2Sky which was distributed among the visitors of the exhibition. The report based on 516 surveys, can be downloaded, following the link below:

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