I recently did some work at the Edinburgh Science Festival, which attempts to engage the public with science, particularly young children. While I’d like to say that this work was voluntary, it wasn’t, and this underlies something which I see as a far more serious problem.
The supposed aim of the Science Festival is to make science accessible, and to introduce it to the public, who may otherwise remain uninterested. This goal, I think, is worthwhile, particularly when you consider various reports that have appeared this year. However I can’t help thinking that the festival fails on two accounts:
- It only attracts people who are already interested in science.
- It charges for entry, and for a number of the ‘attractions.’
While the former is difficult to avoid, short of breaking into peoples living-rooms and offering to extract DNA from their bacon sandwich, the latter poses a serious and potentially avoidable problem. Charging has two effects, firstly discouraging people from dropping in casually, but more importantly excluding those from less financially secure backgrounds.
Science should be accessible to everyone, not just those with enough money. Yet an event which is meant to increase the accessibility of science still sees fit to exclude a significant number of people on a financial basis.
Now I’m aware that these things cost money to run, yet there are ways of helping meet costs. For one get people to work voluntarily, many will be happy to if actually given a push. Raise other revenue by increased sponsorship (There was some already) and voluntary donations. Alternatively, if this results in a shortfall the least you could do is offer free trips to schools from under-privileged areas.
I know this isn’t all idealistic pipe-dreams as I have seen it achieved in other organisations and groups, such as CHAOS. Why the Edinburgh Science Festival cannot achieve the same thing, I don’t know.