Last May, some fellow scientists and I spent three lovely sunny afternoons inside a basement room at Café String, Södermalm, in Stockholm. On that Tuesday, sound check was done and projector in place on an improvised table in the center of the dark room. The venue was not ideal due to the short time we had to make this happen, but we did our best to bring Pint of Science to Stockholm.
Pint of Science happens in more than 300 cities worldwide in May, every year. The concept originated from an event called “Meet the Researchers” organized by Dr. Michael Motskin and Dr. Praveen Paul in England, in 2012. These two scientists invited people affected by brain disorders, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, to their labs to learn about ongoing research. Seeing that people enjoyed this experience, they decided to take the research to them, outside the lab.
Suddenly, scientists were giving lay talks about their research in pubs, the commonest after-work meeting place in England. This way, people could learn and discuss about scientific facts while having a pint of beer. Pint of Science was born and became an annual event that quickly spread all over the world, including Stockholm, in 2019.
our vision for the Pint of Science: a place where the public meets the scientists to learn and discuss with them about the science behind everything we know and to ask them questions that the scientists probably never asked themselves.
On that Tuesday, it was my task to host the event. Neuroscientist Konstantina Kilteni from Karolinska Institutet (KI) explained “Why can’t we tickle ourselves?” and the engaged audience was curious to know more at the end of the talk. An interactive quiz combined fun, scientific facts and competition among the crowd, and made the bridge to the second speaker, Mart Smith, from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). We were thrilled listening about his Mentorspace in Kista, a place with no hierarchies, where anyone can teach and learn, where he brings together students and mentors to jointly develop technology projects connected to real life problems.
This concluding talk, I thought later on, matched perfectly our vision for the Pint of Science: a place where the public meets the scientists to learn and discuss with them about the science behind everything we know and to ask them questions that the scientists probably never asked themselves. These events are essential to bring down barriers between the scientists and the general public, improve science awareness and, consequently, help the public judging critically the scientific basis of news they come across every day.
The three days in the basement did end with a feeling of mission accomplished, however we also felt a desire to make it even better. We had inspiring science talks, engaged audience and smiling faces leaving the venue but we were still missing a good number of non-scientist attendees in order to reach our goal of targeting the general public. This is a main challenge when organizing popular science events.
I wonder whether other groups are hard to reach also because they might think scientific events are too complicated or not fun!?
Our own networks are full of scientists like us – it is always easier to spread the word within our institutes and universities (and finding there people immediately excited to join) than reaching non-scientists. I wonder whether other groups are hard to reach also because they might think scientific events are too complicated or not fun?
We believe that hosting such events in public places, such as pubs or cafes, will slowly make people aware of them and, hopefully, more interested. And the more opportunities scientists have to speak to different audiences, the better prepared they will be, and new events will become more engaging every time. Moreover, we must keep trying to reach the local media channels and make them aware of the importance of sharing science with the public.
On 24 November, at Stallet, Kungsträdgården in Stockholm, actors, musicians and dancers will interpret and create art pieces based on scientific talks and data from real experiments
The Stockholm team has decided to continue bringing science to the city throughout the year, with monthly events happening in Temple Bar, Gamla Stan. Besides the talks, we want to try different formats – events like speed dating with scientists, quizzes, live experiments on stage and many more, to continue the efforts of increasing scientific awareness in Stockholm.
For me, another unique event called “Moving Across – Where Art Meets Science” is coming up. On 24 November, at Stallet, Kungsträdgården in Stockholm, actors, musicians and dancers will interpret and create art pieces based on scientific talks and data from real experiments. With this mixture, we want to explore the artistic side of science intermingled with scientific concepts. I think it will be as interesting for scientists as for the general public to understand that science has a lot of artistic work in it too. I will hopefully see you there!