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The 2021 BIG Event Online

Once again, the BIG Event will be held online, and this time Cardiff University are playing host!  

With approximately 25 hours of STEM Communication content and great networking opportunities, we hope you can join us in July. 

Session dates are as follows:

July 14, 15 & 16
July 19, 20, 21,22 & 23
View the Programme to see what's on offer

Conference Fees

  • £95 - Full conference (includes access to all sessions* and BIG membership)
  • £60 - Members Registration (includes access to all sessions*; log in to register) 
  • £77 - Speaker Rate (includes access to all sessions*, BIG membership and a speaker discount; registration code required)
  • £42 - Speaker Rate for Members (includes access to all sessions*; you will need to log in and have your Speaker code to register) 

Each session will take place on Zoom and all sessions will be included in your Conference Fee. Some sessions may have limited space or other restrictions. View the Draft programme below to see what's on offer. 

We hope that our events moving online will allow many more of our Members to join sessions. Please feel free to attend sessions in the way that suits your current situation whether that’s with a baby or child in tow, with your camera on or off, or dropping in and out of a session. If there is any way we can support you further, please email and we will do our best. 

Wednesday, 14 July

Sparking Excitement about Electricity

Electricity activities can be challenging. What is the baseline of knowledge you can expect? What misconceptions are pupils likely to have? What can you do to extend and excite?

Jackie Flaherty (Ogden Trust) will share her enormous experience in schools and some of the creative activities she has helped to develop. Sarah Bearchell (Lightyear Foundation) will share ways to make electrical experiments accessible to pupils with special educational needs. (KS1-3 and SEN)

Date and time of session:
Wednesday 14 July, 10:00am-11:00am

Lead Contact:
Sarah Bearchell, STEM Lead

Jackie Flaherty, Teaching and Learning Lead, The Ogden Trust

SOCIAL: New to BIG? Come to this social session

Are you new to BIG?

Is this your first BIG Event?

Haven't been to BIG for a long time and want to meet some people?

If you are any of the above, this social session is for you! Come along to an informal social gathering and meet some of the BIG Exec as well as other new folk to the BIG family. One of the best things about the BIG Event is the networking and all the amazing people you get to meet, so start meeting people here in a relaxed atmosphere.

Feel free to bring some lunch, or not. This social session is all about meeting people and being relaxed, so come as you are and have fun!

Date and time of session:
Wednesday 14 July, 11:15am -12:15pm

Science Busking during Covid (how to get back onto the horse)

Science busking is a wholly open invitation to play and investigate the world around us.  We really believe this to be true and see busking as almost the ultimate face to face science communication experience, as audiences are gathered, grown and interacted with in diverse locations from Isle of Wight ferries to the Great wall of China.

 But what happens when circumstances make it much harder to busk face to face, Can you busk on line?

Join pre and post Covid busking researchers and a busking trainer, as we compare busking scenarios and look at some pre and post Covid busking routines.

Date and time of session:
Wednesday 14 July, 1:00pm-2:00pm

Lead Contact:
David Price, Science Communicator

Dr Siân Morgan; Research Associate; School of Optometry and Vision Sciences; Cardiff University
Elena Koudouna, PhD; Marie Skƚodowska-Curie Fellow; School of Optometry & Vision Sciences; Cardiff University
Fanny Petibon; PhD Candidate; University of Zürich (UZH); Soil science and Biogeochemistry
Dr. Cornelia Krug; Science Liaison Officer; Institute for Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies; University of Zurich

Engaging STEM in Entrance Ways.

Engaging entrance ways.

We have tried to find and use new and inventive ways to engage with the public in our public spaces.

Our session will highlight how we have begun to use this space to engage with different audiences, improve their science capital and share knowledge. It hasn’t got to all be posters of upcoming event or school hall looking displays.

We also would like to invite people attending the session to share their ideas of how they would like to be engaged in an entry way/walkway and hear their opinions on what we have done so far and our future plans.

Date and time of session:
Wednesday 14 July, 3:00pm-4:00pm

Lead Contact:
Clair Griffiths, Community Science Communictor  

Dawn Pavey, Projects Officer
Vaughan York, Community Outreach Coordinator

Engineering with Paper: Amazing Projects with Simple Materials

Access to supplies is often a barrier to learning yet amazing projects can be made with just paper, tape and scissors. Paper is a wonderfully versatile material and a great medium for introducing students to engineering fundamentals.  It is so commonly used for drawing and writing but most people don’t know how to use it for 3-dimensional projects. Using engineering with paper techniques, you will learn how to guide students through creative, curriculum based interactive STEAM projects. This workshop will get you cutting, folding and building with paper in minutes, and prepare you to implement new hands on activities.

Date and time of session:
Wednesday 14 July, 4:30pm-5:30pm

Lead Contact:
Godwyn Morris, Director

Thursday, 15 July

Developing young STEM communicators

One of the most rewarding aspects of STEM communication is working with young people to support them to become STEM communicators themselves. The session leaders work with sixth form students to train them to deliver activities in a variety of contexts: Royal Institution Masterclasses, their own school STEM Clubs and school projects which go out into the community. We’ll share some of what we do, discuss the impact of the past year on the projects, and get you all to have a go at some of the training activities. We’ll ask you to share your own experiences of what works well (and doesn’t work) when engaging with young people in similar contexts and discuss some top tips for supporting them to design and run their own activities.

Date and time of session:
Thursday 15 July, 1:00pm-2:30pm

Lead Contact:
Samantha Durbin, Clothworkers' Associate in Mathematics

Alison Eves, Kantor Primary Masterclass Coordinator, The Royal Institution
Lindsey Gooding, Teacher of Science and Co-ordinator of Gifted and Talented Enrichment Projects, Chipping Campden School
David Williams Educational Visits Coordinator, Teacher of Physics and Head of Science Outreach, Badminton School

Storytelling for Researchers

Heard about this storytelling thing? Fancy learning more about how it can help your communications, presentations and engagement?

Come along to this interactive workshop where Duncan will take you through the why's and how's of using various ideas from storytelling to supercharge your research talks. Perfect for folk new to engagement or looking to up their research presentation skills.

There will be big ideas, focused tips and have a go moments as well as an award winning impression of an albertross*.

*the award may or may not be totally made up

Date and time of session:
Thursday 15 July, 3:00pm-4:00pm

Lead Contact:
Duncan Yellowlees, Founder/Director  

SOCIAL: Crafting Social

Do you craft, tinker or create things? Do you have a Work In Progress that you have been meaning to finish? Join us for a relaxed crafting session; all types of crafting and making are welcome, and at any level!

Date and time of session:
Thursday 15 July, 4:30pm-5:30pm

Lead Contact:
Sarah Cosgriff, Inclusion in Physics Consultant

Friday, 16 July

'Hands-off' Community Engagement with STEM

Explore Your Universe, a partnership between ASDC and STFC, seeks to identify the practices that successfully build sustainable partnerships between science centres and community-based organisations, in order to truly involve families in areas of socio-economic deprivation and encourage equitable participation with communities who may not currently engage with our science centres.

In March 2020, along with schools, businesses and organisations across the UK, our hands-on network of centres had to close their doors. This didn't stop their work on Explore Your Universe though. Join us to hear how science centres across the UK continue to work in partnership with community groups in this new ‘hands-off’ era of STEM engagement.

Date and time of session:
Friday 16 July, 10:00am-11:00am

Lead Contact:
Abi Ashton, Project Manager

Cait Campbell, Projects Associate, UK Association of Science and Discovery Centres
Andrew Farrer, Head of Programmes and Delivery, Cambridge Science Centre
Craig Smith, Learning Manager, Dynamic Earth
Laura Gordon, Science Engagement Officer, Dynamic Earth

SOCIAL: Networking and general chat

This session does what it says on the tin: networking and general chat.

Join other BIG Event attendees in an informal networking session. Feel free to chat about sessions you have attended (or are going to attend!), science communication or life in general. The point here is to meet some new people, catch up with old friends and make some useful connections.

We'll use breakout rooms to put you into smaller groups and we'll swap the groups up a bit so you get to meet as many different people as possible.

Feel free to bring food if it's that time of day for you.

Date and time of session:
Friday 16 July, 11:15am-12:15pm

Celebrating the M in STEM

There’s always mathematics behind science. We (mathematicians) think you should highlight this and share it with your audiences, promote mathematical thinking and show that maths is more than just arithmetic.

Whether it's something you haven't thought about - or you're not sure how - we're providing a safe space to discuss ways to incorporate mathematical ideas into your content in a meaningful way. In discussion groups, we’ll chat with some friendly mathematicians about ideas for specific examples shared by participants, and more generally about maths in STEM.

Topics (provisional): mathematical modelling, physics/engineering, problem solving, statistics/data, computer science, and primary science.

Date and time of session:
Friday 16 July, 1:00pm-2:00pm

Lead Contact:
Katie Steckles, Maths communicator

Samantha Durbin, Royal Institution
Others TBC

By whose measure? Determining what counts as ‘success’ in co-development projects

Co-development projects are becoming increasingly utilised as a way of engaging individuals and groups who have traditionally been less likely to connect with us. When science centres and other informal STEM organisations work with community organisations to create activities and projects for their communities, how do we navigate all the challenges involved in getting these projects up and running? What does a successful project look like? Who decides? And how on earth do we evaluate it? Join us to grapple with these issues through interactive discussion and role play to develop and share creative and practical ideas together.

Date and time of session:
Friday 16 July, 3:30pm-5:00pm

Lead Contact:
Jen DeWitt, Senior Research Fellow/Research and Evaluation Consultant

Lewis Hou; Community & Public Engagement Consultant; Director; Science Ceilidh;
Sharon Leverment' Acting CEO' UK Association of Science and Discovery Centres'
Dom McDonald; 'Freelance do-gooder'; Navigator Consulting

Monday, 19 July

The what, why, how of facilitation

If you're running activities where you want people to join in, or express an opinion, you are probably doing facilitation. This is a key skill for sci com and public engagement, but many of us have learned how to do  it through intuition, watching others, and a bit of trial and error.

Come to this session to explore what we mean by facilitation, when to use it, why it's important for creating inclusive environments and even give it a go.

Have you had training on facilitation? Come and share your experiences of the training

If you'd like to share your facilitation skills I'd love to hear from you!

If you know someone who's an amazing facilitator, I'd love to be put in touch with them.

Date and time of session:
Monday 19 July, 10:00am-11:30am

Lead Contact:
Helen Featherstone, Chair BIG and Head of Public Engagement

Queering Science Communication

Despite the growing awareness and research on LGBTQIA+ scientists and the importance of queer visibility in STEM, there has been little formal research into LGBTQ+ science communication practice and people. In this session, panellists will present case studies of LGBTQIA+ people and practices in science communication and they will discuss what LGBTQIA+ inclusive practice, events and spaces look like and why they're important in science communication.

Date and time of session:
Monday 19 July, 1:00pm-2:00pm

Lead Contact:
Sarah Cosgriff, Inclusion in Physics Consultant

Mental health and scicomm part 2: looking after (ourselves and) our audiences.

As we think about face-to-face and hybrid events, how can we best look after our audiences’ mental health and ourselves? How do our audiences feel about events and what can we do to support them? We have event plans and health and safety assessment, how can we include mental health? This session is relevant to our whole community, from presenters to event managers, festival directors to riggers, line managers to freelancers and everyone else. Together we’ll discuss the issues and come up with some steps to ensure we embed mental health awareness, accessibility and inclusion into our work.

Date and time of session:
Monday 19 July, 3:00pm-4:30pm

Lead Contact:
Helen Obee Reardon, Impact Officer

Matthew Tosh, Freelance Presenter and Pyrotechnician,
Claudia Antolini
Lorraine Coghill, Science Outreach Coordinator & Ogden Regional Representative, Durham University

SOCIAL: The BIG Music Session

The Big BIG Music Session.

Join MC, exhibit builder and singer Richard Ellam for an evening of musical fun and relaxation.

For many of us making music and singing over Zoom has been a life-line through the Lockdowns. We can’t meet up in person this year, but we can entertain each other (and, I hope an audience) over Zoom.

The Big BIG Music Session is an open mic night/ singaround where anyone is welcome to sing or play for the group. The format is simple: Zoom won’t let us jam together, so each person gets their turn in the spotlight to strut their stuff. How many spots you get depends on how many turn up, but everyone who wants will get at least one turn.

This isn’t just for performers - we all love an audience, so if you don’t want to perform feel free to just drop by to listen, and maybe join in the craic.

The Big BIG Music Session is open to everyone - play/sing whatever you want (within the limitations of Zoom and your tech.), whether it's your first time or you’re a seasoned performer. If you use music in your work this is a chance to showcase that, but equally just come and do the stuff that makes you happy and helps you relax. Everyone is welcome!

Date and time of session:
Monday 19 July, 6:00pm-7:00pm

Lead Contact:
Richard Ellam, Owner/Chief Engineer

Tuesday, 20 July

Integrating Science Communication into the University curriculum

University students are typically very passionate about the subject they study and love sharing their passion with the public. We believe there are huge benefits for university students to be involved in science communication and outreach, and that this can contribute to a strong culture change in academia. How can we make sure we involve students, while supporting their academic and personal development?

We will provide examples of how to integrate science communication formally in the curriculum, through courses or projects, and also informally. Touching on our experience, we will discuss tips, advice, challenges, to ensure that you can successfully involve your students in science communication.

Date and time of session:
Tuesday 20 July, 9:30am-10:30am

Lead Contact:
Jean-Christophe Denis, NBIC and Ogden Outreach Officer

Francesca Iezzi, School of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, Public Engagement Officer
Andy Cross, School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh, Impact Coordinator, Aimilia Smyrli
University of Central Lancashire, Ogden Outreach Officer

Science Engagement Training - A UK Landscape

I spent 3 months in 2020-21 interviewing science communication and engagement trainers about their approaches, who comes to their training, what they cover, the challenges they face, and what motivates them. I also worked with a research group and training network in the USA to compare across countries. Come along to discuss all things training, contribute your experiences, and share ideas for how training can be improved. 

Please drop me a line if you're a trainer, have an interest in training, and/or would like to co-present or contribute to this session!

Date and time of session:
Tuesday 20 July, 11:30am-12:30pm

Lead Contact:
Clio Heslop, Partnerships and Impact Manager

Resilience Workshop - a special BIG Event workshop


£5 for BIG Members

Non-Members must purchase membership first (at a cost of £35 for the year), and then come back and book this workshop for £5

 As mental health continues to gain attention across the media, and funding to the arts, education and social sectors remains uncertain, resilience is one of the buzz words often heard in work-based conversations at the moment. Georgina first began exploring resilience as part of the development of a digital game, commissioned by the BBC/Somethin’ Else in 2011. More recently, Georgina has become passionate about the sustainability of individuals as a way to help sustain healthy organisations especially for those working across ‘passion sectors’. This work asks how - as producers, funders, artists and administrators – we value ourselves alongside the work we are delivering. What causes us to reach our limits and how can we create more sustainable working approaches?

 Inspired by the work of Sophy Banks, Joanna Macey and the her lived experience, Georgina has created a group-based workshop that is creative, interactive and practical. Over the course of two / three hour workshop, we will;

·        Begin to define resilience, 

·        Start to recognise what pushes us beyond our limits,

·        Begin to identify what can help us stay resilient for re-addressing our own, personal balance   

Your Trainer is Georgina Bednar, No Ordinary Experience

Georgina is the founder of No Ordinary Experience, a small arts led company working across social, education, place-making and charity sectors. Georgina began her career facilitating with young people and communities outside of the mainstream arts venues. As a facilitator, she has worked extensively within youth contexts, faith communities and professionals across arts organizations to drive collaborative conversations creating change. She is a consultant with Tonic Theatre imbedding change, diversity and staff wellbeing within organisations such as the Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells and The British Science Association. Georgina has created personal development programmes with The Children Society & Southbank Centre and convened programmes for The British Council. She has coached MA students at Central School of Speech and Goldsmith University and works 1:1 with senior leaders across the Arts. She has trained in Relational Dynamics, Open Spaces, Forum Theatre & other arts based practices, and recently trained with Jenny McKewan in Systematic Coaching (e.g. Constellations).

Date and time of session:
Tuesday 20 July, 2:30pm-5:00pm

Lead Contact:
Georgina Bednar, Founder

Wednesday, 21 July

Inclusive Science Engagement Swapshop

BIG is one of nine members of the Inclusive Science Engagement network, run by the British Science Association. Come along to this session to find out what members of the network have been doing to build more inclusive science communication and engagement: from small interventions to whole organisation strategic work - there’s something for you! Why not share your own experiences and take away a host of top tips in a handy resource guide.

We’ll also be opening a bursary scheme for members to use to develop their own inclusive science engagement practice.

Date and time of session:
Wednesday 21 July, 9:00am-10:30am

Lead Contact:
Helen Featherstone, Chair

REF Recovery Session

What did we learn from the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF)? What made it so hard? What have engagement and outreach practitioners learned from this? Is it the same or different to impact practitioners? What notes do we want to write for future selves so we don’t have the same challenges? How do we grow and embed impact? It isn’t going away, it’ll still be important for research funding applications, not just REF2028. Would an impact network or support system be useful? Anyone with anything to do with REF welcome, we’ll discuss the issues and come up with…more questions?

Date and time of session:
Wednesday 21 July, 1:00pm-2:30pm

Lead Contact:
Helen Obee Reardon, Impact Officer

Lucy Moorcraft, Impact Officer, Northumbria University
Carol Davenport, Associate Professor and Director NUSTEM, Northumbria University

SOCIAL: The Best Demo Competition

The best demo competition, but not as we know it.

BIG members line up to compete for one of the least valuable and yet most highly prized honours in UK science communication.

The Best Demo Competition presents a light-hearted look at some of the demos you think are worth sharing with your peers. There’s no money to win, it’s not an Oscar, it’s not a Nobel Prize. But within BIG we think it’s worth winning.

Each competitor has no more than a three-one-take video to demonstrate the maths, science, engineering and so on that really lights their fire and they just can’t help showing off to their peers. The audience decides. If you’re in the audience, don’t take it too seriously. If you’re competing, take it seriously, but not too seriously.

Previous Best Demo winners…

1997      Wendy Sadler
1998      Derek Fish
1999      Chris Norton
2000      Gillian Pearson
2001      Gillian Pearson
2002      James Piercy
2003      Suse Brumpton
2004      Rob Copeland & Izi Mohammed
2005      Ben Craven
2006      Marcus Weber
2007      Ben Craven
2008      Diane Gray
2009      Ian Simmons
2010      Farrah Nazir
2011      Brian Macken
2012      Karl Byrne
2013      Marcin Chydziński & Blaźej Dawidson
2014      Stephen Williams
2015      Matt Pritchard
2016      Tobias Happe
2017      Brian Mackenwells
2018      Matthias Salewski
2019        Jemma Nauman
2020        Covid-19
Date and time of session:
Wednesday 21 July, 6:00pm-7:30pm

Lead Contact:
Sam Langford, MC

Thursday, 22 July

The power of gesture in science communication

Have you ever noticed HOW children move when interacting with exhibits and wondered what this means for learning? 

Move2Learn is an international collaboration of science communicators and learning science researchers who are exploring the role of movement and gesture in young children's learning about science. The project draws upon an emerging research area of Embodied Cognition which claims that the way we think and learn is inseparably linked to our sensory and action experiences in the world. 

After a brief introduction to key concepts and our research questions, you will test out the observation tool we have developed to analyse how users interact and learn.

We will share our own experiences of the highs and lows of pushing the boundary between science communication and academic research as we discuss:

-           the science centre as a complex environment to conduct research

-           the skills needed to engage young children AND conduct rigorous research

-           how explainers could use movement to improve interactions with learners

You will never look at exhibit interactions the same way again!

Date and time of session:
Thursday 22 July, 9:30am-10:30am

Lead Contact:
Susan Meikleham, Senior Learning Coordinator

Alexia Revueltas Roux, Research Assistant, Centre for Research in Digital Education, Moray House School of Education and Sports, University of Edinburgh


Online session. BIG STEM Communicators Network operates as a not-for-profit organisation of members – a club, effectively; everything it does is to support the development of its members and the science communication profession in the UK and beyond.

BIG's Annual General Meeting is held annually and gives members the opportunity to contribute; to understand what the Executive Committee has done for the membership over the last year; to help shape the future of BIG.

This is also when the Executive Committee election results are announced and we'll congratulate this year's Beetlestone Award Winner, TBC.

All BIG Members are welcome.

The BIG Executive Committee 2020-2021

Date and time of session:
Thursday 22 July, 11:30am-12:30pm

Beetlestone Award

Professor John Beetlestone (1932-2017) was the founding director of Techniquest, the UK’s first purpose-built science discovery centre. Set up in his honour, the Beetlestone Award* recognises “leadership and legacy in the field of informal science learning” and carries a personal cash prize of £500; an additional bursary to facilitate dissemination of the holder’s vision and legacy and free registration for the next BIG conference.

The 2021 winner of this prestigious award is TBC.

*This Award has been made possible through the generosity of The Beetlestone family and John’s former colleagues and friends. Keep an eye on the BIG website and your inboxes to find out how to apply in 2022.

Date and time of session:
Thursday 22 July

Meeting for the Incoming and Outgoing Executive Committee

All the newly elected Committee Members as well as the outgoing Committee get together to discuss handover and forward planning.

Date and time of session:
Thursday 22 July, 12:30pm-1:30pm

Entertaining Oligarchs (Some uses and abuses of improv)

Join self confessed science busking fanatic David Price from Science Made Simple as he shares a real life science busking experience with  you, looking at:

How a very particular set of circumstance with some very particular clients, forced David to improvise like crazy (or did it?)

Why he see the benefits of improv, but runs a mile from it whenever he gets a chance

The fascinating relationship between street performers and their improvisation skills and how this works out in terms of everyday sci com situations

Date and time of session:
Thursday 22 July, 2:30pm-3:00pm

Lead Contact:
David Price, Science Communicator

Friday, 23 July

SOCIAL: Book Club

Each book club will have a theme – Heidi is choosing the book and the theme right now, so stay tuned!

After that. it's simple, read the book and then we'll meet up to discuss it over lunch on the last day of the BIG Event.

Heidi runs theses sessions regularly, so if you are interested in attending more, you can get signed up on her website:

Date and time of session:
Friday 23 July, 12:00pm-1:00pm

Lead Contact:
Hana Ayoob, Vice Chair

Heidi Gardner, Science on a Postcard

Mental health and scicomm part 1: Giving yourself a chance.

In this session we will share ways to look after our emotional wellbeing. What are the chemicals that make us feel happy? What can I do to make myself feel better, and what can my institution/workplace do? How do I establish healthy boundaries? How do I build mental wellbeing as a freelancer? How to be an ally and support people around us who might be struggling? The outcome of the session will be a set of tips to use in our daily life and suggestions for building a more inclusive and accepting working environment.

Date and time of session:
Friday 23 July, 10:00am-11:30am

Lead Contact:
Claudia Antolini, SEPnet - The Ogden Trust Senior Administrative Officer for Outreach and Public Engagement

Helen Obee Reardon
Matthew Tosh
Ginny Smith
Lucy Heard

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