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In part two of our Science Capital in Practice: Foundations for the future blog series, we explore what the programme partners learned about sharing the science capital approach with their colleagues across their organisation.

As part of the Science Capital in Practice programme  all partners delivered science capital training to their own teams to help broaden understanding of the concept and its value into their organisation, at all levels. Across all the partner organisations through this programme over 1,180 staff and volunteers received training.

They had a range of tools and materials to support them with the training which could be adapted to best suit their needs.  So, what did partners learn about sharing the science capital approach with colleagues across their organisation?

Even for staff with many years of experience, a science capital approach can be revolutionary

Many participants, whether already familiar with the science capital concept or otherwise, appreciated gaining a deeper understanding of the approach and the evidence behind it. They became aware of their own science capital, and the ways in which they used it in everyday life.

In some cases, they realised for the first time how different their own attitude to science might be, compared to a colleague or visitor.

“I learned from the training, it isn’t just people’s knowledge but people’s access and relationship with science. I’ve been doing this job for nearly eight years now and that was something I’d never considered before.”

“The science capital training helped me realise that [visitors] might not care at all about science. They might even be hostile towards it.”

The terms ‘science capital’, equity and inclusion can take time to sink in

Staff may have a misconception that they need scientific knowledge to participate in applying the principles of science capital. Some partners found it useful to explain during training that science capital isn’t only about what science you know, and to show how science capital relates to us all.

Many partners found it effective to reflect on the ideas and adapt some of the terminology used so that it was more accessible, meaningful or acceptable to their staff, and connected with existing methods.

One participant organisation came together in small groups to consider terms like diversity, inclusion, equality and equity as well as vocabulary used in other funded projects, and to ‘work out what these terms actually mean and in what context are they appropriate to use’.

“We felt that we needed a longer session […] for people to chat amongst themselves to promote reflection – which participants valued – and give time for deeper conversations if people want to do this.”

“Actually, it’s not the term that’s necessarily important, it’s the understanding behind it. When we are talking with people who aren’t STEM experts, sometimes it is about us unpacking the language.”

Staff and volunteers reading and voting on the engagement reflection points at Glasgow Science Centre

With suitable training in science capital know-how, any organisation can broaden its remit to include STEM subjects

While some partners in the project had previously focused on heritage subjects and history, the science capital approach enabled their staff to see STEM subjects as part of their remit.

The National Coal Mining Museum adapted the training to allow staff to explore the STEM aspects of their offer, make connections with practical examples from their site and think about how to broaden the relevance of their stories.

Staff at Woolsthorpe Manor found being part of the SCIP programme particularly valuable, enabling them to discuss new ideas and practices.

“All of our colleagues have been enthusiastic about the science capital approach and understood well how it links with what we are trying to do at Woolsthorpe Manor.”

“There are many things that museums can learn from science centres, and I can see those benefits happen also the other way around.”

“We have begun to change the way the Museum is viewed as a place for science as well as history.”

As a new way of thinking, the science capital approach is most powerful when embedded throughout the organisation

Rather than being something relevant only to one project, science capital is most powerful if its principles are embedded into staff recruitment, induction and training, organisational mission and vision, and the language used at all levels.

Woolsthorpe Manor involved regional staff and consultants in their training in order to widen its impact.

One partner reported that their team was now ‘thinking in a different way’, taking a more consultative approach rooted in visitor needs.

“Every single staff member has their own reflective diary. It’s not just the people engaging with the public. It is everybody. It makes a difference if you’ve got somebody like your finance officer doing it… They want to know what the point of the science centre is. It’s not just about the accounts.” 

“[Science capital is] now integrated into the way that we do things, and it’s been displayed in many, many documents that are going to be used in further management and maintenance and development of the exhibits and the galleries that have been produced. So, I would see it’s pretty much impossible that science capital just disappears from the way that Dundee Science Centre is now.”

“We have started working with managers, HR to embed [a] science capital awareness and approach in Induction and Performance and Development Review processes.”

 

This is an excerpt from the Science Capital in Practice: Foundations for the Future summary report.  Further information about the programme, including a recording of the Science Capital in Practice: Foundations for the Future seminar, can be found on our Science Capital in Practice webpage.

The ‘Science Capital in Practice’ series shares the experiences and progress of partner organisations involved in the Science Capital in practice Programme, a collaboration between the Science Museum Group and the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres.

 

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