The “Intelligent Layman” and Science Communication in Norwegian Public Places

Kristian Overskaug, Arnfinn Rokne, Morten Steffensen

When the oldest research enterprise in Norway, the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters, was founded in 1760 in the city of Trondheim, the cofounder Johan Gunnerus (1718-1773) said that one objective was to impart sciences to the “intelligent layman”—the man and woman in the street. A museum, a journal, a library, a botanical garden, and funding for research and dissemination are central means employed in this work. Lecturers have also been taking their audience to an untraditional arena, an urban or a rural setting, where they lecture on a topic of current interest using the location as a backdrop. Their audience does not necessarily have prior knowledge of the topic, and the lecturers lacks the safety net that an auditorium represents. The setting requires pedagogical improvement and also encourages discussions and the posing of questions. Has the objective to educate the public been attained?


The Aeolus project: Science outreach through art

Ian A. Drumm, Amanda Belantara, Steve Dorney, Timothy P. Waters, Eulalia Peris

With a general decline in people’s choosing to pursue science and engineering degrees there has never been a greater need to raise the awareness of lesser known fields such as acoustics. Given this context, a large-scale public engagement project, the ‘Aeolus project’, was created to raise awareness of acoustics science through a major collaboration between an acclaimed artist and acoustics researchers. It centred on touring the large singing sculpture Aeolus during 2011/12, though the project also included an extensive outreach programme of talks, exhibitions, community workshops and resources for schools. Described here are the motivations behind the project and the artwork itself, the ways in which scientists and an artist collaborated, and the public engagement activities designed as part of the project. Evaluation results suggest that the project achieved its goal of inspiring interest in the discipline of acoustics through the exploration of an otherworldly work of art.