The Doing Dialogue project was a collaboration between Ecsite-uk (now the Association for Science and Discovery Centres) and four UK science centres. The project took place between 2005 and 2008 and aimed to:
Enable young people's voices to contribute to consultations on biomedical science
Enhance science centre staff's facilitation skills
Embed dialogue and debate activities into the partner science centre's schools programmes
Explore and improve marketing of debate and dialogue events to schools
In order to enable young people's voices to contribute to current discussions on biomedical science, the project team worked closely with the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. This collaboration led to 1162 young people contributing to two separate national consultations being run by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.
In total 1414 students took part in in-depth professionally facilitated debates around ethical issues relate to the biosciences. In total 168 teachers took part in the project either by participating in the dialogue events (118 teachers) or by assisting with the development of the resources and advising the project. Students and teachers from across the UK were involved, including those from Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, London and Oxford.
This project also developed a facilitation training course which was reviewed and shaped by external facilitation training experts. This bespoke three-hour introductory course covers the full range of skills needed by a good facilitator to enhance discussions with young people. It continues as a lasting resource for the partners.
Over 250 staff from science centres and museums across the UK were trained through this three-hour training course in facilitation skills during the project. Demand for this course was such, that the proposed target of training 60 facilitators was exceeded four-fold. In addition 10 expert trainers were also trained as part of a train-the-trainer model. These expert trainers are in place within Ecsite-uk and the partner science centres.
As part of this project, two high quality and rigorously evaluated sets of resources were also developed for use with young people. These were on the two areas of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics consultation, namely premature birth and vaccinations and are presented as box sets of resources. Each of the four partner science centres ran the debate events, and all have since regularly included these events into their schools programme.
The model and mechanisms developed through this project, have since been used in other projects, increasing the depth and breadth of dialogue-related activities offered by the science centres. This includes, for example, mechanisms for facilitated dialogue for students, a 'tool-kit' developed to give a step-by-step guide to involving students in science-based consultations, as well as updating some pre-existing resources for debate events for example those on stem cells.
This project also examined how to market these dialogue events to schools and as a result has enabled the partner science centres to expand and broaden the potential market for their schools debates programmes, in particular building relationships with humanities and other non-science departments within schools.
The four project partner science centres were: Thinktank: Birmingham's science centre; Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI); The Centre for Life, Newcastle; Glasgow Science Centre.