Project picture

Science Spectacular


Project Summary

Science Spectacular- a mass interactive science event-fair with over 30 activities; and an 'Images of Research' photography competition, under the themes 'Sustainability: people, environment or culture.'

Project Partners

The University of Manchester
Role Description:
All four Faculties were involved in coordinating the Science Spectacular event.
Manchester Museum (The University of Manchester)

Benefits & Impact

1,900 people attended

Over 200 researchers participated

5000 people voted

42 competition entries from all faculties.

  • Many researchers gained an opportunity to interact with the public and share their work, improving their public engagement skills and sharing learning which, in some cases, related back to their research.
  • The public found out about the different active fields of research at the University and were able to interact with scientists, mathematicians, engineers and medics.
  • Better able to manage resources of the University in terms of impact and presence within the Festival.
  • The website was a definitive success factor; it linked to the Festival website and showcased the University of Manchester’s coordinated offer.
  • The use of the ‘Become a Manchester Science Star!’ passport asking children to collect star stickers when they had completed an activity meant that families stayed for a longer length of time.
  • The use of the Manchester Museum meant not only that the museum’s collection and additional activities were on offer, but that the event highlighted that the Museum is actually part of the University.


It really challenges how you understand what you are actually talking about because you have to explain it at so many different levels.”- participating scientist/researcher.

 “It is also really interesting to hear them [public] ask questions because that influences what we do in the future.”  participating scientist/researcher.

“An image often says a thousand words, so I thought the use of images was a great way to gain public interest.”  Photography competition entrant


Lessons Learnt

  • Events of this nature need collaborative effort, both in terms of organisation and logistics, as well as promotion and support.
  • There is an interest from researchers in taking part in public engagement opportunities, however they need to be supported to do so, and the process needs to be easy and straightforward.



Top Tips

  • Get early career researchers to help out; it is a great opportunity for new practitioners to public engagement and gain confidence.
  • Drink plenty of water and take breaks; you will get tired and frazzled by the end but it will be fantastic.
  • Try and relax and enjoy the interaction.  Remain positive and know that children might ask you questions you can’t answer.

Resources and Links

The website was developed to help promote and showcase all activities and events coordinated by staff and students of the University of Manchester as part of the Manchester Science Festival.


In 2011, one of the Manchester Science Festival’s (MSF) 2011 partner universities - the University of Manchester – established a small working group to more effectively support and coordinate their activities and contribution to the festival than in previous years.

The University of Manchester’s MSF working group, had representatives from all four faculties, the Manchester Museum, Widening Participation and the Manchester Beacon. 

Aims & Objectives

  • To communicate the breadth and diversity of science, technology and engineering research that is done at the University of Manchester.
  • To support the Manchester Science Festival mission: to bring science to life and inspire young people and in so nurturing the scientists of the future; and providing an opportunity for people of all ages to have fun and explore what science means to them.


The University of Manchester’s MSF working group organized, supported and promoted a big Science Spectacular event and an Images of Research photography competition, involving over 200 researchers from all faculties. These two events acted as an effective platform for researchers to communicate with the public and connect and link to the Festival. Further connections and links were made to other events organized by University staff and early career researchers, and were also promoted and showcased on the science spectacular website.

‘Science Spectacular’ – a day time event (11am-3pm) in the Whitworth Hall and Manchester Museum, where families could explore interactive exhibits and take part in science challenges.  Visitors were given a Science Spectacular Passport to collect ‘stars’ and receive a badge and small prize to take home.


Images of Research photography competition (September  to October 2011), in which university staff and postgraduate researchers were challenged to share their work using a single, inspiring image and a short abstract under the theme ‘Sustainability: people, environment or culture’.  In the run up to the Manchester Science Festival, 18 finalists were shortlisted for a public vote and exhibited at the John Rylands Library, Deansgate, and on the website.