Cambridge Science Centre joins nationwide campaign calling for government funding

Cambridge Science Centre, along with over 40 members of the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), has joined the Science Centres For Our Future campaign, which is calling on the government to set up an Emergency Resilience Fund to support the UK’s world-class network of regional Science Centres.

Science Centres For Our Future Campaign Launched in late May

Cambridge Science Centre (CSC) has been a successful, independent charity for over seven years, receiving no government funding at any time. Since the Covid-19 restrictions came into force and direct contact with their audiences was no longer possible, CSC has worked diligently to ensure we continue to reach as many young people as possible. Within days CSC went fully on-line and has had over 44,000 virtual visitors with its VirtualSchoolTrip and OpenUpScience magazine.  But CSC cannot charge for this in the same way it does for outreach and visits, so vital revenue streams for the charity are now cut off. 

To highlight the crucial role that UK Science Centres play in making science accessible to all, Cambridge Science Centre is joining a nationwide campaign which is being supported by some of the UK’s leading science advocates including Professor Alice Roberts, Dr David Cleevely, Professor Lord Martin Rees of Ludlow, Astronomer Royal and Professor Dame Athene Donald.

The Science Centres For Our Future campaign (#ScienceCentresForOurFuture) supports the ASDC’s submission to government, asking it to urgently grant £25 million in Emergency Resilience Funding to secure the future of the whole network of UK Science Centres. Future-focused Science Centres like Cambridge Science Centre cannot apply for the Arts Council or Heritage Emergency grants and, without government support, many UK Science Centres are at risk.

At a time when science is so important and with major global challenges ahead from both Covid-19 and climate change, Science Centres provide our regional cities and towns with crucial opportunities to access science, in an approachable and engaging way, helping to inspire our next generation of scientists and engineers.

Cambridge Science Centre is the ONLY year-round, interactive science centre in the East of England. Their aim is to break down barriers to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) participation, showing future generations that no matter what their socioeconomic background, gender or ethnicity, STEM is exciting and inclusive and can be ‘for them.’ 

An important target is to reach young learners in areas of Multiple Social Deprivation as defined by the Index of Multiple Deprivation who have been shown to be most at risk of missing out on STEM participation. CSC’s guiding mission is for every child to have easy access to hands-on adventures in science that inspire them to do well in life and make a positive contribution to their communities.  Many of those who engage with CSC have fond memories of school visits and family days out, learning new things and being inspired by interactive and hands-on experiences. 

CSC has engaged with over 400,000 children, families and teachers. In this way they are directly impacting the STEM attainment gap, inspiring our young learners and helping towards futureproofing the UK’s national economic competitiveness. 

Nationally, hands-on Science Centres like us welcome millions of people in regions outside London and contribute over £200 million per year to local economies.

But, in lockdown and without no or reduced revenue streams, Science Centres face a chronic funding gap. As charities, Science Centres like us cannot take on large debts as, whilst the furlough has been hugely helpful, costs like utility bills, insurance, payroll, site security and rents still need to be paid.

Helen Slaski, CEO of Cambridge Science Centre says: “STEM is on the frontline of the COVID-19 fight and we will need many more scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians to resolve other crises that we can’t begin to imagine yet.  Perhaps even more so now in these unprecedented times, Cambridge Science Centre has a vital role to play in inspiring our young people and providing a safety net for the future.

No matter how accomplished teachers are, remote learning cannot replicate the dynamics of a school classroom and, unfortunately, engagement will not be the same for every child without the structure of the school day, particularly for children who do not have ready access to digital resources or strong family support. When they do return to school, children will be at very different points from where, under normal circumstances, they would expect to be and, crucially, from one another. So, whilst we can’t engage directly with our audiences, and the Science Centre and schools remain closed, we are working hard to make sure we can reach those young learners who are facing increasing educational poverty.

Our region has one of the highest level of investment from the technology sector in Europe but, the bottom line is that our young people are unlikely to benefit from the opportunities that this sector has to offer without the requisite level of education in STEM subjects.”

Dr Penny Fidler, CEO of ASDC highlights: “As a nation and as a global society we have some major challenges ahead, especially in relation to climate and coronavirus. To solve these challenges, we need an entrepreneurial and scientifically engaged society. Science Centres unlock science for people, making it accessible and interesting to millions of children and adults each year. Without support we will start to lose these popular cultural resources that offer access into science for all.”

Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science, University of Birmingham and ASDC Patron, adds:  “From Cambridge Science Centre, the Glasgow Science Centre and the Eden Project, to the Centre for Alternative Energy and the Centre for Life in Newcastle - our Science Centres and museums are important as places where people can learn about many different branches of science, get inspired, and satisfy their own curiosity. These centres support hands-on learning for children, all the way through to lifelong learning for adults. Like many other cultural institutions, Science Centres are struggling at this time - they need our support. I hope the government can help them survive, so that they can continue their crucial work, making science accessible for everyone.”

The ASDC and Cambridge Science Centre are asking the public to support the Science Centres For Our Future campaign in two key ways:

  • Share your Science Centre photos and why you love them on social media, using the #ScienceCentresForOurFuture
  • Write to your local MPs asking them to support the creation of this Emergency Fund to secure the future of Cambridge Science Centre (find a downloadable email on the campaign website)

With one voice championing the Science Centres, ASDC wants to let the government know how important these charitable enterprises are to our regions, and ask the government to save over 40 of these vital cultural and community resources, thousands of jobs, millions of annual visits and billions of individual discoveries.  

CSC’s online activities can be found here

  • with details of what is happening right now:
  • Science@6 a weekly YouTube programme
  • OpenUpScience, a weekly magazine distributed through food banks, community support and social enterprises to reach the most vulnerable,
  • VirtualSchoolTrip already viewed in over 300 schools and engaging with more than 44,000 young learners since lockdown.  

And they have lots more planned.

  • To find out more about Science Centres For Our Future, check out the campaign landing page here.

About the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres 

The ASDC membership is made up of over 60 of the nation’s largest publicly accessible Science Centres, discovery centres, environment centres, science museums and scientific bodies, based in our cities and regions across the UK.

People of all ages and backgrounds choose to get involved with science at one of the UK’s Science and Discovery Centres and Science Museums each year. Together, our vision is for a society where people of all backgrounds and in all parts of the UK are inspired and involved with the sciences.  @science centres 

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