Café Scientifique: a soirée of science over drinks

An idea born overseas, adapted by an Inspiring Australia manager, and proven in Queensland is now offering a formula and tools for sophisticated, grown-up live science events that attract a young adult audience.

ee-cafe-scientifiqueJayne Keane had a hypothesis: that Café Scientifique—relaxed science engagement events bringing scientists and the broader public together for talks and discussion in cafes and bars in the United Kingdom—could be adapted for Australia by bringing the right agents together and with creative curation of the variables.

For example, picture the Collectors Café at Queensland Museum with an after-hours atmosphere: serving drinks, decked out with mosquito nets and playing Peggy Lee’s ‘You give me fever’; scientists from Queensland Institute of Medical Research Mosquito Control Laboratory and Brisbane City Council sharing the science of dengue fever and mosquito control, and the audience finding out how attractive or repulsive they are (to mosquitoes).

Jayne—Manager of Queensland’s Inspiring Australia program—spent a year experimenting, designing high-end Café Scientifique events, such as the one focused on dengue fever. Other Café Scientifique test events include:

  • Molecular mixologist and life scientist Andrew Cameron leading an evening of cocktail history and science accompanied by the sounds of Brisbane dance/punk band Sorry Socrates.
  • ‘Sweet streets’ bringing together street art and the science of sugar.
  • The ‘Underwater Wanderlust’ art/science mash-up exploring the deep ocean.
  • Materialise’ exploring 3D printing technology applied to fashion design.
A taste of Cafe Scientifique (Photos: Queensland Museum)

A taste of Cafe Scientifique (Photos: Queensland Museum)

During that year, Jayne created partnerships with state and local governments, universities and other scientific organisations; and developed a framework and replicable format, with the tools to implement it, including a ticketing system, an evaluation framework, mailing lists and other resources.

“A big success is that it attracts the 18 to 30 year-old age group, which is so hard to catch,” Jayne says.

Her hands full with other projects, Jayne hasn’t pushed Café Scientific in recent times; she hasn’t needed to! The idea has taken off and other people and organisations are using her resources and producing their own events.

The conclusion: Café Scientifique works, and, like all good science, it can be replicated.

For information about Café Scientifique, visit Queensland’s Inspiring Australia website

Photo credit: Queensland Museum

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