I'm a ScientistTwo and a half years ago, in May 2007, Sophia and I started looking at extending the I’m a Councillor event.  We started a budget for I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here.  We applied to the Wellcome Trust to fund a pilot.  That kicked off in June 2008.  It was very very successful. You can read the 126 page evaluation report here.

We ran the event again in March of this year part-funded with a sponsorship grant of £1,000 from the University of Bristol, but mostly by ourselves.

Over the 30 months I estimate we’ve invested about £25,000 in cash and salaries on top of the funding we received to make the event happen and to see if we can take it further.

On Wednesday that investment paid off.  Earlier this year we applied for a Wellcome Trust Society Award – a larger award scheme.  We got through the Preliminary Application process and were invited to submit a full application which was peer reviewed and to present to the Grant Committee.  That was Wednesday 11th November.  Yesterday we received a call to say that we’d been successful and that our application was to be fully funded. That was a very nice phone call to take.

A key feature of our presentation was the support we have received from the scientists and teachers who had taken part in the previous 18 months.  We had students from Heanor Gate Specialist Science College near Derby record an endorsement over a year after they had taken part.  It’s amazing that they remember your event after so long never mind still feel so enthused that they wanted to dress up and film a video for us.  Thank you Heanor Gate.  We had six scientists send us clips giving their support.  They were brilliant and made a real difference.

We have also spent a considerable part of the last few months asking other organisations to show their support for the project.  Sophia will make a fuller list over at http://imascientist.org.uk next week, but I want to thank Sophie Duncan and the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, the National Science Learning Centre, Alan Mercer at ScienceWise for giving us a warm welcome at Harwell, to Ian Johnson, Head of the Democratic Branch at the Ministry of Justice for making the introduction and recognising the importance of science debate in the wider democratic process. Thank you to Tony Breslin at the Citizenship Foundation for a timely message of support and to Justin Kerr-Stevens for making connections at the Department of Health.  We couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you.

So what does the funding mean for the project?  First question is how much.  We’ll be getting £209,000.  It’s to produce the event for at least two years and to run 50 zones, which equates to 20,000 students, 1,000 classes, and 250 scientists.  It is a big event, but not beyond our capability as our experience with I’m a Councillor over the last seven years shows.  A key element of the project is the need to get additional funding in order to sustain the project beyond those first two years.  However the support that has been expressed to date gives us confidence in this area.

So what does it mean for Gallomanor? Firstly it provides stability.  Every year we expend lots of energy on recruiting councils for IAC, on pitching for projects, on writing proposal, bidding for funding.  And we’ve been reasonably successful.  Year by year we’ve grown, but without long term contracts planning has not always been easy.  This funding will mean taking on another member of staff to support us on this project and others. It is great news.

Most importantly it is great news for the students, teachers and scientists who will benefit from being able to take part.


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