Aberdeen project aims to engage rural communities in the wonders of science

Aberdeen project aims to engage rural communities in the wonders of science

Academics from the University of Aberdeen will travel around remote areas of Scotland, giving informal public talks to local communities on research being undertaken at the institution into how digital technologies could transform rural communities, society and business.

A team from dot.rural (RCUK Digital Economy Research Centre), which looks at new ways to enhance rural life and services through technology, will pilot a new initiative known as Café Connect.

It will see researchers take to the road for 10 consecutive days visiting 10 communities from Orkney to New Galloway for 10 separate events.

Café Connect aims to nurture community science events in informal, varied and interactive settings to examine the ways technology can aid rural life.

It is the most ambitious addition to the University’s popular Café Scientifique programme yet, in which leading figures from science and medicine present their research to the public in a relaxed café setting.

The event kicks off on Sunday July 3 with Birds, Bees and Digital Conservation by Dr Rene van der Wal who will ask whether technology can bring people closer to their local environment in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall.

At the Pottery and Tea Room in Knoydart, Inverness-shire, on Thursday July 7, Professor Claire Wallace will discuss, among other things, rural business networks in a talk entitled Rural Futures: people + business + technology = sustainability

On Monday July 11, at the Craigmonie Centre, Drumnadrochit, Dr Lizzy Tait asks The Power of Social Media: Transformational tweeting or devaluation of democracy? which will look at the impact online technologies have and their use in politics.

Café Connect’s tour will end on Tuesday July 12 at Bog Cotton Café in Cannich, Inverness-shire, with Rural Resilience: Community connections and technologies for tomorrow with Dr Sarah Skerratt who will look at ways rural communities can get access to better broadband and the benefits that could bring.

Professor Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland, said “This is an ambitious tour of ten of Scotland’s most rural and remote communities. It’s great to see that researchers will be taking their expertise out of the lab and into public venues, bringing complex issues to life in an engaging way and giving local people a chance to find out more.”

Dr Claire Thorne, Café Connect Coordinator and Training and Outreach Officer at dot.rural, said: “Nothing like this has ever been attempted before. The University has a well established Café Scientifique programme but, working at dot.rural, I was struck by how there are no similar initiatives for UK rural communities, who are dot.rural’s end users.

“Café Connect will discuss with rural communities the ways in which technology can help their day to day lives.

“We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the open call from remote and rural areas which demonstrates the real need for these events. After the pilot this year we hope to expand the programme.”

The topics were chosen in conjunction with the local community via a representative of the community – a Café Champion.

All events commence at 7pm unless otherwise stated and are free to attend.

The talks, based on the Café Scientifique format, involve a small informal talk proceeded by refreshments followed by a Q&A discussion session.

Café Connect will run from Sunday July 3 to Tuesday July 12 at locations throughout Scotland.

dot.rural can be followed on Facebook and Twitter and Café Connect will be blogging throughout the tour.

Café Connect is supported by a science engagement award from the Scottish Government.

For further information please see http://www.dotrural.ac.uk/cafeconnect

Café Connect series coordinator Dr Claire Thorne, dot.rural Training and Outreach Officer, can be reached on 07714283218 (when on tour), or 01224 274066 or c.thorne@abdn.ac.uk