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Ecsite continues support for science communication in Ukraine

Thanks to the generous support of the Simons Foundation, Ecsite was able to welcome a delegation of 15 science communicators from Ukraine to take part in a programme of activities at the Ecsite Conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia 5-8 June 2024.

The 15 delegates from Ecsite members, the Junior Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (JASU) and Lviv Open Lab had the opportunity to attend the full Conference, join a tailormade pre-conference workshop, raise their profile at a booth at the Ecsite tradeshow and of course to network, share insights, and learn from the other 900+ participants present at the conference.

The Pre-Conference

After a long journey from Ukraine, Wednesday began bright and early for the delegation with a dynamic Pre-Conference workshop entitled, ‘Empowering audiences: An introduction to participatory methods’ facilitated by Paola Rodari and Andrea Bandelli. This workshop equipped participants with the tools to facilitate difficult conversations on controversial topics such as artificial intelligence, animal testing and colonising mars.

When we spoke to Olha Makarenko, Deputy Directory of Kyiv Science Museum, she reflected on the workshop.

“Paola and Andrea were able to convey to us the importance of incorporating discussions and discussion questions into our activities. These methods should be used not only with visitors but also when working with staff. I am confident that this will make our programmes even more beneficial and engaging. We will definitely apply the knowledge we gained. I especially liked the games and exercises with discussion questions on scientific topics. In my opinion, this will encourage visitors to conduct independent research and explore new things even after visiting a museum or science centre.”

For the Ukrainian delegation, the skills promoted during the workshop are much needed. Ukraine is currently suffering many educational losses due to the war, which is, of course, at the forefront of every science engagement professional’s mind. Science centres and museums must often take over roles traditionally reserved for formal education and therefore it is crucial that they have the tools to engage the next generation in science.

The Booth

The Ecsite Trade show is normally a place for companies to showcase their goods and services for science engagement organisations. But this year, booth 58, supported by the Simons Foundation, gave the opportunity for Ecsite's Ukrainian members, Junior Academy of Sciences and Lviv Open Lab, to show how they continue to engage citizens in science despite being at war.

Dr. Vasyl Dunets, Deputy Director for Science Centre Development and International Strategic Projects at JASU, who is also on the Annual Conference Progammimg Committee (ACPC) and has visited numerous Ecsite Conferences told us that the booth…

“… gave us the opportunity to meet with our friends and partners and express our gratitude for their comprehensive assistance and support of Ukraine's scientific and educational sector and the educational initiatives of the Junior Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.”

Through the booth, the delegation was also able to show their incredible resilience and continued commitment to communicating science to the public in such difficult circumstances through their extensive plans to build new science centres throughout the country.

The Ecsite Community

It would have been difficult not to notice how the Ecsite community has rallied to support the Ukrainian members. The community has offered donations, trainings and other educational support, which has been much appreciated, however, it is important not to underestimate how necessary moral support is. Thanks to the support of the Simons Foundation, the delegation was able to connect with their colleagues and feel this support in-person. Dr. Nataliia Lehka, Head of the Educational Process Organisation Department at JASU, touched on this subject.

“Now people often abuse the phrase "like a family", but the atmosphere of the conference was positive, one that allows you to easily get to know people, exchange thoughts, impressions and experiences. And not only within the framework of the exhibition or at events, but also simply on the street or during lunch.

I quite often take part in various international events, and as a Ukrainian, I sometimes worry about how I will be treated, what they will say to me, in connection with the on-going war. In 2.5 years of full-scale war, this is probably the first large-scale event in which I felt fully comfortable. And this is an extremely good sign, it proves that the people participating in this conference are united not only by common goals, but also by common values.”

Ecsite would like to thank the Ukrainian delegation for joining us for the 2024 Ecsite Conference, and the Simons Foundation for making it possible. We look forward to when we can all meet again at the 2025 Ecsite Conference at Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, Poland.