Science Outreach for the Climate Impact Research Centre in Abisko.
Team members: Madyana Torres, Regimantas Vegele
The goal of this project was to create a service that will communicate the reasearch conducted in Abisko to the multiple visitors throughout the year. The project was done in collaboration with local stakeholders: the CIRC (Climate Impact Research Centre), the Swedish Polar Sekretariat, Naturum (a local museum of nature and culture), the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, the STF (the Swedish Tourist Centre) and other lodges. Our concept describes a service of Science Tourism that allows families and other visitors to enjoy the outdoors along with gaining knowledge regarding the research in the region.
We used a user centered approach to collect and analyze insights during our research stage. We recruited tourists and engaged them to interviews and workshops, to understand their incentives for visiting Abisko. At the same time, we interviewed stakeholders and facilitated a co-creation workshop, to understand their vision of Science Outreach towards different target groups. From the tourists insights, we managed to understand their needs and interests. We then chose our main target group to be families with young children that are challenged in the extreme polar outdoors. Our goal was to provide activities that will be suitable for different levels of engagements depending on the weather conditions and time availability.
Throughout the research phase, we wanted to understand why it is important for the researchers to achieve Science Outreach. We realized that CIRC wants to bring the value of their experiments to visibility for two main reasons. First, to create environmental consciousness. Second, to protect their experiments out in the field from vandalism. There are discussions between Naturum and CIRC regarding events that will allow researchers to talk about their research. However, the researchers don’t have the time to engage in conversations, or plan tours and presentations for the visitors. Moreover, since researchers stay in Abisko for a short amount of time, most of the times ideas are not being implemented.
For this project we had the opportunity to visit Abisko during different seasons. The landscape changes dramatically, which influences the type of tourism it attracts. Five weeks before the project initiated, we had a two weeks course on Ethnographic Research held by Brendon Clark from the Interactive Institute in Stockholm. The course included workshops introducing us to observations, interviews and the facilitation of workshops. During the research phase we interviewed international and swedish visitors that had come to Abisko for the northern lights or for outdoors activities. Our focus was to understand their goals and wishes. The outcome was an exhibition of our research findings from the field trips in Abisko.
Through our research, we identified different kind of visitors depending on the season. When researchers were asked what kind of audience they expect to have for the science outreach, we receive the answer that everyone can be an ambassador of science. Therefore, we seized the opportunity to address different levels of visitors. At the same time we met a big amount of tourists that were disappointed with how little is provided for young children in Abisko. As Abisko is a place suited for winter sports and summer hiking, most of the activities feel unsuitable for families that stay for a couple of nights to see the northern lights.
An extra reason to curate a space indoors for young children is weather conditions. Although Abisko has a great climate and clear skies that allows people to see the aurora, it is still a town in the arctic circle and the visitors’ original plans might need to change. The place that we suggest to utilize for our service is Naturum, the museum of local nature and culture. As expressed by the manager of Naturum, the exhibition does not encourage conversations which she sees as the opportunity to spread knowledge. Our aim is to add a layer of local science, to exhibit the research and curate interactive installations that will engage users and trigger their curiosity.
Ideation: Workshops & Iterations
During the ideation process we had the opportunity to try an early concept with a workshop process from Finland, called the SINCO lab. We had a day to prepare and present a concept, which gave us the motivation to focus on the most important insights. Our concept was describing a service for families that will be combined with science classes at school. It would allow the pupils to collect science points and gain a more flexible holiday schedule which benefits the parents. On the next step, we facilitated a brainstorming session with design students as we wanted to get feedback on one more concept.
For some time we intended to design a scientific festival for Abisko, for the celebration of nature. Although we went far into the research and even got some positive feedback from the brainstorming session, we realized that an annual festival was quite inappropriate for our goals. The intention of the researchers was to promote science through a service that would be sustainable and visible around the whole year. That was a moment of iteration, that brought us back to the main framework reagarding whom we are designing for, what they expect from the service and what values we need to create for the stakeholders and end users.
Evaluation & User Testing
To choose a direction we evaluated ideas that were directly linked with our initial intension: to trigger curiosity, cultivate knowledge and promote action. Based on these ideas we created a number of storyboards, which we again evaluated and combined. We created three concept proposals for our service, which we user tested with design students. What we were looking for during the user testing was how clear it was for the participants to understand our intention, how easy the service was to use and how successful the process was in transferring knowledge. At the end of the user testing we were ready to refine the most suitable concept.
The service we designed invites visitors to enter Naturum, where CIRC has curated an exhibition. Trained personnel welcomes the families and guides them through the exhibition, suggesting a hike to explore the outdoors. After the hike, the visitors can return to Naturum and participate in an experiment, which allows them to reflect upon the knowledge they gained. Scientific experiments are exposed on the wall and posters available allow them to learn more about the research. Small scale experiments can be purchased, in order to extend the experience of the visitors at home through interactive engagement.
The Adventure Kit
The kit that is provided to the family for the hike includes cards with a story of Abisko as described by a Researcher, a map and a compass. The cards that describe the different locations allow the family to gain knowledge about research on different stages. First, the family is guided to the Researcher’s favorite spots where they can appreciate nature. On the next stage, the cards connect the link between research and the polar environment. Finally, the family is guided to an interactive reproduction of an experiment, where they can find out more regarding the data that is collected. After this stage they are ready to dive into Naturum’s science exhibition.
Upon departure, the family can choose to purchase one of the available experiments that are displayed at Naturum. These experiments are specifically designed for safe home usage and allow the users to reflect upon their visit to Abisko and the knowledge that they have gained. Sensors that are provided with the experiments are connected with an online platform, that allows the user to monitor changes in the experiment. A community of users can then be created to strengthen environmental consciousness. Examples of how other users are using similar experiments will engage the user and inspire for further interaction with the experiment.