Engaging science: A performance and accountability framework for Scotland's science centres
Awarded Doctor of Business Administration
Science is critical to the knowledge economy and UK science centres, many of which appeared in the new millennium, are perceived an effective vehicle for the promotion of public engagement with science (PES). Following trading difficulties in 2004 Scotland's four science centres (Dundee Science Centre, Glasgow Science Centre, Our Dynamic Earth and Satrosphere) entered into a funding relationship with the Scottish Executive (now Government) which also effectively created the Scottish Science Centres Network (SSCN) - the first national network of science centres in Europe. The early funding model employed by the government involved deficit-funding centres resulting in the centres losing most money receiving most funding. Informed by several independent reviews, the Scottish Government is now adopting a performance-based funding model. However such a model required a performance framework and key performance indicators (KPls) for the SSCN which, to date, has proved elusive despite several cyclical attempts. The principal research question underpinning this study is: How can government funding of science centres better facilitate government policy on PES? Drawing on the experience of an international knowledge-community of senior science centre professionals, over two rounds of interviews, a significant amount of data on the alternative funding models and composite performance indicators was collected. This data was fed into two meetings of the senior representatives of the SSCN and led to the development of a new performance framework for the SSCN complete with seventeen KPls. This represents an important milestone in advancing SSCN efforts to better demonstrate their economy, efficiency and effectiveness in return for continuing public funding.
The framework is of sufficient generality to be of benefit to science centres outside Scotland and notably those centres who have still to convince their governments of the contribution they could make to advancing government's growing interest in PES in return for a funding relationship.