Transforming Perceptions of Astronomy: the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute’s regional programmes of outreach and public engagement
The high-profile research across the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute (JHI) forms the basis for extensive outreach and public engagement programmes across the communities of Preston and the wider region of Lancashire.
Since 2013, JHI researchers from a range of astronomical areas have engaged with an estimated 91,000 individuals through nearly 500 different events. These include public lecture series and observatory evenings as well as contributions to the University of Central Lancashire's regular Lancashire Science Festival, all enhancing interest and awareness in astronomy research. Collaboration has increased with Preston’s Harris Museum and the Preston and District Astronomy Society (PADAS) which has led to new visitors and increased memberships as well as the restoration of the local Moor Park Observatory. The externally supported interventions at local schools have helped to improve how physics is taught at a local college and helped young people to pursue physics in their further and higher education.
Since 2013, the annual Lancashire Science Festival (LSF) has attracted over 65,000 attendees. Research from the Festival found that 70% of parents attending the festival reported a positive impact on their perception of science with this proportion increasing among parents from more deprived areas. In 2017, Professor Robert Walsh successfully obtained a prestigious three-year Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Leadership Fellowship in Public Engagement focusing on engaging low science capital audiences in Blackpool. Over the last eight years JHI projects have received over £530,000 funding from several trusts, societies and funding bodies, including STFC, The Ogden Trust, the Holden family, and the Institute of Physics.