NERC and the UK Association for Science & Discovery Centres join forces to engage families

14 September 2017

The UK Association for Science & Discovery Centres and NERC are to work together on a programme of activities that will explore the importance of environmental science in helping us understand our changing world.

Arctic researchers on sea ice

Operation Earth is a two-year-long national programme that will engage, inspire and involve school-age children and their families with NERC's world-leading environmental science research. The programme will highlight the relevance of contemporary environmental science issues to everyone's daily lives and to society's future. It will be led by ASDC and three development partners - Dynamic Earth, the Eden Project and the Natural History Museum - with scientific expertise from NERC.

Activities are to be delivered in 2018 by ten science centres, hand-picked by ASDC and NERC:

  1. Catalyst - external link, Cheshire and Techniquest Glyndŵr - external link, Wrexham
  2. Dynamic Earth - external link, Edinburgh
  3. Eden Project - external link, Cornwall
  4. Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre - external link, Manchester
  5. Natural History Museum - external link, London
  6. National Space Centre - external link, Leicester
  7. Oxford University Museum of Natural History - external link
  8. The Observatory Science Centre - external link, Sussex
  9. Thinktank - external link, Birmingham
  10. W5 - external link, Belfast

An ASDC-led project team will develop a series of exceptional hands-on activities, experiments, public shows and meet-the-expert sessions for children and families across the UK. They include a planet Earth costume with its very own ice cap, a real-life experiment to demonstrate ocean acidification, sensors to measure air quality, and microscopes to explore living things.

Planet Earth costume

Dr Hannah Collins trials the planet Earth costume to be used as part of NERC's exciting public engagement activities with ASDC

The activities will be delivered by the successful infrastructure of the UK's science and discovery centres and museums, engaging over 100,000 children and adults throughout 2018. The activities aim to give young people and their families the confidence, curiosity, and interest to continue to explore and ask questions long after they leave the science and discovery centres.

ASDC and the project team will create the activities, experiments and family shows, prepare an experiments training manual, purchase all of the hands-on equipment and deliver to the centres, and train the science centres and NERC researchers to use it all.

Selected science centres will start delivering this exciting programme to families across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales from early 2018, with many launching in the February 2018 half-term.

Project Director and CEO of ASDC, Dr Penny Fidler, said:

If we truly want our nation's young people to be inspired and motivated by environmental science and consider it as a career for their future, we need to give them imaginative and creative hands-on opportunities like these so they can see how enjoyable the questions and challenges of real science are. We are delighted to be working with NERC and to have together selected ten fantastic science centres to deliver this inspirational national STEM programme.

NERC's Director of Corporate Affairs, Alison Robinson, said:

At NERC, we are thrilled that environmental science is at the heart of this national engagement programme. Our science reaches across the globe and into all parts of our daily lives. This programme gives young people and families a hands-on way to get involved with some world-class NERC science and see how it is relevant to them. We hope everyone who takes part will be inspired to get involved in the debate around environmental science as a great way to help solve some of our big future challenges.

Further information

Tamera Jones
External Communications Manager
NERC media office
01793 411561

James Summers
ASDC Special Projects Manager
0117 9150184
07794 167334


1. The UK Association for Science & Discovery Centres (ASDC) brings together more than 60 of the UK's major science engagement organisations including all the key science and discovery centres and science museums. The ASDC membership makes up the largest network of science engagement professionals in the UK who together engage over 20 million people each year with the wonders of science. Ten million of those we engage are school-age students and over ten million are girls and women. Between them, these centres work with 385,000 members of the public every week of the year, in all parts of the UK, helping people to explore and delve into science in a hands-on, involving and personal way. ASDC is an educational charity based in Bristol. A map of all the UK centres - external link - can be found on the ASDC website.

2. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).