Impact Report 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES - Who am I?
with Alice Roberts and Aoife McLysaght
The Royal Institution has been engaging people with science for over 200 years. And nothing exemplifies the way in which we build on our heritage, to make our activities relevant today, better than the family tradition that is our annual CHRISTMAS LECTURES.
If Michael Faraday, who instigated the CHRISTMAS LECTURES in 1825, were to join us for filming in our theatre today, he wouldn’t take long to orientate himself in familiar surroundings. He would recognise the plethora of props and demos designed to inspire young minds; the passion and expertise of the Lecturer, a fellow scientist working at the cutting-edge of modern research; and the eager, excited young faces of our audience.
Yet the CHRISTMAS LECTURES today are different. No longer are they a body of knowledge to be imparted and learnt, but rather the focus is on science as a process of continuous exploration. Year after year we have made the content more topical and more relevant to our everyday lives, helping young people to consider how science should be used, even as they learn and have fun.
And today the Lectures are so much more than a one-off event, they are increasingly becoming the centre piece around which we build a year-long national conversation about the impact of science on society.
About the Lectures - Who am I?
We are 99.9% the same as the next person, yet we are 100% unique. In the 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES, scientist, TV presenter and author Prof Alice Roberts explored the mix of evolution, genetics, and environment that makes us who we are.
To cover such a broad subject and to celebrate the centenary in 2019 of the Genetics Society, Alice was joined by geneticist, Prof Aoife McLysaght, as a Special Guest Lecturer for the first time in the history of the Lectures.
Together Alice and Aoife took us on a 4 billion year journey through our evolutionary past to answer the most fundamental of questions: Who am I?
From our hidden similarities to a fruit fly, to the story of the emergence and global spread of our own species, to the interplay between genes and the environment in creating individual differences, Alice and Aoife uncovered our true place in the biological tree of life. And they asked challenging ethical questions about what the future holds for our species.
The CHRISTMAS LECTURES have a remarkable tradition of reaching an audience of millions each year by combining the TV broadcast of live theatre shows with a social media and traditional media campaign that enables us to start a conversation about the topics raised in the Lectures. The 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES have surpassed all expectations!
BBC4 broadcast & iplayer views
2.2 million viewers
40% increase in TV and online viewing figures vs. 2017!
Filming of the Lectures
1,200 people in the live filming audience
Over 750 people watched via live streaming around the UK
Over 1,200 11 to 17 year olds, including families, school groups, disadvantaged students, and community groups attended the filming of the three CHRISTMAS LECTURES in December 2018 at the Ri’s theatre in London.
Live streaming around the UK
As tickets to the filming of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES exceeds demand, we have always provided a live stream of the filming of the Lectures into one of the Ri’s Libraries for each Lecture to enable more people to be apart of all the action in the theatre. In an effort to expand the live filming experience beyond London, in 2018, we successfully trialed live streaming of the Lectures to five science centres across the UK.
Participating science centres included:
- Cambridge Science Centre
- Museum of Science & Industry (Manchester)
- W5 (Belfast)
- University of Central Lancashire
- Imperial College London.
With the success of the the 2018 trial, we look forward to expanding the live streaming of the the CHRISTMAS LECTURES in 2019 to enable us to engage with more and more people across the UK.
100% increase in Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
#xmaslectures trended in the UK on Twitter
2.3 million twitter impressions
602,000 Facebook impressions
47,200 Instagram impressions
The national conversation around ‘Who am I?’ started on the night of the first broadcast and continued through each show, with millions of people engaging on social media – commenting, questioning, adding their own knowledge and opinions. In 2018 #xmaslectures was trending on twitter for the third year in a row, with over 2.3 million impressions and 2,500 retweets of Ri content. Overall the number of impressions on twitter was almost double that seen the previous year; while Instagram impressions were at 47,200 - up from 21,000 in 2017.
The 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES PR campaign began in August with the announcement of the Lecturer and topic in the Guardian, and further media coverage in the Sunday Times Magazine, BBC Breakfast and two separate interviews on The Today Programme.
Along with this, we had 70 pieces of coverage mentioning the Christmas Lectures and/or the Missing Lectures campaign appearing, including:
- Major spread in Sunday Times magazine
- Radio 4 Today Programme twice in a month
- Featured on Chris Evans Breakfast Show for the first time
- Coverage in the 3 leading children’s titles
- BBC Breakfast and 22 live regional radio interviews
The impact of the 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES doesn’t end with the final broadcast. Instead the Lectures are the start of a national and international programme of activities to engage a wider audience with an in-depth examination of the ‘Who am I?’ topic.
CHRISTMAS LECTURES Family Fun Day, 23 February 2019
Families got the chance to get hands-on with the 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES at the February Ri Family Fun Day. The event was an action-packed day of talks, demonstrations and experiments that provided the 789 kids and adults with the opportunity to explore who they are!
“[one thing I will remember is] How fantastic the people were with my 5 year old daughter - she’s now telling her friends about gene editing in mosquitoes!”
“[one thing I will remember is] The varied range of scientists and scientific disciplines & their ability and willingness to engage with my child.”
“[one thing I will remember is] Showcasing research and techniques in genetics in interactive stations, and being able to have conversations with researchers.”
I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here! - January 2019 - we once again ran our popular online schools activity ‘I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!’, a forum for children to have their burning questions on the 2018 Lectures answered by scientists. The 20 experts who took part included a host of specialists who took part in the Lectures, academia, the media and business. School uptake for this event continued to increase from previous years with 953 registered school users from 41 schools around the UK.
Unisex Toilets Debate Kit - Ongoing throughout 2019 - Along side ‘I’m a scientist...’, we launched our CHRISTMAS LECTURES: Who am I? Debate Kit for schools in January 2019 which will run throughout the year. Following on from the huge success of last year’s Debate Kit on communication and privacy, this year’s Debate Kit continues to enable teachers to further engage with the themes introduced in the 2018 CHRISTMAS LECTURES by providing a structured debate that shows students how to build a discussion and back up their opinions with facts.
This year’s debate kit is asking the question: Should schools make all their toilets unisex? The Debate Kit covers relevant topics such as biological sex, gender and societal expectations, and helps students explore what gender means to them and others. The kit includes eight characters with different viewpoints to encourage a balanced discussion around the question, which many schools already find themselves asking. The kit also provides everything a teacher needs to run a debate around unisex toilets and to help students understand the differences between one’s biological sex and gender identity.
Ri Youth Summit - 28 March 2019 - Again, continuing the conversation from the 2018 Christmas Lectures, we will bring together 200 sixth form and college students from around the country to learn, discuss, debate and present on the topics of identity, science and policy. The day’s discussions will explore sexuality, gender, nationality and ethnicity. We will ask young people to make concrete recommendations about ways that we as a society can move forward on some of our most pressing problems, with a particular focus on our digital identity. They will not only identify actions that they can take as individuals, but will also make recommendations for actions that can be undertaken by the Ri and others.
In the summer of 2019, the Lectures will continue their international tour to Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong for a mix of broadcasts on national television networks combined with live stage shows, showcasing the best in UK science communication.