Science Café Toolkit

Topic Ideas

Below is a partial list of topic ideas, sorted alphabetically. Any topic that would be of interest to the general public would make a great Science Café topic.

  • Alternative Energy Sources
  • Biofuels & Bioenergy
  • Careers in Transition
  • Chemistry & Science Careers
  • Chemistry of Food (Chocolate, Beer, Wine, etc.)
  • Chemistry of Porcelain
  • Climate Change
  • DNA
  • Food & Nutrition
  • Forensic Science
  • Geochemistry
  • Green Chemistry and Engineering
  • Intellectual Property
  • Nanotechnology
  • Our Energy Future
  • Paint Chemistry
  • Polymers in the Human Body
  • Recent Scientific Discoveries and Medical Ethics
  • Science for Future Presidents
  • Stem Cells
  • Sustainable Living
  • Trans Fat
  • Vaccines
  • Venomous Bites and Stings

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Choosing a Venue

Science Cafés are traditionally held in a casual setting such as a local coffee shop, bar, bookstore, or restaurant. However, some cafés are held at science museums or other similar venues.

Things to Consider when Choosing a Venue

  • What size audience do you expect? Can the venue accommodate your audience?
  • Will there be a charge for using the space at the venue?
  • Is there a separate area available for your science café?
  • What food and drink are available at the venue?
  • Does the venue have any audio/visual equipment you will need?
  • Is the venue in an area accessible by your target audience?

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Choosing Speakers

Where to Find Speakers

  • Members of your local section or division
  • University faculty
  • Industry scientists
  • Government employees involved in science related areas
  • Museum faculty
  • Writers for local papers, magazines, or books
  • ACS Online Speaker Directory

Characteristics of an Engaging Speaker

  • Ability to translate their expertise into nontechnical terms
  • Ability to get the audience excited about a topic
  • Ability to present in a conversational style
  • Ability to spur/continue discussions

Tips for Planning your Science Café

Consider your audience

Most science cafés are geared toward non scientists in your community. So choose speakers and topics that will be appealing for your target audience.

Consider the size of your audience

For your first few events you may have a smaller attendance than you will in the future. Expect 30-50 for your first few meetings. If you continue to hold your science cafés regularly, your audience will likely grow by word-of-mouth. Many local sections report attendance of 150-200 for well-established programs.

Consider the format of your science café

Do you want to have a sole speaker, or a group of speakers for a panel discussion? Do you want to include visual aids such as videos or PowerPoint or restrict their use? Do you want to include trivia as part of your event?

Use a sample timeline to plan your science café

Don’t know where to start? This sample timeline will give you an idea of what is involved and how to plan it.

Creating a Budget for your Science Café

While science cafés can be held with a minimal budget there are several items and funding options to keep in mind.

Items to Include in Your Budget

  • Speaker travel and lodging
  • Creating promotional materials for the science café.
  • Space rental—some locations will require you to pay a fee to use the space for your science café.

Funding Options

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Promoting Your Science Café

Promotion Ideas

  • Direct mail
  • Pamphlets and flyers
  • Banners
  • Paid advertising
  • Social media (e.g., ACS Network, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, etc.)
  • Local Section Newsletters
  • College/University Campuses
  • Share your flyer with local teachers
  • Post flyers at your local library
  • Add your event to the ACS Community Activities Event Locator
  • List your science café on an event map or calendar, such as the ScienceCafes.org map
  • Be sure to plan your first two events simultaneously, so you can advertise the next event at the first event

Evaluating your Science Café

Evaluation of your science café is an important step in continuing to hold successful science cafés, so don’t overlook it. Evaluate each science café, so you can learn what worked and what didn’t and apply lessons learned to your next event.

Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Planning Team

  • How many people attended the science café?
  • Did your audience include a variety of people, or were the people from only one demographic?
  • Was the audience engaged in the conversation?
  • How many people stayed for the discussion portion of the evening?
  • What worked at the science café?
  • What would you change for the next science café?

Get Input from the Audience

In addition to the questions above about your observation of the audience consider conducting a quick survey of the audience during and after the event. Have paper surveys available and/or offer the survey online. There are several online survey tools, many with free options. Adapt this sample survey to serve your needs.

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Additional Science Café Resources

Need more ideas or inspiration? See the sites below:

  • Science Café Group
    Visit the Science Café Group on the ACS Network to learn and share about Science Cafés.
  • Sciencecafés.org
    NOVA science Now’s Science Café site. It has tips are getting started and holding Science Cafés.
  • Café Scientifique
    Explore Science Cafés in Europe, where the trend started.
  • Sigma Xi
    Sigma Xi is a scientific research society who hosts several Science Cafés around the country.
  • Pacific Science Center Science Café
    A Science Café held by a local science center, that offers online viewing of the events.
  • Science on Tap
    An example of an ongoing Science Café in Seattle, WA.

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