Science engagement framework and youth into science strategy: science centre capacity building project evaluation
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The Science Centre Capacity Building (SCCB) project was introduced in response to the capacity challenge presented by the rapid increase in the number of South African Science Centres. The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) was mandated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to address capacity building through the provision of training to support science centre officials in improving the effective management of their centres, as well as providing networking and information sharing opportunities.
This study evaluated the training which took place as part of the SCCB project between 2009 and 2014. A range of workshops were conducted between 2009 and 2014, as well as job shadowing and study visits to France and Miami, USA.
Data collection for the study occurred in three phases. Initially reports, attendance registers and information regarding the various workshops were collected (phase 1). Phase 2 involved the collection of data through questionnaires, and phase 3 utilised an online survey as a data collection tool. In both phase 2 and phase 3, respondents were asked questions related to the impact of the SCCB training which they had participated in.
These training opportunities have had an important impact on the capacity of the science centre staff members that have been able to attend the workshops, or taken part in job shadowing or international study visits. The findings of the study highlighted that almost ninety percent of the respondents felt that the training had resulted in a fair to substantial improvement in their capacity for their jobs. In addition, 97% of the responses indicated that staff members are better able to handle various aspects of the identified intervention areas to some extent due to the training. It was also found that in most cases, enabling environments exist at the science centres, which encourage the transfer of knowledge which is gained, as well as its practical implementation. Many managers and staff members emphasised that they would like to attend further training.
The findings of the study informed a number of recommendations which will enhance the impact of the SCCB training and the capacity of science centres. The extent of the training should be increased to incorporate more workshops, or more participants in each workshop, as well as through providing the material covered in the workshop to those who were not able to attend. Training should also be targeted at the specific roles of participants at the science centres; and those areas which are the most problematic should be focused on, with core modules being presented on a yearly basis. Science centres should therefore be consulted regularly to determine the most necessary and relevant training. The transfer of knowledge from those who have attended the training is a further crucial element, and this needs to be encouraged. In addition, it is important to implement strategies which will promote the retention of human capacity within the science centre network.