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Outreach activity- Speed-dating with scientists

Posted by , on 10 October 2013

Why is this a good activity?

This event takes the form of a 5-minute conversation between a scientist and a visitor in a relaxed and entertaining space in a way of breaking down the stereotypes of scientists, encouraging scientific careers and involving the public in science-related issues. Researchers who take part range from PhD students and post-docs to group leaders. They can have different backgrounds including biology, physics, bioinformatics, medicine and chemistry. Conversations frequently last more than the 5 minutes estimated for a speed-dating and the visitors have the opportunity to speak with at least three scientists. Topics range from scientific work on genetics, cancer, malaria and the use of computational biology in state-of-the art biomedical research to the day-to-day life of researchers and how it fits in with private life. The questions asked are often insightful, surprising and thoughtful: “Will we have a vaccine against cancer?”, “What degree should I take to be a scientist?”, “Does a scientist also listen to music?”, “Is it safe to eat genetically modified food?”.


Target audience:

Speed dating with scientists at the IGC stand in Optimus Alive 2012Teenagers and adults


Materials needed (requirements):

– Scientists

– Moderator

– Tables

– Chairs or Poufs

– Timer



1. The speed-dating should be organized depending on:

– The number of visitors you are expecting;

– The number of scientists you can invite to do the activity;

– The time available.

For example:

If you have 12 tables, each table with 1 scientist, you can organize them in 4 rows of 3 tables. The idea is that each visitor speak 5 minutes with 3 scientists in a row. In this case in 15 minutes 12 visitors can do speed-dating and in an hour you can reach 48 people;

2. It is really important to speak with the scientists before they do the speed-dating and to make sure they will speak in a simple way about their research and to make sure they know the general organization of their institutions and opportunities available.

3. Scientists should take with them some material to show such as pictures, lab material, etc.

Speed-dating with scientists at the IGC space Optimus Alive 2008 

Any tips?

– Make sure you do a briefing with the scientists before the speed-dating and that they do not take important lab materials with them that they can loose;

– Most of the people don’t know how to start the conversation so make sure scientist to do it;

– It is important that people meet more than 1 scientist but it is also important that useful conversations can flow;

– We notice that people tend to stay more than 5 minutes speaking with the scientist.


You can check videos (such as the one below) of the Speed-dating with scientists at Optimus Alive music festival in Portugal, organized by Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência here: You can also read about this and other activities developed at music festivals by the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in this post.

Speed dating with scientists at the IGC stand in Optimus Alivein 2009



Outreach logo new squareThis post is part of a series on science outreach. You can read the introduction to the series here and read other posts in this series here.




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Categories: Outreach, Resources

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