Science in the City is Malta’s national science and arts festival held in Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage site and last year’s European City of Culture. On the night (27 November—European Researchers’ Night-rescheduled due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic), the city is transformed by a fusion of science and art with interactive installations, exhibitions, music, shadow puppet shows, theatre, live experiments, talks, tech areas, and much more. This memorable night provides a platform for citizens to engage with scientists and their research. Previous festivals have featured some of Malta’s leading artists and entertainers, including Kenneth Scicluna, Malcolm and Angele Galea, Gwilym Bugeja, Diccon Cooper and Ruben Paul Borg.
This year, Science in the City will offer you the opportunity to test your creativity through jazz, to see how magic exists in the everyday and to dive into a virtual reality when you can come face to face with the building blocks of life. The theme for this year is “Engage, Empower, Enable”, which aims to highlight how science is geared towards the advancement of the individual and how for the betterment of the whole world.
The Science in the City Festival was first held way back in 2012. [insert link to archive] It was the first science and arts festival to be brought to Malta’s shores and has been growing in scale and vision ever since. The number of attendees has more than doubled from 12,000 in 2012 to 30,000 in 2018 — reaching over 6% of the total population of the Maltese Islands. The number of activities has more than tripled as has the number of partners, researchers and volunteers involved, with over 400 students and 80 researchers involved.
In 2012 [insert link] the main event was You Are The Staircase, an art installation by Norbert Attard inspired by the work of geneticist Prof. Alex Felice. In 2013 [insert link] there were the Humanised fruit flies – human-sized and depicted engaging in human activities – and Light up my house, an interactive installation. The 2014 edition [insert link] included AMaze² – a huge maze which threw in wide-ranging fields in science: from the CERN particle accelerator, creating music with plants to X-Ray Crystallography; with a planetarium at its centre. The 2015 edition [insert link] focused on the Rosetta Comet, with St George’s square transformed into the Rosetta Satellite Space Mission, along with 3D printing of the same satellite, the hubble telescope and more. In 2016 [insert link] the festival was themed ‘The Brain’, with exhibitions like Brain Square (inspired by comparison of different mammalian brains) and Anthropomorphic Sculptures (showing the evolution of the nervous system), along with discussions centred around mental health. 2017 [insert link] saw the festival reach new heights and focused on how today’s research is shaping our future with highlights including Light Pushes Stuff (an interactive moving sculpture powered by light), virtual reality demonstrations, a large Hologram installation (the first of its kind in Malta!) bringing the human body to life in 3D and the music-science fusion “Jazz for the Brain” where lights and music displayed the complexity of a stroke, and the technology being used to treat the condition. Last year, we worked with the Valletta 2018 Foundation to feature ‘Pushing The Mouse’: a giant computer mouse that was pushed around the Triton Fountain by visitors, as well as a high-tech augmented reality experience called The Fourth Triton. Meanwhile, St Georges square was transformed by ReFraming Carbon, an artwork inspired by Malta’s rich heritage.
European Researchers' Night
Science in the City is part of the EU-wide event: ‘European Researchers’ Night’, which takes place in over 30 countries and 300 cities simultaneously. This year Malta’s proposal ranked 7 from 128 applicants. Every country has a unique approach to European Researchers’ Night [hyperlink: http://ec.europa.eu/research/researchersnight/], including opening research facilities (laboratories, research centres, museum collections), letting the public use the most recent technologies and instruments with the guidance of scientists, participation in experiments, competitions and quizzes, science demonstrations and simulations, engage in debates, and to chat with researchers. In Malta, we transform the capital city, Valletta to engage with research. For one night, everyone can be a scientist!
Science in the City is proudly funded by the European Commission’s Research and Innovation Framework Programme H2020 (2014-2020) by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. Directorate-General for Education and Culture. European Commission.
Science in the City is recognised as a festival by ‘Europe for Festivals and Festivals for Europe’ (EFFE). EFFE is a platform, set up by the European Festivals Association, which serves as a stamp of quality given to those festivals which meet certain criteria. Namely, they must show artistic dedication, be involved in the local scene, and their outlook must reflect a European and global approach.
We are proud to be considered one of those festivals.
Other than on European Researchers’ Night, there are several other activities you may be interested in. Science in the house [link to event] is an exhibition that includes some of the most recent research carried out at the University of Malta, from all fields and disciplines. The event brings Members of Parliament and researchers together to discuss research on the eve of European Researchers’ Night. The exhibition in the foyer of the Parliament Building will then be open to the public during Science in the City (27 September).
There are also events throughout the year. Malta Cafe Scientifique is another way of bringing researchers’ work to the general public, through a small talk followed by dialogue. CineXjenza uses film as a medium to discuss advances in science. A film is first screened and followed by discourse with researchers on how these findings are affecting our society and the science behind the film. Kids Dig Science hold workshops throughout the year in which children from the age of seven can learn about science through theatre and hands on experiments.
Alongside the release of each issue of the University of Malta’s research magazine, THINK, there is a SoapBox event where researchers get 5 minutes on the box to talk about new projects or ideas over a drink at a bar.
STEAM School Malta goes to Maltese schools with creative STEAM activities for students. The activities are run by University of Malta students, staff and researchers.
The team (with international trainers) run STEAM Summer School which offers a transcultural science communication intensive course to people from all over the world. It will be held in July of 2020 in Malta.