Start a Cafe Scientifique
The main Cafe Scientifique web site can be found at www.cafescientifique.org
If there is not a Cafe Scientifique in your city or town and you would like to start one, you are very welcome to do so. Cafe Scientifique provide support, advice and links to the rest of the network. If you do want to start a Cafe Scientifique, email Cafe Scientifique here.
If you are thinking about organising a Cafe Scientifique in your area, perhaps you are wondering what might be involved. Cafes Scientifique are usually held monthly and many have run successfully for several years. You might find interested people in organisations such as local science centres, Adult Education, the local council, the public engagement or outreach departments of your nearest university, the media and many more. It depends what works in your local circumstances.
To organise a cafe, you should be prepared to: approach a venue and establish a relationship with them, approach and book speakers, host the events yourself or arrange for someone else to and publicise events in advance. Once a Cafe Scientifique is established it can be relatively easy to maintain.
Cafe Scientifique is all about conversation, so it is important that your venue allows the audience to see and hear the speaker and each other. The venue needs to strike a balance between being large enough to accommodate the audience (usually from 30 to 50 people) and small enough to allow them to hear each other and interact successfully.
It is important that the venue is relaxed and informal and that drinks (and perhaps food) are available. Noise should be kept to a minimum while the cafe is running, especially during the opening talk from the speaker. Where you find these things depends on your local situation. Cafes and bars are an obvious choice but pubs, arts centres, community centres, science centres, cinemas and theatres have all been succesful.
Once you have found a suitable venue, you need to book some speakers. Cafes usually have a single speaker for each event, so that the dialogue with the audience is maintained. If you have a 'panel' of speakers, the audience can become viewers of, rather than participants in, the debate.
If you are interested in starting a Cafe Scientifique you are probably already interested in science. If you have your own networks in science and technology then it makes it relatively easy to find speakers. Cafe Scientifique organisers find speakers either through their own networks or by following up articles they read in newspapers, magazines or in the popular science press. All cafes welcome suggestions for speakers and topics - many leave slips of paper on tables during the event so that people can write down their suggestions.
Each Cafe Scientifique event is open to the public and is run on the principles of free speech and respect for the individual. It is important the host maintains these principles and that everyone feels able to ask questions.
Once a cafe is established, many organisers set up email lists for circulating details of forthcoming events. However, the first few events must generally be publicised using a wide range of means, so that you can build up an audience. Most start off using a mix of posters, leaflets, inserts in local 'What's On' publications, Adult Education contact lists, local newspapers and local radio and television. Again, it very much depends on the situation in your city or town.