If there is not a Cafe Scientifique in your city or town and you would like to start one, you are very welcome to join the family. We provide support to new Cafes Scientifiques, advice and links to the rest of the network. If you want to start a Cafe Scientifique, email us here.
Take a look at the ‘gone but not forgotten‘ page, which lists currently suspended cafes – there may have been one near you in the past.
Cafes 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 departments of your nearest university, the media and many more. It depends what works in your local circumstances.
Many cafes are organised successfully by one person but it’s undoubtedly very much easier if there is an organising group of three or four people who can share the tasks among them.
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 do this, and publicise events. Once a Cafe Scientifique is established it can be relatively easy to maintain.
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.
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, libraries, cinemas and theatres have all been successful.
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 tends to become viewers of, rather than participants in, the conversation.
If you’re thinking of 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 but organisers also find speakers by following up articles they read in newspapers, magazines or in the popular science press, talking to local universities or contacting local science and technology-based industries. 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.