New Scientist Live – Engaging the public

Hazel Jeffery1, Jeremy Walton2, Jess Stacey2, Ben Harrison2

1National Centre for Atmospheric Science,  2Met Office Hadley Centre

Two projects joined forces for a stand at the New Scientist Live Exhibition, “the world’s greatest festival of ideas and discoveries”, on 7-9 October at the ExCeL Centre in London. The UK TerraFIRMA project and the European Union funded ESM2025 project work complementarily on Earth System modelling using models to develop climate simulations to help design climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. Both of these projects have dedicated actions on public outreach as part of their deliverables.

The New Scientist Live exhibition is one of the biggest science festivals in the UK. Within the event there were 5 stages, 56 main stage talks and 80 exhibitors. The first day was dedicated to schools only and the following 2 days were open to the public. We had originally planned to participate in the exhibition in 2020, but due to the pandemic it was delayed by 2 years.

Our exhibition stand, “Predicting Climate Change”, used the PufferSphere 360° display, kindly loaned by the National Oceanography Centre to explore how the oceans, ice, atmosphere and land are changing and could change in the future due to the impacts of climate change. More details about the visualizations we developed for the PufferSphere are presented below by Jeremy.

The Office of Climate Education (OCE) from Paris brought along some fun and yet serious games on the carbon cycle & Earth System Models, especially aimed at children. OCE are part of the ESM2025 with a remit to develop pedagogical educational resources and provide professional development workshops to European teachers, on climate education. Our stand also included three tablets and a large screen, which were set up for interactive quizzes. Our quizzes proved to be really popular, especially when a competitive element was introduced through use of the Kahoot quiz platform.

Schools’ day at New Scientist Live with team members on hand to help.

The PufferSphere globe was a real draw to bring people onto the stand.

OCE brought along their new Earth System game. Students trying out the quizzes.

The quizzes proved really popular and enabled several people to play competitively at the same time.

In time for the New Scientist event, we’d updated some of our video storyboards for use on the touchscreen. However, for the two public days of the event the screen was used primarily for running the quizzes in competitive mode. Competitors were also able to join the quiz via their phones.

A team of 21 project researchers and climate science communicators were on-hand to speak to the public during the 3-day exhibition. It was a real team effort with people from across the projects representing organisations including: Meteo-France, Office of Climate Education, Met Office, National Centre for Atmospheric Science (Reading and Leeds), National Oceanography Centre, National Centre for Earth Observation, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the University of Exeter.

Over 21,191 in-person attendees were recorded for New Scientist Live, along with a further 2,195 international viewers, and this number is expected to grow as more people access the on-demand recordings.

Feedback gathered from the public and the scientists taking part in the event gave us some excellent insights that we will use to improve our public engagement activities. Below, Jess describes some of her experiences and impressions from her time on the stand. Next time, we would improve: linking to resources that people could follow up, streamlining some of the information that we present and focusing on key areas such as the planet warming non-uniformly and how much carbon is stored in the ocean. The discussions certainly gave us some ideas for future presentations.

Scientists taking part have had a chance to leave their ‘science bubble’ and hear what interests the public and what climate information they would like to know about. People asked questions and learnt new things, which helps to correct some misrepresentations and polarisation of climate science in news headlines.

School students were particularly keen to ask about careers in science and the range of subjects they need to study for a science career. Overall, our continued public engagement plays a role in helping build trust in climate change research and hope for the future.

Our Climate Change Quizzes and Climate Change Storyboards & Animations are available through the UKESM web site, please take a look and feel free to share them!

Climate model visualizations at New Scientist Live

Jeremy Walton

Climate models such as UKESM play an important role in the understanding of climate change, and the effective presentation of their results is important for both the scientific community and the public.  In the case of the latter audience – which has become increasingly concerned with the implications of climate change for society – there is a requirement for visualizations which are compelling and engaging. 

For our stand at the New Scientist Live exhibition, we developed a number of animations to show on the PufferSphere 360° display.  We wanted to explain our climate modelling work by sharing some of its results in fashion which invites exploration and discussion.  The large size of the PufferSphere enables viewers to gather around and share the experience of interacting with the visualization via its touch-sensitive display.  Our animations fall into four categories:

  • Modelling the climate – for example, this video illustrates some of the interacting processes in the model, using a variable from different model components (atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, land), each of which is visualized in a quarter of the display.
  • Observations – for example, this video shows changes in the concentration of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere between 2003 and 2016, as measured by earth observation satellites.
  • Oceans – for example, this video shows the annual variation in ocean currents from a high-resolution version of our model.
  • Future climate change – for example, this video shows four possibilities for temperatures at the Earth’s surface in this century, as calculated by UKESM using four scenarios for future greenhouse gas emissions.  Each scenario is visualized in a quarter of the display.

Other examples of the animations we developed are available on our YouTube page.  We found that the PufferSphere proved to be a compelling attraction for visitors to our stand, and was a helpful resource for the presentation and discussion of our investigations into the effects of climate change and possible solutions to this issue.  Other resources on the stand included a large flat-screen display, which we used to play the storyboards (for example, this storyboard about the effects of 2 °C global warming) which we developed last year for our presentations at COP26 in Glasgow.

Using the PufferSphere display on our stand at New Scientist Live to show our climate modelling animations, and to discuss their results with attendees at the exhibition.

Helping out at New Scientist Live: The world’s greatest festival of ideas and discoveries 

Jess Stacey 

As part of my secondment to the Climate Impacts team in Climate Science, I took an opportunity to help out at a stand at the New Scientist Live at the London Excel Centre from Friday 7th to Sunday 9th October. Ben Harrison, who is soon to be moving into the Sea Level Rise team in Climate Science, was also keen and volunteered to help. The stand was organised by the TerraFIRMA project, which is a collaboration of Earth system researchers from organisations, including the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the UK Centre of Ecology and Hydrology.  

Despite the rail strikes, we managed to squeeze into a jam-packed train to London with our 18-month-old daughter in tow. Ben and I planned to do a tag team between manning the stand and childcare. Our stand hosted several activities, including a Kahoot quiz on climate change, a board game demonstrating how earth system models work and the PufferSphere display (the definite star of the show – see photo) courtesy of NOC.  

At the end of the event, we collated feedback from all the volunteers, so I thought I would share a few highlights and things to improve on for anyone doing a similar thing in future. 


  • A great team of volunteers from all different institutions 
  • Having plenty of volunteers meant we only had to man the stand for 2 hours maximum before a break – keeping energy levels up! 
  • The Kahoot quiz – kids loved getting competitive with friends and it was a good opportunity to teach them something when they got the answer wrong 
  • The PufferSphere display for drawing people in and explaining different parts of the Earth system, e.g., people were shocked at how much the Arctic is predicted to warm compared to the rest of the planet due to the albedo feedback. 

Things to improve on for next time: 

  • Clearer messaging on the stand on who we are and what we do (e.g., big logos at the top of posters) 
  • Leaflets for people to take away 
  • More fun demonstrations to draw people in e.g., cloud in a bottle. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the event and having the chance to speak to the public about something I am passionate about – climate science – as well as meeting and sharing knowledge with experts across Earth System Science. The stand prompted some great conversations with the public about climate change such as “How do we know the climate models are accurate?”, “How bad is it going to be?” and “Why aren’t our government(s) taking this seriously/doing more?!” as well as some funny comments that were shared over a pint later!