European City of Science Leiden2022 has concluded with a huge social and economic impact
As European City of Science 2022, Leiden was the very first city to launch a year-round science festival aimed at connecting science with society. Independent research agency, Cigarbox, recently published a report demonstrating its impact. This showed that despite its start during the pandemic, Leiden2022 strengthened the relationship between science and society in several ways. The year also added to Leiden’s reputation as a city of knowledge and boosted the city’s economy. On top of all this, the successful pilot year has inspired the European Commission to implement a bi-annual follow-up.
A new approach: from top-down to bottom-up
By opting for a local, open and flexible program for anyone with a curious mind, the organisation of Leiden European City of Science 2022 broke traditional forms of science communication. “We wanted to put together a bottom-up public program in which we could experiment with participation and co-creation. This is the only way to create real interaction between science and society,” says Lucien Geelhoed, who, as intendant, was responsible for the content and concept of Leiden2022. According to the report, the innovative approach of Leiden2022 led to more connections between scientists and the Leiden population. Participating citizens became more appreciative of science while participating scientists became more aware of the importance of public involvement in their research.
Leiden2022 as a magnet for the city
An estimated 450,000 visitors and participants were involved in one form or another during Leiden European City of Science, with an economic spin-off of more than 20 million euros. In addition to the pull of many public events and activities throughout the scientific year, Leiden European City of Science 2022 also proved to be a magnet for major scientific conferences. As a result of the European City of Science title, the number of (international) conferences and symposia in Leiden more than doubled — from 43 in (pre-COVID) 2019 to more than 85 in 2022. Many other major events also took place in 2022, such as awarding the prestigious Lorentz Medal to physicist Daan Frenkel.
Attention on a European scale
The European Commission was also impressed by what took place in Leiden this past year. “The best compliment they could give us is that Leiden2022 has been included as a pilot in the Policy Agenda of the European Research Area,” says Meta Knol, director of Leiden2022. This means that the results and evaluations of Leiden European City of Science 2022 will be shared with science representatives and the ministries of all 27 member states: “This allows us to draw attention to the Leiden Model for Public Engagement with Science on a European scale. We hope it inspires other cities, universities and scientists to develop new ways of interacting with local communities.” Regardless of this, the successful Leiden pilot year has already inspired others. In 2024, the Polish city of Katowice will bear the title European City of Science. Now, they are also developing a year-round programme with the aim of connecting science and society.
Most important results from the report:
Leiden2022 has proven to be a textbook example of successfully connecting science and society:
- Leiden2022 developed an accessible, bottom-up method to encourage new interactions between scientists and citizens. The approach not only made way for connections between scientists and the community, but also more appreciation for, interest in, and confidence in science.
- Leiden2022 reached the people of Leiden: half of the participants of Kennis door de Wijken (Knowledge through the Neighbourhoods) participated in scientific activities within walking distance of their homes. Leiden2022 welcomed visitors of all ages and educational backgrounds, which were approximately in proportion to the demographics of Leiden.
- Of those who participated in the Knowledge through the Neighbourhoods program, 20% had never participated in a scientific activity before; 55% of these attendees said that participation had given them more confidence in science.
- When asked, 94% of participants in the Knowledge through the Neighbourhoods program said they were attracted by the subject, 79% were inspired, and 68% indicated that they had developed a different perspective. Of the participating scientists, 45% indicated they understood the importance of public involvement in science more than before.
- What proved to be very interesting was the appreciation for the broad structure of the year, which, in addition to science, covered topics such as knowledge, art, and skills. Of the local partners involved, 66% indicated they wanted to do more with art and culture in the future, and 70% wanted to do more with craft, expertise, and know-how.
- The European Commission has expressed its intention to continue using the Model of Leiden2022 to stimulate public involvement in science.
Economic impact on the city of Leiden
- Leiden2022 led to a doubling of the number of conferences in the region (from 43 in 2019 to 85 in 2022).
- All events, conferences, and visitors combined contributed to an economic impact of more than 20 million euros for the Leiden region.
- Theatres, museums, companies, scientific institutions, and other organisations that organised scientific activities in connection with Leiden2022 indicated that they attracted new (79%), larger (60%) and other (60%) target groups in 2022.
Leiden as a knowledge city
- Visitors at these events thought positively about Leiden as a city that connects science, knowledge, art and skills (87%), a city that embraces scientific talent (84%), and a city that arouses curiosity, surprises people and is resourceful (84%).
- Of the participating local companies, museums, theatres, communication centres, and other local organisations, 73% felt 'more connected to Leiden as a city of knowledge’ because of Leiden2022.
All results of research agency Cigarbox’s impact report can be found here.
For more information about the unique setup of Leiden2022, see also modelleiden2022.
The Policy Agenda of the European Research Agency can be found here.