June 18, 2024

Bionpa

You are Your Only Limit

Findings from a Landscape Study of Art-Science Collaboration Programs: Told with Bunnies

4 min read

rabbits on a blue background

In this comic, bunnies present the findings from a landscape report on art-science collaboration programs

We explored the landscape of art-science collaboration programs by assembling a database of more than 130 active programs and conducting interviews with key program directors.
Our results reveal the immense opportunities and challenges for these boundary-spanning
programs. 

Findings in this comic drawn from The Landscape of Art-Science Collaboration Programs by Nic Bennett and Anthony Dudo. Check out the full report here

a variety of rabbit breeds lounge on a blue background

Finding 1: There is no “one-size-fits-all” design for art-science programs – and this
is a good thing. Two helpful guidelines that emerged were to make programs meaningful
(clear on the context-based goal) and manageable (honing down to what is practically
possible).

 

rabbits hop across a bridge on a blue background

Finding 2: Working across disparate disciplines is a challenge, but these intersections
are incredibly generative and create work that would not have been possible with art
or science alone. Ideally, both artists and scientists leave transformed in some way.

 

rabbits interacting with science and art supplies

Finding 3: These programs play an important role in cultivating art-science networks
by providing opportunities to connect people who often feel isolated in their work,
which helps grow this niche and emerging transdisciplinary field.

 

a rabbit going down a slide

Finding 4: Whether emphasizing the collaborative process or the final product, all
programs appreciated the value of process in art-science collaborations. The collaborative
process was often considered the most meaningful but was also the most difficult to
evaluate.

 

rabbits sitting on either side of a see saw

Finding 5: Program design should place art and science on equal footing, meaning both
artists and scientists have equally weighted contributions. This should be a consideration
when planning and setting up a program. 


rabbits stand inside a circle drawn on the ground

Finding 6:  Art-science collaboration cultures are typically more inclusive than arts
or science spaces. Bringing together multiple disciplines made both art and science
spaces seem more relevant and welcoming to people with marginalized identities and
helped make them both more accessible.

 

rabbits watching a presentation on a board

Finding 7: Issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, access, and justice
should be incorporated into program design from the beginning and not treated as add-ons.
These issues became a challenge for programs that did not address them from the start.

 

two rabbits holding megaphones

Finding 8:  Art-science collaborations facilitate a culture of civic science, which
is concerned with how scientists and public stakeholders can have healthy conversations
despite differing values.

 

rabbits sitting on and around a piggy bank

Finding 9:  Resilient funding is a challenge for art-science collaboration programs.
The most successful collaborations require substantial contact between partners, making
them resource-intensive. The absence of resilient funding has made it difficult to
conduct long-term impact evaluations of these programs. 


a rabbit looks at a display of paintings on easels, one painting has a ribbon on it

Finding 10:  Art-science collaboration programs seek better ways to demonstrate value
to partners and funders. Collaborations often focus on the process rather than the
product, which can make communicating impact difficult.

 

two rabbits lounge in front of a hand drawn circuit board

Art-science collaborations can play a key role in raising important questions and
public dialogues about science and technology. Our interviews revealed three main
suggestions for designing inclusive civic science initiatives: 

  • Design structures in ways that allow for cultures of power-sharing among different
    disciplines
  • Combine art with science in ways that allow for more emotional, aesthetic, and ethical
    dialogues than those afforded by traditional forms of science communication
  • Utilize art-science collaborations to create access for groups historically excluded
    from both art and science

 

a rabbit wearing thick rimmed glasses looks at the camera

This way, programs can have both quantitative and qualitative measures, enabling them
to better communicate across disciplines about what matters most to their programming.

 

rabbits tend to a garden; one waters flowers with a watering can, another digs in the dirt

An open and flexible grantmaking process might include:

  • More interdisciplinary sources of funding, rather than grants specific to disciplines
  • Funding that is agile to art-science organizations’ needs and capacities as well as
    to those of their partners
  • Leading the art-science space by helping to shift definitions of success from the
    product to the process

 

a rabbit hops down a long, white road leading into the distance

Catalyzing new pathways for art science might include:

  • investing in creating art-science programs
  • contributing to the solidification of these emerging networks 
  • creating support resources for art-science programs

 

 

Research conducted by Nic Bennett and Anthony Dudo. 

Funding for the landscape study provided by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the Rita
Allen Foundation. All opinions expressed in this report are those of its authors and
do not necessarily reflect the perspectives of the funders.

Comics drawn by Nic Bennett.

Editorial assistance by Ellice Wallace. 

Project supervision and morale boosts by Ampersand the bunny.

a black and white rabbit sniffs the preliminary sketches for a comic

Ampersand the bunny inspects preliminary drawings for this comic. He takes his job
seriously and places a high value on quality control.

Findings in this comic drawn from The Landscape of Art-Science Collaboration Programs by Nic Bennett and Anthony Dudo. Check out the full report here

Bennett, N. & Dudo, A. (March, 2024). The landscape of art-science collaboration programs.
Center for Media Engagement.
https://mediaengagement.org/research/landscape-of-art-sciencecollaboration-programs

Nic Bennett

Nic Bennet

Nic Bennett researches inclusion and belonging in science communication as a doctoral
candidate in the Science & Technology Communication Lab of The University of Texas
at Austin. Their work lies at the intersection of science communication, applied theatre,
and social justice. They use arts-based, participatory action research, and mixed
methods to engage early-career scientists on issues of inclusion and belonging. Alongside
scientists, artists, activists, and community members, they investigate how science
communication spaces might become healing, liberatory spaces for all.

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