A scientist walks into a bar

The Pint of Science festival made its debut appearance in Edinburgh thanks to an alumni-funded Innovation Initiative Grant.

Twice a year students and staff of the University can apply for an Innovation Initiative Grant (IIG) to help fund their project or research. The IIGs, which support new ideas in teaching and provide seed funding to various student projects, exist thanks to donors to the Edinburgh Fund.

One of the most recent successful IIG stories has undoubtedly been Edinburgh’s Pint of Science festival, which brought together a group of scientists to share their latest research with the public over a pint in four different pubs around Edinburgh.

A speaker stands in front of presentation screen

One Pint of Science, please

The 2016 Pint of Science festival took place between 23 and 25 May across 12 countries and 5 continents. It was started on a small scale in 2012 by two post-doctorates at Imperial College London, Dr Michael Motskin and Dr Praveen Paul. The original goal was to bring scientists closer to patients with conditions that related to their research. Since then the festival has grown into one of the most popular international science events. Now in its fourth year, it is hosted by over 100 cities around the globe.

Callam Davidson, a PhD student at the Centre for Cardiovascular Science, saw great potential in holding the festival in Scotland’s capital.

I was seeing a huge array of fantastic and varied research taking place across Edinburgh. When I read about Pint of Science 2015 in the newspaper, I was shocked to see it hadn’t already made its way up to the Edinburgh, a city that needs no excuse to throw a festival.

Sharing knowledge in your local

The primary aim of the pub-based lectures is to communicate the latest scientific developments and findings to non-expert audiences in a lively and informal environment. As Callam highlights, it gives everyone who likes science (or pubs) an opportunity to share a pint with researchers and ask them any questions about their work and scientific field. 

I’ve heard academics say that the public often give a lot back to the research by seeing it from a different angle. I also think that communicating your science to a lay audience actually makes you a better scientist; you have to understand something pretty well to be able to explain it effectively.

A successful debut

From neuroscience and cyber-brains to seismology, astrophysics and birth of stars, the Edinburgh Pint of Science festival covered a wide range of exciting topics and activities. Audience members got an opportunity to build their own humans, combining science with creative art, as well as a chance to nibble on edible insect goodies, including mealworm pakoras. Most of the events sold out completely and the feedback was excellent.

A team of more than 50 volunteers and speakers made Pint of Science happen in Edinburgh. The organisers now aim to support the expansion of the festival across Scotland and involve more cities and universities in 2017.

Brain in a jar

The people of Edinburgh responded brilliantly to Pint of Science festival. Some nights saw the same keen audience members coming back for more!

Supporting new initiatives

IIG funding of £2,000 enabled Callam and his team to bring the renowned international science festival to Edinburgh. Whilst national sponsorship funded the main features of the festival, such as the website, all the Edinburgh-specific costs were covered by the IIG. The grant helped the team to cover the cost of venue hire, audio-visual equipment as well as festival promotion and marketing.

The IIG was absolutely integral to the success of the festival. The generous funding, we received, allowed us to go above and beyond our original aims.


Callam Davidson is currently in the second year of his PhD at the Centre for Cardiovascular Science at Little France campus, studying the effects of steroid hormones on blood vessel growth in cancer. Callam was an Edinburgh co-ordinator for Pint of Science festival, a role which involved organising the overall running of the festival.

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