The European Commission launched its European Researchers’ Night project as part of a Marie Skłodowska-Curie action (MSCA) in 2005 under the specific programme PEOPLE. At the time, a public event was organised in Brussels with the aim of enhancing the public visibility of researchers and their role in society as well as encourage different segments of the public, especially young people, to take part in research and develop an awareness of its impact on everyday life.
Since then, the European Researchers’ Night has been held every year on the last Friday in September, simultaneously in over 300 European cities. It is one of the most well-known public events in Europe and is hosted by universities, science and research institutes, museums etc.
The Night’s activities focus on the general public, addressing and piquing the interest of individuals regardless of their educational background; particular attention is paid to pupils and students. Events often combine educational aspects with entertainment, especially when addressing young people. They can take different forms, such as hands-on experiments, science shows, simulations, debates, games, competitions, quizzes etc.
Events include the so-called European Corner, which presents general information about the European Union and financing opportunities for science and education in Europe and beyond. They promote various European policies, gender equality and public engagement in research and innovation. There is particular engagement of researchers involved in Horizon Europe programmes and activities of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie scheme.
The expected outcomes of the European Researchers’ Night project include an increased awareness of the general public about the importance of research and innovation, the formation of a positive image of its financing, a better understanding of the key benefits of research in society, the dispelling of stereotypes about researchers and their professions as well as an increased interest in research professions and sciences.
In 2006, the European Commission allocated about two million euros to the European Researchers’ Night project; in 2021, this increased to eight million. The increase in funding for the implementation of European Researchers’ Night projects reflects the aim of the Commission to present the important role of researchers and science in the development of society to the public.