For over fifty years, the British Science Association coordinated a network of regional volunteer group, known as Branches, spread across the country. From as far north as Orkney and as far south as Cornwall, these groups engaged their local areas with science. From SciBars to SciScreensfrom lectures to family fun days; each branch operated as a unique group and organised its own events for local audiences 

During this time, the Branches helped mainstream new science communication formats – such as SciBars and CafeSci– and made a significant contribution to the growth and professionalisation of the science communication and STEM inspiration sectors. They collated and shared a wealth of knowledge and experience across the sector and were at the frontline of science communication. 

BSA General Committee member and former North West Branch chair Colin Wilkinson said that “[Science communication] wouldn’t be where it is now without the branches and their hard work over the past decades. Branches were made up of passionate, committed volunteers, keen to help people appreciate what science is and why it’s important.”  

At its peak, the network included 38 different regional branches, spanning every region of the UK. By 2018, over 600 volunteers were involved each year, with over 300 scientists taking part in 700 events nationwide, reaching over 50 000 attendees annuallyBranches reached a variety of audiences, with some hosting events targeting adults and others focusing more on family audiences.   

Since the implementation of our new mission and strategy in 2014 and following a consultation with the Branches in 2018, we decided in 2019 that our relationship with the members of the network also needed to change. We no longer manage the network in a formal capacity, but we maintain an arms-length relationship with the various groups. Our hope is that this will help us focus more on building relationships with organisations who reach audiences that are currently under-served for science engagement, allowing us to better serve our organisation mission, while also allowing the former Branches to have the freedom to adapt the content and format of their events to fit the needs of the audiences they want to reach. Most branches are now either autonomous groups or have merged with other local groups. 

Former Brighton & Hove Branch Chair Katy Petherick said, "I helped to set up the Brighton & Hove Branch when I moved to the area; it was a great opportunity to meet people who, like me, wanted to share their enthusiasm of science to the local public. Over three years we were able to reach new audiences and experiment with event formats. Upon hearing of the changes to the branches network, the Brighton & Hove and Lewes Branches decided to set up the charity Curiosity Sussex to continue the legacy of the BSA branches for our region.”

The BSA is – and always will be – extremely proud of the Branches network. Branch volunteers dedicated considerable amounts of time and energy to helping other people understand and be entertained by science, and they made a huge difference to the place of science in UK society. We are delighted that most Branch volunteers are continuing to deliver brilliant eventsOn our regional volunteering page you can find more information on these changes and a list of groups that were formerly Branches and how to get involved with a group in your region!