Today, there are more than 3,000 Science Centres around the world.
More than 300 million people visit them every year.
25 years ago, only 10% of these organisations existed.
Over 650 members from 47 countries, 487 science centres, including not only museums and science centres, but also nature centres, aquaria, planetariums, zoos, botanical gardens, and natural history and children’s museums, as well as companies, consultants and other organisations with a shared interest in informal science education.
Statistics: 2015 Source
Donations from individuals in 2015 increased by 3.7% from the previous year.
Charitable donations by 1.9%, corporate giving by 3.8%,
Grants from foundations increased by a record 6.3%.Sources of operating income (average % of total) 2013-2014 Source 1, Source 2
Sources of operating income (average % of total) 2016
Over 120 million visitors in 2016 at ASTS network organisations (over 81 million in 2013).
Average on-site attendance at individual centres was 174,232, with 67% of respondents reporting an increase compared to the previous year.
Local economic development
On average earned income, which comes mainly from ticket sales and programme fees, is the largest source of operating income. Most centres (93.5%) charge admission fees, with adult admission prices ranging from $2.08 to $34.95 ($3.00 to $29.95 in US institutions).
Median fees worldwide are $10.7 for adults, $8.85 for children.
Science centres also bring jobs: 20,594 paid employees to 183 institutions (150 US respondents reported 14,760 paid employees). The average number of salaried employees working on equal terms in individual institutions was 44.5. On average, staff costs account for 56.6% of operating costs.
Public funding represents on average 25% of the institution’s operating income (19% in the United States). Globally, 31.6% of public funds for institutions are subsidised by federal/national governments, 30.5% by states/provinces, 36.8% by local governments and 1.1% by tribal/other public sources. In the United States, the majority (44%) of public funding comes from local government.
The scale of operations varies greatly among science centres and museums, with 10% of respondents reporting running costs of $406,614 or less, and 10% reporting operating costs of over $19.8 million. The median company had operating costs of $3,875,020. The majority of institutions (79%) operated with a balanced budget or surplus in the reporting year.
ASPAC (Asian Pacific)
90 organisations from over 20 countries and administrative regions in Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Central Asia and North America. Science centres and museums, children’s museums, exhibition designers and production companies.
ASTEN Australasian Science and Technology Exhibitors Network
BIG British Interactive Group, STEM Communicators Network.
UK Science Festivals Network
CASC Canadian Association of Science Centres
NAMES North Africa and Middle East Science Centers Network
NCSM National Council of Science Museums India
Red-POP Network for the Popularisation of Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean
SAASTEC Southern African Association for Science and Technology Centres
EGMUS The European Group on Museum Statistics. Collection and publication of comparable statistical data.
The group’s financial results for 2015-2016.
Science Museum Group UK 2015 – 2016 5,205,000 visitors.
The Science Museum, London 3,219,000 visitors.
The National Science and Media Museum, Bradford 405,000 visitors.
The Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester 645,000 visitors.
The National Railway Museum, York & Locomotion, Shildon 936,000 visitors.
Board of Trustees of the Science Museum is the corporate body of the Science Museum Group (SMG) and was established under the National Heritage Act 1983. SMG has the status of a non-departmental public body (NDPB), operating within the public sector but at arm’s length from its sponsor department, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
SMG is an exempt charity under Schedule 3 of the Charities Act 2011, with DCMS acting as its principal regulator for charity law purposes, and is recognised as charitable by HM Revenue & Customs.
SMG has a wholly owned subsidiary trading company, SCMG Enterprises Ltd (company registration no. 2196149), set up in 1988 and operating across all SMG museums.
Exploratorium, San Francisco, USA
Built in 2013
Total floor space 20,000 m²
Exhibitions 7,000 m² 7000
Average ticket price: €17 – €25
San Francisco has 865,000 inhabitants.
Tourism: 25.1 million (2016)
Museum visitors per year: 2016 – 854,325
Budget 2017 – €40.6 million
326 permanent staff, 150 temporary and part-time.
Private contributions $16.5 million ( $16.2 million in 2014 )
Government grants $5.2 million ( $4.8 million in 2014 )
Global Studios $5.3 million
Tickets $9.5 million
Membership $2.5 million
Rent $6.2 million
In-store sales $2.2 million
Operating income $44.6 million ( $48.5 in 2014 )
Programs for visitors, students and teachers $33.6 million ( $25.4 in 2014 )
Global Studios $10.7 million ( $6.3 in 2014 )
Visitors and other $1.5 million ( $2.7 in 2014 )
Shop expenses $1.4 million ( $2.4 in 2014 )
General and Administrative $4.5 million ( $6.8 in 2014 )
Fundraising and Membership $3.9 million ( $4.4 in 2014 )
Operating expenses $56 million ( $48.1 in 2014 )
Founded in 1969 by Frank Oppenheimer.
World leader in innovation in education throughout the centre’s history. 80% of the world’s science centres use exhibitions, programmes and ideas developed by the Centre.
200 million people visit exhibitions and experience the Exploratorium.
12 million visits on the website www.exploratorium.edu with 50,000 page content views.
More than 3.5 million monthly social media reach.
Over 1,000 teachers participate in the Teachers Institute programme each year. Four artist residencies a year.
Foundations supporting the centre: National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Endowment for the Arts, NASA, Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, San Francisco Dept. of Children, Youth and Their Families, California State Coastal Conservancy and many other foundations, corporations and individuals.
Pressure on public finances has meant significant cuts to government funding for museums in many European countries. It is therefore more important than ever that museums are able to demonstrate and communicate the wider benefits that they bring to economies and societies to a range of funders and stakeholders. But what should museums focus on and what kinds of methods and studies can be used?
This paper suggests how museums can navigate their way through the various options, highlighting the pros and cons of different methods, and how suitable they might be to different contexts.
There are a large variety of methods to measure the value of museums. Some are moreappropriate,somelessso,depending on what you want to measure and on the nature of the museum. You have to take care that the results don’t box you into a sector in which you don’t want to be measured by your stakeholders and politicians.
Why measure the economic impact of museums? There are outward rationales: communicating your values to the public, stakeholders, politicians, press – but also inward rationales that affect strategic decisions in your organisation on how to organise processes and what to put emphasis on. The research methods and techniques can be confusing for non- specialists in this field. There are, broadly speaking, three different lenses though which you can look at economic impact:
1. Financial impact
There is a range of methods quantifying and measuring different expenditure streams (staff costs etc.), and looking at the indirect and induced impacts of these. If you use these for museums, you will end up with a small number, even for large organisations, because museums are quite small in terms of turnover compared to other organisations. You will never produce a headline-grabbing number to funders. But museums attract lots of visitors, so in addition you can measure what is spent by museum visitors in the surrounding economy, in accommodation, restaurants and shops (it can be difficult, however, to work out what is genuinely additional spending that was incurred only by the museum visit). An approach that combines the two methods described above is the most commonly used one. But there are other methods:
2. Place-based impact assessment
Assessing how the city or surrounding area is impacted by the museum. This is often connected to the theme of (urban and rural) regeneration. There are many positive consequences to having a museum, such as improving the image of a city, driving footfall and generating a sense of liveliness. Positive benefits that flow from these can be higher rental yields for neighbouring properties, more shops and greater takings, more jobs, reduced crime and greater safety. Results like these are interesting to local government funders, but this is the least used of all methods, because the ndicators are less clear and straightforward and it also requires longitudinal research overalongperiodoftime.Regenerationis a long-term business that can take 15 to 20 years or more; in the interim there are few immediate outcomes and conclusions.
3. The total value approach
This encompasses methods that try to put a financial value on things that don’t have a ready financial value, such as wellbeing, learning, cultural enrichment and even the value non-users place on having a museum in their town or city. It explicitly tries to quantify, for example, social and learning benefits. Both the cost-benefit approach and the total economic value approach try to demonstrate that final monetary value is an exchange between the costs incurred and the benefits obtained. These could include non-used values, like the value of the existence of a museum (i.e. people just value having the museum in their neighbourhood; even if they don’t go themselves, they value the fact that others can visit it or they may hold the view that they will go in the future, when they have a family for instance).
Total economic value approach
You can work with revealed or stated preference methods; one positive aspect is that government economists are familiar with these methods because they are used in other policy areas, particularly those that look at non-market goods such as environment. But this approach is extremely demanding in its technique. It requires highly skilled researchers, large- scale primary research and multiple cohorts of users and non-users. Outcomes of the research can also be quite abstract, as the final output is often just one big figure split between use value and non-use value, and it is not possible to know what has actuallygeneratedthesefigures(e.g.which of the museum’s services in particular, for example, do people value?). Frequently, the non-used value is the biggest value (because there are more non-users than users), but this can create PR problems, because it is hard to advocate that a museum is valued the most by people who don’t visit it. For all these reasons, this method is very rarely used in museums; there are more examples of this method being applied to libraries and heritage sites.
Financial impact method
There are both existential and technical reasons as to why you might not want to use the financial impact approach. If the museum is interested in valuing what local people get from the museum, this is not the right method. It works best if the museum gets lots of external visitors and most of them are tourist visitings, because it is this group that spends more in the local economy as part of the visit and this spending is also more likely to be genuinely additional expenditure.
Socially adjusted cost-benefit analysis
Social Return on Investment (SROI), is a form of socially adjusted cost-benefit analysis. This method is quite popular in the charity and voluntary sector. It helps museums understand what their stakeholders and community value about them and how they think the museum has a social impact.
The method then requires an identification of which of these values are quantifiable, which are the most important, and what the financial proxies are that can be used to estimate these (social) values and impacts. For charities, museums and the wider cultural sector, much of the social value they create is generated through helping to forgo expenditure on the social costs of ‘failure’. That is, if a museum can positively affect people dealing with mental health issues or unemployment etc., then money that the state would otherwise spend(e.g.unemploymentbenefit)canbe avoided if, for example, a participant in a museum programme is able to find a new job through the programme. This method requires a combination of primary data collection and user analysis, plus analysis of secondary data, which establishes proxies and measures how the positive change that has happened to the user can be attributed to your particular museum (and not, for example, to social services or the theatre or anything else that helped the user feel better). Again, extensive research is required.
Broadly speaking, this technique is much more effective when there is a very clear intended outcome. However, this is not the reality for most museums, because they have a much broader offer that is aimed at the general public. Therefore, this method is best applied in museums to measure the value of participatory programmes targeting specific groups.
How do you decide what method applies best to your museum?
There are two main dimensions to the decision: strategic and operational. Strategically, a museum needs to know what it wants out of the study but also has to balance this against what it knows its main funders and stakeholders would want and the kind of evidence they would like to see. Operationally, a museum needs to consider what can best be achieved in terms of research quality and comprehensiveness, balanced against the inevitably limited time and resources that will be available to conduct the research.
Richard Naylor article from
The Economic Value of Museums
Network of European Museum Organisations Conference 2016.