Collaborations with artists go beyond communicating the science, finds a Nature poll

Exhilarating, challenging, enlightening, stimulating, inspiring, fun.

These were some of the words that Nature readers used to describe their experiences of art–science collaborations in a series of articles on partnerships between artists and researchers. Nearly 40% of the roughly 350 people who responded to an accompanying poll said they had collaborated with artists; and almost all said they would consider doing so in future.

Such an encouraging result is not surprising. Public engagement has become essential to many research projects. Scientists are increasingly seeking out visual artists and designers to help them to communicate their work to new audiences. “Artists help scientists reach a broader audience and make emotional connections that enhance learning,” one respondent said. “The experience is very liberating for me, as a scientist,” said another. “There’s often a visual aspect to my science that generating and publishing data does not convey.”

One example of how artists and scientists have together rocked the senses came last month when the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Australia performed a reworked version of Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. They reimagined the 300-year-old score by injecting the latest climate prediction data for each season — provided by Monash University’s Climate Change Communication Research Hub in Melbourne. The work was entitled The (Uncertain) Four Seasons, and variations of the score containing local data were sent to every major orchestra in the world. The performance was a creative call to action ahead of November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, UK.