7,000 participants

The Forest 404 Experiment has just hosted its 7,000th participant, capping a non-stop few months for the project and team.

When we launched the Forest 404 podcast and experiment at the start of April, we really didn’t know what to expect. Would the series attract a large audience, and could we convince enough of them to take part in the experiment?

Everything went live on the 4th April 2019, after an inspirational event at the Barbican Conservatory in London. A select group of journalists and online influencers were invited to a premiere of the drama, and the cast and production team discussed how it all came together.

Then we waited.

The team behind Forest 404.

The team behind Forest 404.

Initial participation in the experiment was slow, and in the first week a few hundred people took part. We were pleased but also nervous—we needed to pass the 2,000 mark to have a statistically robust sample and worried that rates might dwindle after the initial launch.

Then the BBC advertising machine kicked into gear.

As Forest 404 became the primary trail across all BBC radio output, numbers in the experiment began to soar. When the TV trails debuted, they went into orbit!

We suddenly leapt from 500 to 5,000 participants in a matter of days. As data poured in so did more personal responses, with people keen to share more detail on their experiences of natural soundscapes and mental health.

It was all hands on deck; Producer and Director Becky Ripley fielded interviews across multiple channels; and Virtual Nature’s Alex Smalley was interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio 4, BBC Devon and BBC Spotlight.

We also wrote articles for the BBC about the restorative power of nature, and recorded a podcast that explains the science behind the experiment.

Now ten weeks on, a staggering 7,000 people have taken part, making it the largest ever investigation into the restorative potential of nature-based sounds.

And it’s a beautiful data set—90% of people who have taken part answered every question. Thanks to their dedicated responses we’ll be able to improve understanding of how people respond to the sounds of nature.

We’re currently getting ready to begin our analyses, which are likely to take several months. But we’ll provide updates wherever possible as we start to uncover trends in the data.

It’s been an incredible roller coaster of a journey, one that was only made possible by the amazing teams at the BBC, the Open University, the University of Bristol, and here at the University of Exeter.

Thank you to everyone who has been part of the experiment, including all those who have taken part and shared their stories with us.

Time to crunch some numbers!

(The Forest 404 Experiment is still live. Anyone over the age of 18 can take part by visiting www.bbc.co.uk/forest and following the links to the experiment.)

Alex Smalley