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The Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund supported the Mobile Malaria Project by enabling them to pay an illustrator to create a series of illustrations and comic strips to inform young people about the challenges of malaria research in Africa.

Comic infographic© James Stayte, Phoenix Comic

What was the project about?

The project used a series of illustrations and comic strips to inform young people about the challenges of malaria research in Africa, engaging them with how cutting edge science is being used to control malaria and exciting them about potential scientific careers by documenting real life scientists working in Africa. 

The Phoenix comic featured the Mobile Malaria Project (MMP), a scientific expedition to Africa, over a period of eight weeks between March to May 2019, whilst the MMP team were in the field documenting the geography of the journey with live updates on what the team was doing, where they were going and the people that they met.

The Phoenix published maps, photographs and up to date reactions from the scientists about their adventures to an estimated audience of 40,000 children. The feature was informative and educational, but perhaps more importantly, a fun and engaging read.

How did the seed fund support the project?

The Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund enabled the MMP team to pay for an illustrator to make 18 comic pages for the Phoenix. In addition, the team used additional funding from the main MMP grant to produce 100 copies of the pages as a small pamphlet for further dissemination.

What were the benefits of this project? 

The Mobile Malaria Project Expedition Comic Strip allowed young people to learn about cutting-edge research in a fun, accessible format. The comic, which is aimed at 6-12 year olds, had an estimated audience of 40,000 children. Children were encouraged to get involved in the project through various competitions, such as designing their own lab rover or comic character, and these saw good levels of engagement.

Researchers involved in the project have had the opportunity to develop their public engagement skills, interacting with young people and testing novel public engagement activities. As a result of working with editors at the Phoenix, researchers learnt how information can be framed to be interesting for children and how to think about presenting non-fiction content in the future.

Going forward, the team are publishing all the comic strips as a pamphlet that will be distributed at engagement events and talks given by members of the MMP team. This project has also uncovered an appetite for other non-fiction projects with the Phoenix and George Busby (Project Lead) is already working on a series of strips about DNA and evolution. The Phoenix comic is also open to working with other researchers to try to build on the experience of publishing non-fiction content.

 Comic infographic© James Stayte, Phoenix Comic  Comic infographic© James Stayte, Phoenix Comic

Comic infographic© James Stayte, Phoenix Comic