A Pint of Science - taking science into pubs
A Pint of Science has won a Building Capacity Project Award in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards, which was led by Dr Naveed Akbar, Radcliffe Department of Medicine.
A Pint of Science encourages, facilitates and supports public engagement with scientific research in informal settings, such as pubs. The events target young adult audiences that are not actively engaged in science through researcher-led informal talks, science-based pub quizzes and games and attract over 800 attendees every year at 20 events.
“It was great, so engaging as well as fun! I can’t think of a way to improve it, I just really enjoyed the whole atmosphere as well as learning lots of new information,” said on attendee at a Pint of Science event.
Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN)
The Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN) has won a Building Capacity Project Award in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards. Researchers working in Neuroimaging at Oxford have been involved in public engagement for a number of years, but as part of becoming a Wellcome Centre, staff have placed a much greater emphasis on building capacity in this area.
They have set up a Public Engagement Ambassador Scheme, appointing six new ambassadors each year, organised a public event ‘A WINdow on the Brain’ and are actively encouraging their international researches to be get involved with public engagement though the annual ‘Magnetic Moments’ annual competition.
“It helps me to get out of my comfort zone and look at my research from a different angle to share it with non-specialists,” commented a Magnetic Moments finalist.
Switching Perceptions - Art to engage in psychiatric illnesses
Dr Liz Tunbridge of the Department of Psychiatry has won a Project Award in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards. The work of Dr Tunbridge and her colleague, artist Eleanor Minney was recognised in the Projects Awards category for activities that have engaged in public dialogue and consultation.
Psychiatric genetics has a murky history and psychiatric disorders remain associated with stigma and misunderstanding. This project aims to promote dialogue with those affected by conditions such as psychosis to give a voice to this largely neglected group. The artworks and concepts created during the workshops and ongoing researcher-artist conversations culminated in a three-month long exhibition - Switching Perceptions at the Bethlem Gallery, The Bethlem Royal Hospital, London.
“The exhibition appears to be a celebration of both individuality and humanity, as much as it is a contemplation of essential philosophical questions” commented a piece in The Psychologist
Village drama against malaria project
A project using drama that engages with village communities in Cambodia, led by Professor Phaik Yeong Cheah of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit and Nuffield Department of Medicine, has won a Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Award. The project also won the Vice-Chancellor’s Choice Award for Public Engagement with Research.
The project is aimed at supporting malaria elimination and raising awareness of malaria research in rural villages. Drama was as an effective way to engage Cambodian villages, selected due to their high malaria incidence. Each village had a two-day workshop led by the drama team with a free public performance on the third evening. During the workshops local children were given singing and drama training, drawing workshops and education about malaria. Villagers contributed real local stories about malaria which were then integrated into the performance.
"We will remember this our whole lives!" said a participating 14-year-old-girl from Battambang in north western Cambodia.
MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (MRC WIMM)
The Medical Research Council Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (MRC WIMM) has won a Building Capacity Award in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards. The MRC WIMM set up a public engagement committee to lead, coordinate and build capacity in Public Engagement with Research.
The committee have organised events such as the annual ‘Science in the Supermarket’, participated in the Royal Society Summer Exhibition and the Cheltenham Science Festival, established a work experience programme, setup the annual MRC WIMM Public Engagement Prize and organised a number of workshops to develop public engagement skills.
Researchers from MRC WIMM also developed a virtual reality research tool to visualise DNA folding data for the Royal Society Summer Exhibition. Researchers realised this also made it easier to use for their own research. This led to the development of BabelVR, a software platform that allows any researcher to upload, visualise and annotate their data in virtual reality.
“Being involved with public engagement has given me an excellent perspective on my own research and has undoubtedly improved my communication and presentation skills with scientific and general audiences alike” commented a DPhil student who took part.
Bringing science and health research to Kenyan schools
A project bringing science to Kenyan schools, led by Dr Alun Davis from Kemri Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kenya and Nuffield Department of Medicine, has won a Project Award in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards.
“Our students don’t have African scientists to look up to” is a frequently-heard remark. As such, a School Engagement Programme was established enabling students and teachers across Kenyan schools to interact with scientists.
The initial pilot began in 2009 with just three schools. Ten years on and working with local communities and stakeholders has ensured these engagement activities are locally owned and culturally appropriate. Now over 2000 students and 100 teachers in over 50 Kenya schools take part with 60 participating researchers.
About the awards
The Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awards recognise and reward those at the University who undertake high-quality engagement activities and have contributed to building capacity in this area. The awards are awarded in three categories – Early Career Researcher, Building Capacity and Projects. Entrants can be at any level in their career and activities of any scale are welcome.
These awards highlight the many ways that Oxford’s researchers engage with the public. This includes informing and empowering people by sharing research findings; working in partnership with communities to shape research and enabling citizens to take part in the research by collecting and analysing data through Citizen Science. These winning projects also demonstrate that excellence in engagement results in a ‘win-win’ for both researchers and publics alike. - Professor Alison Woollard, Academic Champion for Public Engagement with Research, University of Oxford