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The Medical Sciences Division is delighted to have won three awards at this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards, which celebrate public engagement work across the University. The announcement was made at an awards ceremony at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History on 28 June hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson.

Oxford Neuroscience and Oxford University Museum of Natural History have won a Building Capacity Award for Brain Diaries, an exhibition accompanied by a public event programme and online digital resources including an animation by Oxford Sparks.

Brain Diaries enabled researchers at all career levels to leverage the museum's experience and skills in public engagement, while accessing the museum's publics to engage in the research. Launched in March 2017, the programme and exhibition has reached an audience of more than 45,000 people from Oxfordshire and beyond in its first two months of opening. More than 150 research scientists from four University departments and over 20 support staff have contributed to Brain Diaries.

The exhibition presents current understanding of the healthy brain from pre-birth to old age, while the public programme explores translational and clinical neuroscience research. The exhibition also promotes active public participation in research, enabling visitors to take part in research studies and contribute new ideas for brain investigations.  

Christopher Kennard, Head of Medical Sciences Division and Emeritus Professor of Clinical Neurology says: “We all look forward to the opportunity to engage with the public through the museums. It is particularly useful for younger researchers to have to develop ways of conveying complex information and I know they always find it very rewarding."

Find out more about the project here

The Oxford Martin School and the Museum of the History of Science (whose team included Dr Andreas Kappes from the Department of Experimental Psychology) won a Project Award for the exhibition ‘Back from the Dead – Demystifying Antibiotics’.

The project was recognised in the Communication and Consultation Project Award categories - for activities that have informed and inspired the public about research, engaged in two-way conversations and listened to public views.

The exhibition ran at the Museum of the History of Science between November 2016 and May 2017. The exhibition celebrated the 75th anniversary of the first clinical trials of penicillin, explored the complex history of antibiotic development and addressed the urgent global health threat posed by antibiotic resistance.

Back from the Dead challenged common antibiotic myths and generated new research data by surveying public understandings of antibiotics, antimicrobial resistance and attitudes towards antibiotic stewardship. The survey data will feed into a future Oxford Martin School policy paper and the exhibition will leave a physical legacy in the form of a permanent display in the museum. Together with public events, gallery tours, arts workshops and a schools engagement programme, Back from the Dead attracted 47,796 visitors from all age and income groups from Oxfordshire and further afield.

Find out more about the project here.

Dr Claire Sexton of the Department of Psychiatry won an Early Career Researcher award for public engagement relating to her research investigating factors proposed to promote healthy ageing in the brain.

Dr Sexton has engaged the public with research through delivering Dementia Friends information sessions and public talks about her research, film screenings of the documentary ‘The Age of Champions’, and through her work as Founding Chair of Dementia Friendly Chipping Norton.

Dr Sexton says her public engagement activities have helped her develop a range of transferable skills, from public speaking to partnership working. They have allowed her to consider the big picture of her research and its value, and aided her understanding of how academic research can be translated into community-settings. Dr Sexton has also built capacity for public engagement, encouraging, training and enabling other researchers at Oxford to take part.

Find out more about Dr Sexton’s work here.

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.

Winning entries receive recognition for their achievements at the Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awards Ceremony that will take place on 28 June 2017.The Vice-Chancellor’s prize will also be announced at the ceremony and receive a cash prize of £1,500.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor says: “The breadth and diversity of the activities taking place show how seriously the University takes its commitment to public engagement. It is inspiring to see the positive impact these activities have both on research and on the individuals and communities that have been involved, from warriors in Tanzania and young adults in Brazil, to local communities affected by dementia.”

Professor Alison Woollard, the University’s Academic Champion for Public Engagement with Research says: “Public engagement enriches both research and society and the University is committed to enabling our researchers to inspire, consult and collaborate with the public. I’m delighted that we are able to recognise and highlight the fantastic work our researchers are doing and hope these awards encourage more colleagues across the University to carry out their own public engagement with research.”

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