Reflections on a great year of Public Engagement

Reflections on a great year of Public Engagement

Reflections on a great year of Public Engagement

As 2018 draws to a close, Knowledge Exchange and Public Engagement Manager Tacita Croucher looks back on our Public Engagement highlights this year and shares some of the things to look forward to in 2019.

We’ve had a great time in 2018 setting up new events, exhibitions and activities. The public engagement team itself has seen a few changes, Emma, our ORION Project Officer, returned from maternity leave and after a very successful summer Esther has moved on to a new role at the University of Oxford. More recently, we welcomed Samir, a PhD internship student from the University of Sheffield, and finally Giulia joined the team as our first Adult Engagement and Special Projects Officer. Take a look back at some of their blogs this year, to see what they’ve been up to!

As the year is drawing to a close and I’ll soon be heading off to embark on the exciting adventure of motherhood, I thought I’d press pause on festive season planning, eating and shopping to pick out some of the highlights.

Across 2018, over 100 staff and students from all parts of the Institute and from companies on the Babraham Research Campus ran and participated in a total of 30 public engagement activities. Overall, we discussed our research with nearly 15,000 people! I’m really proud of all the work that went into this and the support we’ve had from everyone in the Institute. To give you just a taste, I’ve picked my favourite three to share with you:

  1. Coming in at Number 1 it’s Race Against the Ageing Clock, our fantastic new exhibit that epigenetics researchers developed for the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. Our ageing clock research explores the speed of ageing and the exhibit includes a game about making stem cells, live C.elegans worms that we use in our research, and two computer games exploring our work and the epigenetics of ageing. A huge team of researchers battled through train cancellations and one of the hottest weeks of year to bring the exhibit to London and their commitment and enthusiasm was fantastic to see. We had some excellent feedback and people enjoyed having interesting discussions about what we’re doing. Take a look at Summer Science Exhibition Extra to discover the story behind our research!
  2. After kicking off last year, the ORION project has really come into its own this year. ORION explores ways for researchers and research institutes to become more open and transparent. We’re seeking new, better ways to share research ideas and knowledge with wider audiences. In July, Emma hosted a discussion workshop at the EuroScience Open Forum for scientists, innovators, policy-makers and citizens. They discussed ‘If the public can shape the future of genome editing research’ and considered key questions and concerns about engaging the public in fast-paced research. We’ll be exploring this further in 2019 with open discussions in the UK, Germany, Sweden and the Czech Republic. Look out for more news on these!
  3. Finally, working with others across Cambridge, we launched LifeLab this year! Supported by the European Commission, LifeLab is part of European Researchers Night, an international celebration of science in public. We’ve loved working with new collaborators on creating new events for LifeLab. We’ve reached new schools across the wider region, different Cambridge locations (science whilst you shop in the Grafton?) and visited Peterborough (Cathedral Square and Queensgate) for the first time. It was brilliant to talk to new people and LifeLab will be back and even bigger in 2019. We’re particularly looking forward to bringing Babraham Institute research to Ely!

We’ve done loads more through the year too including school visits, lab days and ‘real-life’ scientific challenge projects. We’ve shared virtual tours of our animal facility, hosted discussions about genome editing and open science as well as being part of festival exhibitions.

There’s much more planned for 2019 and I’m very pleased to be leaving you in the capable hands of my maternity cover, Hayley McCulloch, who will be joining the team in the New Year. We’ll be bringing you a new Cell Signalling Escape Room at the Cambridge Science Festival in March. Students and teachers may already have heard about the 25th Anniversary of our Schools’ Day (get in touch if not!). LifeLab will return on the 27th & 28th September – look out for LifeLab Loud, a new music/science performance. We’ll also be joining the national conversation about the implications and applications of genome editing in our research. Keep an eye on our social media channels and the Institute website to find out how to get involved.

All that remains for me to say is thank you to everyone who’s been to our events or visited the Institute this year. A big well done, congratulations and thank you too to all at the Institute who have been involved in our work in 2018. It’s been a pleasure to work with you and see the benefits our work brings to the wider institute. I wish you every success for 2019! Hayley, Mike, Emma and Giulia – have an exciting year, I look forward to hearing about your upcoming adventures.