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Sussex researchers to showcase their Public Engagement tricks in pop-up event

The Doctoral School recently announced its upcoming Festival of Doctoral Research, taking place from 26-28 June. As well as celebrating our doctoral researchers, the Festival also aims to investigate the modern researcher experience. As such, one of our events will cast an eye towards an increasingly vital part of a researcher’s portfolio: public engagement.

What exactly is public engagement? Sussex’s Public Engagement Coordinator, Dr Katy Petherick, puts it like this: “Public engagement is about breaking down the barriers between academics and the general public to share knowledge and expertise. Taking part in public engagement is an opportunity to get out of the lab or away from the library, to talk to people who have lived experience of the academic research subjects, enabling discussion, debate and mutual understanding.”

But why is it so important? Public engagement helps universities to build relationships with the public based on a mutual understanding of, and trust in, the purpose and potential impact of their research. By engaging in rich, collaborative dialogue with the public, researchers can raise the profile of their projects and ensure their research is relevant to the very people their work aims to effect. Such sharing and collaborating also ensures the public have a voice in the development of future development of research.

At Sussex, we’ve been pro-active in recognising the value of public engagement. Last year, the Vic-Chancellor signed the University up to the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement's Manifesto, and has since increased Sussex’s focus on communicating the role it plays in a diverse array of communities, both local and national. Another manifestation of this renewed focus took the form of Sussex’s Public Engagement fund, a pilot scheme launched last year by the Researcher Development Programme, awarding small grants (up to £750) to help researchers carry out PE activities designed to inform and inspire the public.

One year on, we’re celebrating the success of the Public Engagement fund with a special pop-up event taking place on Wednesday 27 June, between 10.30-12.00 in the ACCA’s Gardner Tower. We’ve invited some of the doctoral and early career researchers who received funding through the Public Engagement fund to come along and show visitors some of the tricks they have used in festivals, schools and public spaces to excite and inspire the public about their research.

Dr Petherick, who sat on the PE fund’s selection committee, shared her enthusiasm with us about the event: “All of the activities on display at the pop-up event are fantastic examples of public engagement and they all demonstrate how to adapt methods for specific audiences and subject areas. This could be through attending science festivals, developing activities for schools or running community groups workshops. I’m really excited to see the final products of the projects and cannot wait to have a go at some of the activities!”

Visitors attending the pop-up event will have the chance to find out more about the work of:

Aleksandra Herman - Alexsandra will be demonstrating the app she has developed to investigate drinking habits in adolescence and early childhood

Ciaran Fairhurst - Carian will be demonstrating a model of the James Webb Space Telescope’s Near Infrared Camera which simulates how astronomers search for the most distant galaxies in the universe

Dr Marie-Fabrice Gasasira Uwamahoro - Marie will be demonstrating activities she has used with secondary school students to increase knowledge of the steps underlying genetic diseases development 

Dr Samantha Furfari - Samantha will be showcasing activities from her 'colours in chemistry' series which shows how colours are useful in chemistry in vastly different ways

Sonali Mohapatra - Sonali will be repeating her soapbox science talk of 2017 on gravity and blackholes: linking fantasy and reality

Tunde Alabi-Hundeyin - Tunde will be exhibiting his photo exhibition of the positive images of and by deprived children photographed during his fieldwork. Tunde's research investigates the visual objectification of vulnerable children from the Global South as victims of poverty, war, and ill health by international NGOs

Visit our website to book your place at the Public Engagement Pop-Up where you can also explore our Research Image Exhibition and vote for your people's choice! 

Posted on behalf of: The Doctoral School
Last updated: Friday, 18 May 2018