The Francis Crick Institute is a biomedical discovery institute dedicated to understanding the fundamental biology underlying health and disease. As part of their work, Crick run an innovative public programme to engage audiences with the fundamental biology underlying human health and illness. Jenny Jopson, Public Engagement Manager for the Crick, gave the keynote at the March 2017 Wellcome Trust International Engagement Workshop.

The keynote talk describes the breadth of creative engagement in Jenny's work at the Crick as well as at Guerilla Science, an organisation which brings science to arts and music festivals across the UK, and the Wellcome Collection, the public gallery and events venue of the Wellcome Trust. It looks in depth at some key engagement activities across these organisations and explores the challenges and merits of engaging publics with science in unusual and creative ways. 

The work described is primarily engagement with science in general, as opposed to a specific research project, and uses techniques from the arts to make audiences feel differently about science and to find science in unexpected places.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”- Ernst Friedrich Schumacher

Caption: Jenny Jopson, The Francis Crick Institute, UK, shares stories of creative science engagement at the Francis Crick Institute and beyond.

Download the Keynote Presentation Slides [PDF 888KB]

Key Challenges of Engagement

Understanding and tapping into internal networks in a big institution was seen as one of the biggest challenges to running engagement activities somewhere like the Crick. However, methods such as asking the already engaged researchers to be ambassadors for the cause can really help.

Perceptions of engagement can also be a problem. Having a high-level strategy for engagement to give it status in the institution is a great way to work on this. Equally, having a range of activities for researchers with different interests and comfort levels will ensure that different outlooks on what engagement should be are catered for. 

Measuring Impact

Measuring the impact of activities such as those outlined in the keynote depends on your objectives for the project but in general it is good practice to evaluate your researchers’ experiences and whether they would do it again, and the audience to check that you are reaching the demographics you are aiming for. In the long-term it would be best to be creating engagement activities in response to what the audiences want, and this can only be done through continual evaluation of their experiences. 

Jenny's Top Tips when Planning and Engagement Activity

1. Think about your Audience

What do they want to find out? What has brought them here? Your audience can leave at any point so you need to capture and keep their attention and interest by making activities relevant to them.

2. Accessibility vs. Detail

Do not feel that the engagement encounter needs to ‘do it all’ and be a comprehensive survey, or offer the last word on the subject. Engagement activities should be the start of a journey, not the destination. Spark curiosity in your audience and get them coming back for more!

3. Have a Hook

Decide on an opening gambit, rhetorical question, prop, or activity that draws people in and stimulates discussion.

4. Practice on a Non-scientist Friend 

If researchers themselves are delivering engagement activities it is really important to allow them to do a dry run of their activity before they try it with an audience or participants.

More about the Crick

For more on Crick's Hands-on science engagement activities visit the Hands-on at the Crick article on Mesh.

Find out more about the Crick and its engagement more broadly watch the video below, visit the Crick website

Caption: Video explaining the core work of the Crick Institute. Credit: the Crick

More about the Guerilla Science Project

Find out about Guerilla Science on their website and through the video below.

Caption: Guerilla Science Highlights Real. Credit: Guerilla Science 

The content on this page forms part of the online report for the 2017 International Engagement Workshop "It's Complicated: navigating scientific complexity in public and community engagement". To read about similar projects visit the hands on and schools engagement theme or introduction to engagement theme from the workshop. To read more about the full workshop and access the rest of the report including video presentations, discussion summaries, and tools, visit the workshop page.

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