Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2016 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The science communication conference, public engagement and what I'm doing on the CHI+MED project

The British Science Association runs an annual Science Communication Conference which is always worth a visit both for the talks and the networking. Although I've missed a couple I've been to most of them.

This year it's on online public engagement, a topic I'm looking forward to. I've been doing 'science communication' for about 8 years now and while it's always embarrassingly foolish to pretend any degree of expertise in it (so much to learn, always) I'm a lot further along in that area than I am in public engagement.

Much of my science communication involves answering people's questions (on a one to one basis largely via email / telephone / letter) about diabetes that have a science component - this might mean explaining complex ideas or finding out what the evidence is for a particular treatment etc. It's reactive rather than proactive (sadly, we no longer have the capacity to have a full-scale answering service) and in a sense it's didactic (teaching others, explaining stuff, answering their questions) rather than engaging with them in a fuller sense. I do a bit of writing and number crunching too and have responsibility, with my colleagues, for sourcing the evidence for our care statements etc.

Other aspects of my work do involve public engagement but thus far it's been on a much smaller scale.

This is changing however as I'm also the Public Engagement Co-ordinator for the CHI+MED project (which I blog and tweet about as well). CHI+MED (Computer-Human Interaction in Medical Devices) is a large (six years, £5.7million) EPSRC-funded project on making interactive medical devices safer - at the moment we're looking at infusion pumps (eg those that deliver chemotherapy). It runs over four universities, three in London (UCL - where I'm based), Queen Mary and City University, and Swansea University. Obviously this is completely separate from my job at Diabetes UK but the two jobs work rather well together.

Public Engagement (and its evaluation) is a huge part of the project (not in a nebulous sense but specifically embedded in the grant application and plan of work) because in order to make devices safer we have to take account of the culture surrounding them and the people using them. Before a medical device is used it is first designed, tested, manufactured, promoted, compared with others and then purchased. After that staff are trained in its use and ultimately patients are given drugs with it. Safety doesn't occur in a vacuum - if we want to improve the safety of medical devices we need to take account of the different people and systems involved with and supporting the use of the device.

Our audiences include patients, carers, nurses, medical device trainers, medical device designers, regulatory bodies (who decide whether or not a device can be marketed), care commissioners (who purchase equipment for use in hospitals or at home) and other researchers in human-computer interaction and related fields. That's not just the UK either, we're working with companies, researchers and regulatory bodies etc around the world.

So, plenty of people to engage with and blogging and tweeting is only a small bit of that. We have other online tools at our disposal, but also we'll be doing real world stuff too. Not surprisingly I'm looking forward to hearing what other people are up to in terms of engaging diverse audiences and I'll be blogging some thoughts on some of the sessions that feature in this year's conference programme.


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