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 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Currently blithering about: a science communication / public engagement continuum, possibly spiral

Science communication and public engagement are overlapping things that I'm involved in to various degrees.

When I worked at Diabetes UK one of my roles was to answer medical* / science enquiries from members of the public (and colleagues). For example "why shouldn't I drink grapefruit juice if I'm taking statins?", "why can't you just transplant beta cells from an identical twin in someone with type 1 diabetes?", "will taking these herbal pills cure my diabetes?", "how many people have [this complication] in [City / UK]?" etc.

*not giving medical advice as not qualified to give any!

While providing this service certainly counts as engaging with the public to a degree I never really thought of it as public engagement in a classic sense and more along the lines of 'educating' people for want of a better word. They rang up asking for info and we did our best to provide it.

As an organisation we did other more 'engagey' things - people with diabetes were involved in the decision-making about what research we'd fund (they were on the research committee along with scientists, psychologists etc), we liaised with the UK Diabetes Research Network to share opportunities for people to get involved as participants in research and we gave talks to groups about our research (again, more 'informing').

The work I do on CHI+MED is a bit of both - I write stuff for our website and blog which hopefully informs people about what we've been up to, but I'm also involved in 'co-ordinating' the public engagement work of colleagues who are directly involving people (sometimes patients) in research, as well as stakeholders.

You can imagine researchers doing a piece of research and then, once finished, publishing it in an academic journal ... and then telling journalists about it via press releases or appearances on TV or in newspapers etc. While there's nothing particularly wrong with this many universities are trying to involve / engage people in research a bit earlier.

But even this 'informing about outputs already achieved' (ie it's now too late for any opportunity to 'feed in') presumably counts towards sparking interest and getting people involved in the researchers' next project...Possi

I have been mulling over the idea of a continuum. I rejected an oval shaped thing where you start with research being done and go to research being published academically with a line taking you back to the beginning and am instead thinking of something that's more of a spiral (it goes back to the beginning but of the next research project).

Then I asked Twitter and got lots of interesting and helpful replies (now added at the end), and a whole load of things to read - Twitter is rather good at helping you avoid reinventing the wheel!

But despite this - here is my draft wheel for everyone to poke fun at and go "no you've got it wrong". This is because I'm involving you in my 'research' here :)

The above is a slide that I'm probably not even going to use in a talk I'm giving in a couple of weeks for CHI+MED, but I needed something concrete to help me put the talk together and to talk about different stages and audiences for our work.

As I see it, research happens (the 'Research is done' to 'Research is published in academic journals' (#1) and there are opportunities for the public to feed in, alongside scientists, politicians, others to determine what research should be funded (#2) and opportunities to be participants in research. This can be participating in a clinical trial, or co-designing a product etc. At the 'end' of the research the academic output often finds its way into other media as well (#3) and it often finds its way there at earlier stages in the research too.

The continuum-y bit (#4) where a black arrow goes back to the start is a bit confusing cos it's obviously not going back in time (research has been done) but possibly feeds into later projects. So it's more of a Science Communication Spiral.

Aren't you glad I didn't try and express this in a Venn diagram :)

Helpful replies from chums on Twitter

and Jon Mendel also wrote critically about the 'Science: So What? So Everything' campaign of science communication

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