Wellcome / EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences


WEISS/IHE workshop makes public engagement ideas a reality

1 August 2018

On 25 July, researchers and students from WEISS and IHE came together for a productive one-day workshop which aimed to generate public engagement ideas linked to their UCL research areas.

Steve Cross PE


Facilitated by Dan Taylor (WEISS Public Engagement Coordinator) and Dr Steve Cross (Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow), the event aimed to kickstart participants' imagination and turn their ideas into real-life public engagement activities.

Steve launched the day with an inspiring introduction. He is no stranger to UCL, having spent seven years as the university's Head of Public Engagement. He has also held public engagement positions at Wellcome Collection and the Science Museum. In between facilitating training sessions, Steve performs science-based stand-up comedy and runs Science Showoff, an open mic night for science communicators.

He shared with us the key to a successful public engagement activity - start with a clear idea of what you want to achieve from your project, listing 2-3 benefits or outcomes you want to come out of this for your participants and yourself. Then use this to decide on a clear-cut audience informed by what you're trying to achieve.

For example, instead of designing an activity for 'patients', narrow this down. What condition specifically are you working with, do you need to speak to people at a certain stage of treatment and what are the demographics of that group? Consider your audience's location, interests and how they might hear about your project - this will set you off on the right track.

Next, Dan Taylor described what 'public engagement' means for WEISS and IHE. The term can cover a wide range of activity, but Dan gives the common characteristics across all being that:

"Public engagement is a two-way process, involving interacting and listening to the public to debate and shape research for mutual benefit".

Why is this so important? The public are our shareholders and we have a responsibility to demonstrate to them how our research affects people and helps advance society. Public feedback also has an equally beneficial impact on our research by providing fresh, applied perspectives and challenging our assumptions. Recognising this, funding bodies now require public engagement as part of a funding proposal. 

Working Groups PE

Our galvanised participants were split into brainstorming groups and given a short amount of time to generate as many creative ideas as possible. They produced an impressive range of concepts, including healthcare hip-hop and using Netflix to demonstrate data analysis. They then picked their favourite ideas and worked with their teammates to turn these into fully-fledged plans to pitch to our panel. The judges were delighted by the creativity and consideration each team put into their project. One team proposed an imaginative way to bridge different disciplines and link to the curriculum. MRI scanners produce an interesting range of noises. They would provide recordings of these to GCSE music students as inspiration for their composition coursework - teaching them about the technology in the process.

IDEAS wall

The teams can now apply to receive £750 in funding to make these projects a reality. To apply for this, please visit our funding page.  If you have another idea for public engagement that you would like to make a reality, contact Dan Taylor for support and funding advice.