In May 2022, Ella-May Hards, a first year PhD student in the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging, organised a series of events for Pint of Science 2022. In this blog, Ella-May tell us about her experience, motivators and learnings.
Hi, I’m Ella-May and I’m completing a PhD looking at using PET imaging in drug resistant lung cancer. Having completed a BSc in Medical Sciences with a year in industry at GlaxoSmithKline, I have a real passion for public engagement and promoting novel and exciting research. From the 9th-11th May our school hosted the annual Pint of Science event which saw 10 speakers take to the stage over 3 nights. The nights had different themes, looking at Underlying science of disease, Using Imaging to reveal disease’s deepest secrets and Unveiling the future of science: Healthtech – Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Imagination.
Do you have any former public engagement experience?
I had completed some public engagement in my undergraduate degree and on my placement year, but this was the first public engagement I have done during my PhD, and by far the biggest event I have been involved in.
Why did you want to engage the public?
My previous experience engaging school children with science gave me a real passion for public engagement and inspiring the next generation of scientists. This time I wanted to engage a more adult audience, in a more informal environment and facilitate an exciting cross talk between the researchers in our School and members of the public.
Who did you engage with and what did you do?
The target audience was adults. It was a ticketed event so it is presumed that the audience was actively interested in science and be at the very least educated to GCSE science level with limited understanding of the applications and aims of the research within the School. To make sure talks were appropriate for the audience, I did a run-through of the talks with the 10 speakers beforehand, and strongly encouraged audience participation with emphasis on the idea of “less is more”. I found on the nights the most successful talks were those with engaging activities and demonstrations.
What was the impact?
We had over 35 attendees on the first and third nights and slightly less on the second night around 18. Nearly 100 members of the public were engaged, with lots of questions and interaction with the speakers. The 10 speakers were asked to complete a survey type form to gain an understanding on how well organised they thought the event, how it affected their public engagement skills. Importantly, I asked speakers after the event what advice they would give future speakers, so we could create a word cloud of key points and do’s and don’ts.
9/10 speakers completed the survey- 8/9 speakers were very positive: “very well”, “terrific”, “wonderful and interactive” and “fun”. One speaker said “Generally good, the audience were engaged, just a pity that there weren’t a few more of them” which may reflect on the low turnout on night two.
Overall speakers rated the event was well organised however most of the issues were associated with the technology including: “For the future I think it would be important to investigate a different venue with better lighting and microphone options. The projector was quite old and would be important in the future to discuss with the school the potential to get a newer projector for the event or for public engagement events in general which has a HDMI cable which would improve the connection and resolution of the presentations.” One speaker mentioned “more could be done on advertising”. In future events it would be important to do more word of mouth spreading in pubs themselves to the target audience.
Speaking to the Kings lead officer for Pint of Science, leaving beer mats and posters in local pubs has worked in previous years and could be used in this event.
How did it influence you as a researcher?
I found the event very insightful and overall, it was very inspiring to hear about the research going on in our School and how the public responded so positively to it. I learnt important organisation and communication skills which I would take forward to organising future events.
8/9 of the responses from the speaker survey were positive about the level of interaction with the audience, with experience being worthwhile for them and allowing public engagement. This is great to hear, particularly “The audience was very interactive so it was a very good first experience presenting at a public engagement event” where a first time speaker enjoyed it and found it beneficial. One speaker mentioned “It was difficult to see the audience and gauge reaction because of the spotlight/lighting” and I think in the future again it be important to assess the optimum lighting for the speakers.
Do you plan to do anymore public engagement events in future?
Yes, I would be happy to help with public engagement in the future. I am currently taking part in the LEAP programme- a training scheme aiming to develop evaluation and consultation skills in PhD students- and look forward to supporting Pint of Science in the future as an organiser and a potential speaker.
For more information about the event, visit the website.
To get involved in future Pint of Science events, please contact Ella-May.Hards[at]kcl.ac.uk.