Guest Blog: AMRC Science Communication Awards

Dr Hannah Family is a Lecturer at the University of Bath, Past Pharmacy Research UK funding holder, and a self-proclaimed geek for all things related to science communication. Pharmacy Research UK invited Hannah to join them at the AMRC Science Communication Awards – here’s what she made of it!

It was with great excitement that I received the invitation from Pharmacy Research UK to join Charlotte Coates, Research Manager at Pharmacy Research UK, at the Association for Medical Research Charities (AMRC) Science Communication Awards on Monday 17th March 2014. What an opportunity, a trip out of Bath to the Whitechapel Gallery in London  and the chance to see many wonderful examples of science communication.

The setting for these awards was perfect, as it reflected AMRC’s aim to find and showcase examples of bold and innovative approaches to communicating research. The nominated pieces of science communication work were displayed around Hader Attia’s installation “The Light of Jacob’s Ladder.” This was a collection of books, journals and artefacts from all around the world displayed in a system of bookshelves which you could walk around and also climb up steps to look down on. With a set of facing mirrors placed above the centre display case reflecting the installation an infinite number of times. This I thought was a rather fitting, and beautiful way to artistically represent the foundation of knowledge that was presented in the science communication award nominations that evening.

Hader Attia: The Light of Jacob's Ladder. Whitechapel Gallery, London

Hader Attia: The Light of Jacob’s Ladder. Whitechapel Gallery, London

What did I learn?

I realised that there were several formats and opportunities to communicate my research that I had not yet considered. To date I have used a blog, twitter, and some artwork to communicate my ideas. However, videos, TV campaigns, leaflets, magazines, websites, conferences, workshops, awareness weeks and “google+ hangouts” were included amongst the entries. To give you an idea of the range of approaches, the scale of some approaches (both small and large) and the innovation these teams are using I’ve reviewed a few of my favourite entries from this event.

Dementia Lab (www.dementialab.org) – Produced by Alzheimer’s Research UK

Screen shot from the introduction to Dementia Lab

Screen shot from the introduction to Dementia Lab

This is an incredible online resource, what makes it so clever is that it asks to access your Facebook profile. Generally I steer clear of any programme or organisation wanting to access my Facebook profile, but believing Alzheimer’s Research UK to be a reputable organisation – I let them loose. It was worth the risk the results are very powerful. The key message being, how would you feel if you couldn’t remember your key friends and family members? What would that be like to look at their faces and not remember who they were? The challenge of every science communication campaign is to make it personal – make you feel that this is something you should care about and should do something about and this is exactly what this campaign does. Once they’ve got you hooked there is a whole host of interactive resources from videos to reports and statistics and explanations of how their research and funding works. For me the only downside is how much information is presented and I do not have nearly a big enough attention span, or the time to look through it all. This won the award for the online and social media communication and was the overall winner of the evening. It is no surprise, this website is so multi-faceted, so well considered and so interactive. A little out of my scope and the reach of my research at the moment though!

HeadSmart: Be Brain Tumour Aware (http://www.headsmart.org.uk/) – Produced by the Brain Tumour Charity

Screenshot of the HeadSmart Website

Screenshot of the HeadSmart Website

The HeadSmart campaign was the winner of the Campaigning and Influencing award. This campaign was developed by a collaboration between two smaller charities (compared to Alzheimer’s Research UK), the Brain Tumour Charity and the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre. They have a website with a whole host of materials with information, and advice on brain tumours in young people. What I liked most about this entry was their HeadSmart symptoms card, a credit card sized folded leaflet, which lists the key symptoms of brain tumours according to age groups. The message was clear, incredibly well communicated for parents and young children to understand and would be a valuable resource for any parent or young child to have. This leaflet can be downloaded here: http://www.headsmart.org.uk/admin/uploads/symptoms-card-final-v4_-printready.pdf). I also felt this project was more achievable with a limited budget and small team. I spoke to this team at the event, and they were overwhelmed and humbled by the response and the amount of traffic their website had received. Although I think the prospect of keeping it going was something that was now focussing their mind. This is a point to bear in mind with these types of activities, you may have the resource to set it up and launch it, but do you have the resource to curate it? Whilst I think this was an issue for this group – the fact that it had clearly been so useful to the public was a clear motivator to keep going and find the resource to maintain this fantastic source of information.

Progress Magazine – Prostate cancer UK (http://prostatecanceruk.org/about-us/progress)

A Screen shot of the Prostate Cancer UK Progress Website

A Screen shot of the Prostate Cancer UK Progress Website

Progress is a ‘news and views’ magazine for men with prostate cancer and their families. Its aim is to provide useful and interesting information to men with prostate cancer and also to encourage them to get them to volunteer and support others with prostate cancer or the wider campaign. This won the Best Print Publication award on the evening. This publication contained lots of valuable information about the illness, how to manage it, tips and advice, plus information on the research going on at the moment. Despite this being information that you might be given in a hospital leaflet about Prostate cancer, it was presented in a very attractive manner (with celebrities on the front page) so you didn’t feel instantly depressed on receiving it. It also contained more light-hearted, practical and hopeful (experiences of others) material alongside the serious stuff. This is a large scale and long-term project and definitely requires more celebrity contacts than I have, but what I took away from this entry was how it didn’t look like a magazine about health and illness, or even about cancer, it just looked like something I would be interested to read, because of the way it was presented.

What about the other entries?

As you can see plenty I came away with plenty of food for thought for my future research communication. You can see all the entries and winners on the AMRC website: http://www.amrc.org.uk/our-work/science-communication-awards/2014-science-communication-awards-the-winning-entries.

The next AMRC Science Communication Awards are in 2016

The next AMRC science communication awards are in 2 years’ time, Pharmacy Research UK wasn’t represented this time having only recently joined the AMRC team of charities – I reckon between us, we can show the AMRC all the wonderful research and science communication that goes on in Pharmacy Practice.

Thank you to Charlotte and the rest of the team at Pharmacy Research UK for inviting me to this fabulous event.

If you are interested in submitting a blog about your research experiences to Pharmacy Research UK, please contact us at enquiries@pharmacyresearchuk.org

Guest blogs are not edited by Pharmacy Research UK. The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Pharmacy Research UK.

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