Public engagement at the IEU
The MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit actively works with public audiences, policymakers and industry partners to share our research. We aim to encourage discussion and debate around health through developing a varied and exciting programme of engagement activities which see us partnering with UK wide science festivals, chairing public discussions, facilitating community initiatives and engaging with local schools. Highlights of these can be seen below. Public-facing activities are publicised and celebrated on our news page and Twitter.
Festivals enable us to showcase Unit wide research in different cultural contexts and increase our reach to public groups outside of the usual science engagement sphere. Over the years we’ve built strong links with Bristol based and UK wide science festivals including Festival of Nature, Brite Night, Einstein’s Garden, MRC Festival of Medical Research and Cheltenham Science Festival. Highlights of these activities include:
MRC Festival of Medical Research
Taking part in this annual festival allows us to build strong links the MRC community and approach new audiences. Our event ‘Open House at the MRC IEU’ worked with school groups and took them through a series of interactive activities to engage them with the study of epidemiology and the interplay between genetics, data analysis and environmental influences.
Einstein’s Garden – Green Man Music Festival
Since 2013 the researchers from the MRC IEU have braved the Welsh weather to bring a varied mixture of science stalls the Einstein’s Garden. These have included Gene Genies, Bar to the Future and Data Mine – an artistic installation developed in collaboration with Bristol based designer Philippa Thomas.
Public lectures and debates are a regular feature in the MRC IEU calendar of events. Our aim is to provide a forum for the general public to hear leading scientists speaking passionately about their research in the context of a current hot topic. We hope through these we will encourage and facilitate public discussion on the issues. Some examples of where we've done this include:
How Life gets Under the Skin
Leading thinkers from the social and life sciences came together in May 2015 to explore the emerging science of epigenetics. MRC IEU researchers George Davey Smith and Caroline Relton were joined by Nessa Carey, author of The Epigenetics Revolution and Nikolas Rose, Professor of Sociology at King’s College London, for a lively discussion about how our environment shapes who we are.
BSA Future Debates
The British Science Association Future Debate series aims to empower the public – not just scientists – to constructively engage in debates over science’s role in their lives. On July 5th 2016 a number of researchers from the MRC IEU, ALSPAC study ambassadors and 100, 000 genome project took to the Trinity Centre in Bristol in order to take part in a discussion around genome data privacy.
The event raised some really interesting discussions which centred on regulating data sharing, whether all children should be sequenced at birth and if anyone should or could profit from data sharing.
The Drugs Work
Are pharmaceutical drugs an effective treatment for mental and physical illness? On Thursday 30 July members of the public will hear from a distinguished panel of experts as they discuss this question. David Nutt, Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, will examine the case for anti-depressants and mental health while George Davey Smith, Director of the MRC IEU, will delve into the recent media controversy over the use of statins for the treatment of heart disease.
Using schools engagement we hope to make lasting impressions on local school groups and inspire the next generation of health and computational researchers. By showcasing the career paths of our own researchers who come to the MRC IEU from diverse backgrounds including mathematics, computer sciences, statistics and medicine we’re able to present pupils with alternative routes into careers in health sciences.
Over the years we’ve developed a series of workshops and engagement activities that are suitable for GCSE and A Level students. For more information on these please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Engagement Projects
Since the beginning of 2016 the MRC IEU has been working in partnership with the University of Bristol’s Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research (EBI) to develop a project entitled “Health: Create, Debate, Explore”. It aims to build an enduring relationship between Bristol communities – such as support groups, community organisations & charities – and the health researchers based in our units. We take research in the early stages of development and invite public groups to contribute personal stories into the research process with the intention of informally shaping the research process. We hope this will be a mutually beneficial experience for researcher and public and make our research more accessible and functional for a public audience.