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NDORMS outreach and public engagement officer, Natalie Ford, kindly came to speak to the SITU team about how we can get involved with outreach activities and how they can benefit our research.

What is outreach and public engagement in research?

Outreach and public engagement involves sharing research and ideas with the public, engaging them with interactive activities to gain their understanding and then listening to their thoughts and opinions. From public engagement, both parties should gain a mutual benefit.

The key message of SITU outreach and engagement is that trials are a key part of medical research and they are only possible with the help of the public. 

Traditionally, Public Engagement and PPI are regarded as two different activities however there is a lot of overlap between the two and both require similar skills. Although Natalie has more experience with Public Engagement than PPI, she is happy to either help with PPI or signpost people to useful resources.

How you can get involved in Outreach and public engagement

There are many ways you can get involved in outreach and public engagement:

  • NDORMS runs an official work experience programme - access materials and how to get involved can be found on the NDORMS Intranet.
  • Many schools and colleges are happy for you to go in and speak to the students and parents about your research, or teach them all about clinical trials. This often involves creating fun activities for the children to get involved with.
  • There is a lot more information about how you can get involved in all sorts of Public Engagement on the staff intranet.

Molly Glaze, James Van Santen and Teya Agnese recently went to Batt CofE Primary School in Witney to teach the children all about clinical trials for science week 2020. 

Sonia Gooderham has had many different careers in science: from a Lab Technician at Abbott Diabetes Care, to a Research Chemist, to Senior Scientist! She now volunteers her time to show the children how fun a career in science can be.

Sonia invited some of us from SITU to go into the school during science week and show the Year 6 pupils at Batt Primary School in Witney a bit about our roles working in clinical trials. The children were enthralled by our 'knee surgery' activity, where they were randomised to open knee surgery, or keyhole surgery. They then got to experience each type of surgery and we encouraged discussion about which one they preferred.

Read about the Batt Primary School science week 2020 here.

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After the event, Sonia Gooderham praised... "We really appreciate you all taking the time to visit, it's very kind and a fantastic and inspiring learning opportunity for the children."

Molly Glaze found the experience... "great to see children engaging with some of the principles of clinical trials we work with day to day, as well as having fun with the activities. I hope that as a result the pupils will have more understanding of surgery and its links with research."

James Van Santen said... “It was great to have my first proper experience of public engagement with the children from The Batt Primary School. It was great to see so many children engaged with the different types of knee surgery and to show a real interest in participating in these activities. They seemed to have a lot of fun and were very competitive with each other; I hope they learned a few things about clinical trials in the process! Albeit very hot, I would certainly volunteer to do more outreach in the future. Thank you to Molly and the school for organising this for us.”  

Why get involved?

  • It is fun and rewarding
  • Helpful for your career and the experience can be added to your CV
  • Improves communication skills – you are able to explain your research to various people with varying levels of knowledge. Especially helpful in trials, when you have to ‘sell’ the trial to sites at SIVs and keep them engaged throughout the study
  • Funders/University/Departments all want it
  • Reminds you why you are carrying out the research in the first place by portraying a powerful message to inspire young people and adults about medical research – letting students know that they don’t have to become a doctor to ‘make people feel better’ and that there are similar career paths they can take.
  • The public can provide really useful feedback that can benefit your research.

how can natalie and the public engagement team help you?

Natalie and her team can help you by...

  • Writing the public engagement section on grant applications
  • Designing new activities with you
  • Providing logistical support to ensure an activity runs smoothly (i.e. transporting equipment to festivals)
  • Providing equipment (you can borrow anything in the Outreach library if you ask nicely!)
  • Reach particular audiences

Read more about how you can get involved in public engagement and outreach, and how Natalie and her team can help you on the NDORMS staff intranet