- 08 October 2020
Two outstanding researchers have been recognised with this year’s RSB Outreach and Engagement Awards.
The RSB Outreach and Engagement Awards celebrate researchers who communicate their scientific work using novel methods that effectively engage with their target audiences.
The New Researcher Award looks to celebrate those making outstanding strides in outreach and engagement within the first five years after graduation, whilst the Established Researcher award recognises those who are taking the lead in embedding outreach and engagement efforts at an institutional level.
This year, the winner of the Outreach and Engagement Award for an Established Researcher is Dr Claire Price, a researcher in the Centre for Cytochrome P450 Biodiversity at Swansea University.
Dr Price curated and delivered the first Bitesize Science Festival in her home town of Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales during the summer of 2019 – the first science festival of its kind in the town, and one of the first few to be held outside a university city.
The festival featured activities from more than 20 partner organisations, and saw more than 400 people attend throughout the day, including local ministers and MPs.
Dr Price also teamed up with the local high school and trained pupils to deliver science activities to younger children, with the help of researchers from Swansea University.
As a result of this, the high school has also launched its first science club to help pupils take part in more outreach and engagement.
A dedicated science communicator, Dr Price also is a STEM ambassador and a science advisor to Abercanaid Community School and has been previously involved in Soapbox Science events, Pint of Science events and other, more specialised science exhibitions.
Dr Price said of receiving the award: “I am completely shocked and awed to have received this award. I got involved in outreach and engagement because I love being able to share my passion for science with others.
“There is nothing quite like seeing the wonder and excitement in a person’s eyes when they see something for the first time. I am so lucky to have met so many wonderful people along the way and have learnt so much from them.
“In the future, I hope to carry on developing my outreach activities and reaching wider audiences with my engagement.”
The winner of the Outreach and Engagement Award for New Researchers is Ella Hubber, a PhD student in the department for diabetes at King’s College London.
Ella has been recognised for designing her own interactive exhibition in collaboration with artists from Goldsmith’s University, to help illustrate her research on islet transplantation.
The model allows users to simulate the processes behind the treatment for those with Type 1 diabetes, resulting from damaged or destroyed islet cells that usually produce insulin. Users can interact with the model and in doing so learn more about islet transplantation and factors that can influence its success.
Ella and her colleagues have taken the model to a number of exhibitions including New Scientist Live, the Society for Endocrinology conference and the Evelina Inspiring Youth Conference, engaging with a range of diverse audiences including young people from disadvantaged schools and hospital patients.
Ella said of receiving the award: “Collaborating with artists to create an interactive exhibit based on my research was a completely new way of communicating science for me, but the end result was better than I could have imagined.
“It was wonderful to see people of all ages engage with and ask questions about a complex area of translational diabetes research through the exhibit.
“It is wonderful to have this type of art-meets-science outreach, and the work of everyone involved, acknowledged through this award.”
Dr Steve Cross, chair of the award’s judging panel, said: “It was great for us to see such a wide group of researchers taking part this year, and it was great to see that outreach and engagement has become so embedded in the ways that biologists are working.
“For the winner of the New Researcher Award, Ella really impressed us by building incredible collaborations with people who could help her make really high-quality outreach and engagement outputs.
“One of Ella’s other strengths was her use of testing and feedback in the early stages of the development of her projects. Ella was learning from her audience at every single step and incredibly impressively.
"For our winner of the Established Researcher Award, we absolutely loved the fact that Claire started new science festivals and new ways for biologists to engage outside of the usual places.
“We were also really impressed by Claire’s leadership; not only did she bring many of her fellow biologists on board, she even ended up collaborating with local politicians and Welsh ministers in the putting together of her events.
“Over the years that I’ve been on this panel, we’ve looked at researchers who have started programmes that have gone on to spread across the UK and made a major difference to the way that members of the public connect with biology. The decisions that we make here really matter to us.”