For a few years now, we’ve been talking about the idea of doing a ‘pop-up’ showcase of the University’s research. This format is absolutely brilliant for short-term engagement initiatives – from artistic activities with children we’ve run in the Mailbox to Nottingham’s 3-2-1-Ignition! However, it can also provide proof-of-principle that public spaces can work terrifically well for longer-term engagement platforms. I was fortunate enough to visit the University of Helsinki last year to visit its Think Corner public engagement space, and what I saw blew me away. In just their first year, over 1000 enthusiastic researchers from all over the campus had joined in to run 700 presentations and 450 workshops over 24 science themes (changing every 2 weeks), in a space that attracted 300-500 visitors per day and over 70,000 blog hits. A simple, flexible space enabled the University to engage its local population on an amazing scale, and academic enthusiasm worked seamlessly with innovation and clarity of thinking from their Communications team to keep it all running.
With support from the Wellcome Trust, we have been working towards delivering the first pilot version of this in Birmingham to provide the foundations to try something of the same scale as Helsinki (who graciously encouraged us to use their name and share good practice wherever we could). Rather frustratingly, until now everything from the sudden weight of REF preparations to two dastardly withdrawals of the offer of space in a city centre arcade has kept us from being able to deliver it until now, and once again we apologise to and thank those of you who have enthusiastically supported us through each new development. Once more unto the breach, dear friends!
I am delighted to announce that from August 25th until September 12th 2014, we will be running the Think Corner pop-up shop in the city centre, bringing together that wonderful interdisciplinary mix of arts and humanities with social, physical and biological sciences to showcase the awesome breadth of UoB research. This will include a very exciting overlap with the British Science Festival (6 – 11 September), which the University is hosting.
You can get involved in any number of ways, from running your own activities – hands-on experiments, talks and discussions, workshops, interactive demos – to contributing installations that people can view. Alternatively, you could volunteer to support events – whether for people you know or researchers from across the University – to do some ‘research busking’ or soapbox talks outside. We are open to pretty much anything, and we have a budget to support great ideas.
For more information, especially if you want to contribute in some way, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We very much look forward to hearing from you!