Two Pints of Science and Packet of Quizps: A Public Engagement Story

By Tom Robinson

On the 14th May, 2018, I took part in the 2018 Pint of Science festival. Both of my supervisors were asked to speak to a lay audience about their work on ‘Healing with Materials’ at the Woodman pub. In the break between talks, I was asked to put together a related activity, and what better than a good old pub quiz!

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Professor Liam Grover was the first speaker, talking us on a journey through the past of medical materials, through to current innovations in the field.

Photo, left: Professor Grover kicking the evening off

The audience seemed to be split evenly between student researchers and older members of the public.

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The relaxed atmosphere allowed the presenters to be light hearted about their research, and for people to feel comfortable asking questions (something you’d never see in a lecture theatre!). This created the two way conversation which is essential for outreach.

In the break between talks, there were activities for the audience to take part in. I made a fun, picture based biomedical quiz to have a go at, and there were a range of ‘science busking’ demonstrations.

Photo, right: Getting my quiz master on

Having a range of activities worked well; some were more touchy-feely, making lava lamps, and stepping through a post-it note, but some you didn’t even need to stand up, like the quiz, so there was something for everyone. The activities were fun, attracting people to participate, but with a real scientific principle to discuss. Discussions took place between the audience and the demonstrators, but also between audience members. For me, getting the public to talk to each other about science was one of the best things about this event.

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Photo, left: Speedily Marking the Quizzes

Dr Sophie Cox talked after the break, discussing the issues with current metal implants, and how we can

use new materials and metal 3D printing technologies to create improved and personalised implants.

There was a great atmosphere in the room for the whole event, with plenty of audience participation. The room was quite small, so the event capacity was lower than expected, though a larger space may have altered the intimate atmosphere.

Photo, right: Dr Cox discussing the reality of current medical implants

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The event was well received and speakers and organisers got a hearty round of applause. There was no formal feedback mechanism, and though the event clearly went well, it may have been advantageous to have a questionnaire, to gauge if the level of science was appropriate, and to understand what people liked the most, or how it could be improved.

Overall, the event was really well organised and lots of fun. I’d definitely recommend it to both students and non-specialists, and go to another event in the future. With luck the event will still be running when I’m in a position to be invited to speak, and that’s as good motivation as any to get my head down and write a thesis!

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Enjoying a well-deserved pint (of non-science) after a great evening