Clare Matterson, director of medical humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust has written a short piece for the Guardian on public engagement. Extracts below. To read this article in full go HERE.
Scientists’ public engagement work should be generously funded
Public engagement as a practice is nothing new. In the UK, it dates back to Michael Faraday’s public lectures at the Royal Institution (which proved so popular that hansom cabs blocked Albemarle Street, where the RI is located, leading to the creation of one of the first ever one-way streets). In the past two decades public engagement has moved away from just telling people how wonderful science is to exploring the social and ethical implications of scientific research and, importantly, listening to them. Nowadays, there are countless science festivals, public debates, science-art collaborations and “citizen science” projects.
Public engagement is a profession in its own right now, too. There are probably thousands of people in the UK who see their main line of work as “engaging the public”. But what about scientists themselves – do they (or should they) leave it to the professionals? Too often, public engagement is viewed as a “bolt-on” to a scientist’s work. Even Dame Nancy Rothwell – an eminent neuroscientist who has done far more than her fair share of public talks and events (and encouraged other scientists to) – has referred to science communication as her “hobby”.