Regenerate: A EuroStemCell event at Science Museum Lates
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh regenerated the Science Museum Lates this March as part of the pan European EuroStemCell project. The team took the visitors on a journey into the future as they looked at whether stem cell biologists will make Time Lords of us all.
For the uninitiated the Science Museum Lates run on the last Wednesday of every month except December and is an adult only night featuring a range of science communication events from comedy to dance to serious science lecture and everything in between. It attracts both scientists and non scientists alike and receives between 3500 to 5000 visitors every month.
The theme of March's Lates was "the future", which fitted perfectly as a showcase for the research carried out by the EuroStemCell project team. They used innovative techniques to engage with the adult audience that ranged from 18 to 35 year olds. This included a large scale twisteresque game which cleverly combined conveying relevant facts whilst presenting a fun physical challenge for the audience. The event was split into 3 timed sessions in a workshop style which not only delivered the game but also effectively engaged the visitors with a 10 minute interactive talk about the teams work with stem cells which included a quiz where the public competed for prizes. This proved to be a slick method of delivering and reinforcing information on stem cells in a dynamic but informal fashion. It also provided an opportunity for the visitors to directly interact with the researchers. This continued throughout the night during the breaks between the timed sessions, where the visitors were given the opportunity to talk to the researchers in a less structured relaxed fashion but still proved an effective form of communication.
The delivery and warm reception of this event at the Science Museum Lates clearly shows how well planned and audience focused activities can convey complex information which can be communicated directly by the researchers who are actually working in that field to a non academic audience in a light hearted format. This is reinforced by the positive feedback in an article from online alternative leisure guide 'Contrary Life'.
"Finally we took part in Regenerate!, a stem cell based game and quiz hosted by the EuroStemCell project group. The game was a little fast-paced for us, and we did rather badly at trying to create as many new body cells as possible in a short amount of time. We fared a little better at the quiz afterwards though. The group then touched on the advances they were hoping to make in stem cell research, which I'd have quite liked to hear a bit more about. It was a nice easy way to finish the evening and although we didn't win the chocolate eggs we still had a pretty good time."
The event looked at the future of stem cell research but also gave the audience a glimpse of how the future of well delivered public engagement by scientists and researchers should be done.