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Public Engagement Award

The ISSF3 Public Engagement Proof-of-Concept Award will consider applications for new and innovative small-scale proof-of-concept public engagement.

Principal Investigator: Paul Allen
School of Psychology

Over the last 5 years the Brain Games team has successfully created a programme of support for primary school children to improve their understanding of the way the brain works. The Brain Games involves conducting assemblies and workshops in primary schools culminating in an annual one day event at the National Museum in Cardiff.

Working with secondary school teachers, we identified an opportunity to expand the reach of this successful programme of activities to A-level psychology and biology students to support teachers in delivering the curriculum. Current activities require one or more volunteers to attend the school to lead the event, which is time consuming and limits our reach to local (Cardiff) English language schools. The needs of A-level students are different to primary education and information gathering from teachers suggest that a remote approach would be well received, We worked with teachers to support their delivery of complex topics around neuroscience.

As a result we have designed, prototyped and piloted a self-contained Brain Games kit known as 'The Brain Box', for secondary schools delivering A-level psychology and biology that enables teachers to conduct their own lessons around the theme of neurosience and the brain.

Alongside the games, the kit includes a bilingual series of videos that explain how to set up the games and what the results mean. This resource also has a quick feedback link for teachers.

20 teachers from across Wales (including North Wales, Welsh language medium schools and schools with high levels of free school meals) were invited to a launch to collect a kit and provide feedback on the final activities and resources developed. Feedback was gained from teachers at the event and the next stage will be to gain feedback from the students participating in A-level Biology and/or Psychology to explore this hands-on interactive approach for engagement and impact.

The online resource that accompanies the kit can be found on the Brain Box website.

Principal Investigator: Fiona Lugg-Widger
Centre for Trials Research

When the public receive health, social and other public services, information about their care is routinely recorded electronically. Such routine data can provide researchers with important insights into how to improve treatments and care. However, the public may not be aware of these records and such research, in particular the use of education and social care data. Research using routine data may also be difficult for researchers to explain well to members of the public and for the public to understand the benefits and safeguards requied (compared to survey research).

Recent events in the media (Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook users’ information) may have had an influence on the public’s views on use of data in general which may impact routine data use for research. We will work with members of the public to produce materials for researchers to use to increase public understanding of and engagement in research that uses routine data. The materials will include an animation developed using public workshops and key messages found to be important for researchers to include when talking to the public about routine data. The animation will be published online and we will engage with relevant stakeholders to publicise and host the animation.

Principal Investigator: Antonio Pardinas
School of Medicine

Psychiatric disorders are often misrepresented in popular culture and are frequently seen in video games as linked to negative behaviour and attitudes, such as violence and irrationality. Such portrayals in other forms of media have improved in recent years due to creators working with mental health professionals and citizen organisations. Some video game developers have begun to take steps to challenge the stigma around mental health and the proposed activity "JAMMIND", continued this conversation and has enabled local developers to accurately portray mental illness through gaming in future projects.

The awarded public engagement is known as a "game jam", a gathering of participants which are brought together to develop a simple game in less than 48 hours. Taking place across 2.5 days, the "JAMMIND" game jam saw game developers work in teams with researchers and service users to develop video games that feature diverse aspects of mental health. The event included talks from mental health researchers and experienced game developers, time to develop new games and a chance for each team to play eachothers creations before a winner was announced.

Munzir Quraishy, who offered his own experience of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for one of the games, was interviewed by the BBC about his involvement.

The three games created have been used as part of a wide range of Medical Research Council Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics mental health awareness events.The National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) recently used the games as part of the ISSF3 funded 'Let's Talk About ADHD' project.

Principal Investigator: Sharifah Agha
School of Medicine

Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) includes difficulties with concentrating, overactivity and impulsivity that causes difficulties for individuals and their families / carers. ADHD affects 3-5% of children but despite being common, it remains very misunderstood and there is a great deal of stigma associated with having ADHD. Many children and their families are faced with challenges upon first being diagnosed, especially when seeking out information or resources, including those to explain the condition to the children themselves.

The aim of this project was to work with local ADHD parent support groups to develop an animation video for children aged 7-11 years with ADHD, about what it means to have ADHD. The coproduced video is based on our research as well as ideas from people with experience of ADHD. This will be a valuable resource available for families via the support groups and clinical services. The video will be a starting point to develop a broader support package for individuals and their families / carers. It will show that such projects can be successful, so we can apply for future funding, as well as giving experience to the researchers and charities to work together and develop expertise in public engagement.

To engage with families and children with experience of ADHD, the project collaborated with an ADHD support group and involved a number of engagement events. The events included creative workshops for children by NoFit State Circus and Mad Science and discussion sessions for parents on mindfulness, sleep and wellbeing. Other sessions brought the families together to share experiences. This creative events-based approach enabled the project to gain feedback from families and children to coproduce this evidence-based resource.

The launch event to celebrate the families and children involved in the project, was preluded by an event for families and children with experience of ADHD to enable them to arrive early, settle in and participate in hands-on science activities and discussion sessions before the launch of the animation, which was open to the public.

Watch the coproduced ADHD animation on the NCMH website.

Principal Investigator: Les Baillie
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

School children in Wales are not performing as well in STEM based subjects as the rest of the UK, thus we need to develop innovative ways to inspire the next generation of Welsh scientists and engineers. We have developed a prototype system which combines computer coding with the study of nature.

It is based on Micro:bit and has been designed to enable year six students to capture and study the sounds made by honey bees inside a hive. By assembling and installing the system the students will be able to develop their engineering and coding skills. The analysis of the sounds generated by the bees will provide the students with an insight into the social organisation of these creatures.

To ensure longevity of the project, a primary school science-lead, wishes to continue involving the students once they leave for High School. For this, she will invite back the pupils so that they can help train their successors. This not only ensures the project becomes self-sufficient, with each generation of pupil training the next, but will also improve the communication and leadership skills in the pupils and building a bridge between the two schools. If successful, this model could be employed in other schools in Cardiff where we currently have beehives.

Principal Investigator: Emma Lane
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Communicating science in a language your audience can understand, and pitched at a level they can recognise, are fundamental features of public engagement in STEM. While we can be engaged in world leading research, our ability to share this work is only as good as the approach which we adopt to communicate with the target audience.

Engagement with schools is becoming an increasing priority for Cardiff University and the civic mission and Welsh Government, but this needs to designed and delivered in a high quality, age appropriate, curriculum-linked manner. We identified the need for age specific training following independent review of our own successful public engagement activities.

There is currently no University based training available to support school specific design and delivery of STEM based public engagement. We will consult with pupils, primary science leads and secondary school science teachers, to develop a half day training course to be made available to anyone at the University wishing to get involved in this type of public engagement. This will include a workshop based training course with video-based case studies embedded in an ipad based app and supporting materials for follow up use.

This training will increase both the skills and the confidence of staff and students to deliver effective engagement which will then be more sustainable and establish the reputation of Cardiff University as a valued partner in STEM education at all levels.

Principal Investigator: Derek Jones
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)

Brain science has a problem. New ‘big data’ projects are generating lots of results that can show beautiful pictures of the brain, such as the brain’s wiring. Computers can automatically produce these maps for us, but they don’t get it right all the time. We need people to help us check the accuracy of the results.

This is a pilot project to create an online platform to teach people about brain imaging and show people how to judge brain wiring pictures. Student developers from the National Software Academy will make the prototype platform for free. We will test it out on volunteers. The platform will operate in a similar motion to a popular dating app - you can swipe right if you think the image is good, and swipe left if you think it should be discounted.

We aim to use this as a vehicle to inform and educate people about brain imaging research and allow people to make a meaningful contribution to our studies from their own homes, becoming ‘armchair scientists.’ This might be of particular interest to students considering careers in science or retired people who are keen to learn about science and wish to help us. With further external funding, this online platform can be expanded as a national citizen science project.

Principal Investigator: Mohammad Al-Amri
School of Healthcare Sciences

Physiotherapy remains a cornerstone for musculoskeletal condition management. However, concerns remain over how to accurately assess movement to evaluate progress, provide patient feedback and determine appropriate treatment options. This is largely because assessment is being undertaken using subjective outcome measures or inconsistent tools. Our research has addressed this unmet need through the development of a novel portable toolkit. This uses affordable wearable technology allowing rigorous real-time movement assessment and feedback for patients and clinicians. The next stage of our research is to integrate this toolkit into a new physiotherapy intervention.

Before this, we need to evaluate the attitudes of end-users (clinicians and patients) on user requirements, potential benefits and barriers and facilitators to integration in healthcare. Therefore, in this engagement project we will organise drop-in sessions for patients and physiotherapists to experience the toolkit and provide feedback. This will be used to create an engagement video, informing patients and the public about our research and to understand how the toolkit should be integrated into healthcare as a new intervention.

Four roadshows with industry representation will be conducted in physiotherapy departments across Wales, which will demonstrate and share learning opportunities to end-users about the toolkit and its usage in patient care.

Principal Investigator: Jonathan Tyrrell
School of Medicine

Repurposing a disused shop in the centre of the Capital to create a free interactive lab exploring antimicrobial resistance (AMR) with families.The Superbugs project explored AMR, a key challenge for current and future generations as listed by the World Health Organisation. Following a pilot at the Techniquest Science Museum, the team developed a project to take their activities to a non-science audience by collaborating with St. David’s Dewi Sant Shopping Centre to deliver an interactive experience for the public based on AMR and research.

The Superbugs team secured a shop in an area of high footfall during the peak of the summer holidays when families would be visiting the city centre. The Superbugs team used the data from their pilot activities at the Techniquest Science Museum to shape the content, activities and design of the shop. They further explored these ideas in a workshop with Schools.

The Superbugs team were blown away by the response from the public to the pop-up interactive lab. Participant numbers reached 6,500+ over the two-week pop-up period and included a range of demographics and diverse groups. 1,500+ young people completed all AMR activities to become Antimicrobial Resistance Champions. The Superbugs team also swabbed the presenters on Capital Radio, were interviewed about AMR and had strong media and political engagement.

More information about the Superbugs Pop-up Science Shop can be found on the Systems Immunity Research Institute website.

Principal Investigator: Ayesha Alsabah and Naledi Shologu
School of Dentistry

The Science Pirates project engaged and educated families and young people with information about the influence of exercise on bone health and its use as a preventative measure to avoid developing weaker bones, through an interactive pirate-theme escape room activity.

The project secured a space at Menter Caerdydd, whose aim is to promote and expand the use of the Welsh language on a community basis in the Capital City.

The pirate-themed escape room was designed with a digital element using a tablet and QR codes as a medium to link to digital resources to educate visitors about bone biology. The information gained through QR codes was used to complete a treasure map decoding sheet which, if completed correctly, would unlock the Captain’s treasure. Following the experience, participants were asked a series of questions relating to bone biology to identify knowledge gain and understanding.

Participants were also invited to make their own bones in a creative corner and the Science Pirates team captured qualitative data from participants using voxpops and a ‘message in a bottle’ system, which proved popular.

Read an article promoting the Science Pirates, featured in Wales Online.

Read the Armchair Escapist feature about the Science Pirates experience.

Principal Investigator: Daniel Morse
School of Biosciences

Raising awareness of microbiology is of utmost importance to improve living quality in society.  Infection control, food production, mitigation of climate change, and combating antibiotic resistance are of fundamental importance when educating future generations.

Microbiology is embedded within the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) umbrella, where progression to address the barriers into STEM careers, especially concerning girls and those from more socially-deprived areas is important, particularly in Wales. There is a need for societal change to promote currently under-represented groups, enabling them the opportunity to thrive in a STEM field, and potentially become the next leaders in the field!

This project developed a workshop containing a suite of hands-on activities, with a microbiology perspective, to promote the accessibility of STEM subjects to school children from socially-deprived areas. Aligning with the curriculum, it creatively engaged the children and addressed the barriers to STEM subjects as education/career choices, enhancing enjoyment and involvement in science.

A number of focus groups were developed involving teachers, students and scientists to ensure the activities will be mutually beneficial, and then the workshop was delivered in schools as part of the pilot study, prior to anticipated expansion to additional schools and public events.

Read more about the work of the MicroScientists.