The MRC OIRO is committed to using the opportunities for public engagement to promote how its research translates into benefits for society at large. Our aims are to engage, educate and inspire school pupils, university students and members of public. When circumstances allow, members of the Institute are involved in a wide-ranging programme of PE from visiting schools, taking part in science festivals, going to shopping centres and speaking at clubs and societies. During the pandemic we have been using online possibilities to reach out to those with an interest in science.
The PE work is overseen by a committee, chaired by the Director, Prof Amato Giaccia, made up from a cross section of members of the Institute.
MRC OIRO Public Engagement Committee
|Interim MSD PEC coordinator:||Martin Christlieb|
|Research Facilitator:||Peter Hutchins|
|Post Docs:||Wei Song|
|Gonzalo Rodriguez Berriguete|
|Post grad student:||Ben Futcher|
The Institute is pleased to be working as part the Medical Research Council and the University of Oxford who have signed up to the Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research, which outlines the expectations and responsibilities of research funders with respect to public engagement.
Find news about the Institute’s PE programme and other MRC OIRO activities by following us on the Institute’s Twitter Account (details in the information bar on this page).
SELECTED PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT ACTIVITY
MRC Festival of Medical Research
As part of the festival our science is ‘on the road’. Reaching out to over a 1000 people in supermarkets, markets and shopping centres. Interestingly, we found that 60% of the people had never met a scientist before – something we plan to change!
I’m a Scientist – Get me out of here!
I’m a Scientist – Get me out of here! is a free online event where school students get to meet and interact with Scientists. Students challenge the scientists over intense, fast paced online live chats; they ask all the questions they want and get to vote for their favourite scientist. This activity reaches out to students from underserved schools who otherwise wouldn’t get to meet people working in STEM.
In June 2022, eight of our researchers participated in the ‘Cancer zone’, alongside researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Manchester and the CRUK Beaston Institute. Our researchers were trained by Rowena Fletcher Wood from the Central Public and Community Engagement Team; so they felt confident in participating and able to inspire the students in their interest in Cancer research. Congratulations go to Ben Futcher, PhD student from Eric O’ Neill’s group who was voted by the students as their favourite scientist. As zone winner, he receives £500 to spend on further public engagement projects.
“I hope we were able to highlight that no matter your background, whether maths is not your strongest subject, or you just don’t know what you want to do after finishing school that cancer research and science more broadly is a valid and attainable career path if you are motivated and open to learning new and exciting things” - Ben Futcher
You can read Ben’s full statement on the Cancer Zone website.
Oxford’s UNIQ course
Students from across the UK, from communities underrepresented in the University, come to Oxford to immerse themselves in all that Oxford University has to offer. Institute scientists play a key role in the Oncology Programme, introducing students to radiotherapy, imaging, cell and cancer biochemistry becoming role models to future STEM students.
‘My daughter recently attended your course and really enjoyed it. She has been spending her time trying to educate me on T cells …!’ - Parent
During the pandemic the course has been run online. See the case study below for further details.
Members of the Institute take time to meet with patient groups and their families, nursing staff and carers. See the case study below for further details.
In 2019 our researchers contributed their images to the Oncology Advent Calendar. The calendar was visited by people from around the world and gave many Institute scientists a chance to promote their science to a public platform.
Case Study - UNIQ Summer Schools
Research draws on the whole range of STEM subjects, however many school pupils think of medicine before a career in scientific research. They find it hard to picture how chemistry, physics and maths would be involved in a career in cancer research.
The summer school is an opportunity for us help students to explore how biochemistry and cell biology is bought together with maths and physics to address a human need that they are all familiar with. Sadly, some of our participants will have experienced a family bereavement due to cancer.
The students, recruited by the University via competition, are interested in applying to study at Oxford. Students on the programme come from schools or communities which traditionally do not send students to Oxbridge.
The week focusses on the students. However it is also a rewarding opportunity for our scientists: they have a chance to teach on a formal course which is valuable experience for those who will go on to teach in University departments with undergraduate courses. Not having an undergraduate programme in the Department does not stop members of the Institute taking part in this influential programme for young people.
Our scientists develop teaching materials based on their research to illustrate how all of the STEM subjects contribute to cancer research. Students from our course have an excellent record of going on to apply for STEM courses at University, and each year we convert two or three prospective medics into scientists! As a measure of success, one of our alumni came back twice as a student mentor and then to teach on the summer school herself.
Case Study – Patient Engagement
In 2020 we met cancer patients and nurses at Maggie's Centre, Oxford. Assisted by tea and cake, we discussed cancer and the research topics we work on. We listened to patients’ stories and responded to their questions. This engagement was very powerful as patients felt able to discuss their experiences with an Institute member with real agency to make a difference to cancer treatment, and our researchers realised the value of the work they do in the fight against cancer.
We have built long-standing relationships with some groups. The FROG - Friends of Renal Oncology Group - have visited the Institute several times, taking lab tours and meeting our scientists. We have attended FROG functions to listen to their stories and answer their questions.
Further afield we have visited Carcassonne, France, to interact with groups of ex-pats suffering from cancer. This gives an insight into how patients manage their disease whilst living abroad.