In September 2015 we started the London SciComm Socials as a chance for science communicators* from across London to get together. In 2016 we held our first Symposium, and we’ve done it every year since. This year’s event asks the sector: “What needs to change?”

On Thursday 27th June 2019, at Queen Mary University of London, we brought together a set of exciting, challenging speakers, and providing a chance for people across the sector to share their work and ideas, and to network.

We raised £1,259.85 for Sands: The Stillbirth and neonatal death charity from ticket sales for the symposium and the evaluation training session we ran in the same week.

Our speakers included:

Kimberley Freeman is Director of the Centre for Public Engagement at Queen Mary University of London. Kimberley has worked in public engagement and science communication for over nine years, having previously been Partnership Communications Manager at the Medical Research Council (MRC), Public Engagement Manager at UCL, and Public Engagement and Publications Co-ordinator at The Royal College of Pathologists. Kimberley is the co-creator of the London SciComm Socials, and mentors public engagement and science communication professionals across London.

Steve Cross is a recent Wellcome Engagement Fellow and formerly Head of Public Engagement at UCL. Steve works with organisations across Europe to advise on public engagement strategy, and the importance of embedding public engagement support at all levels of an organisation. He is the creator of Bright Club and Science Showoff, and co-creator of the London SciComm Socials, Steve is also a freelance public engagement consultant, trainer, presenter and a comedian.

Cerys Bradley is a PhD student studying the Dark Net at UCL. They have participated in a wide range of science communication activities. They write and perform stand up comedy about scientific research on the LGBTQ+ community and tour the country giving talks on this topic. They run interactive workshops in schools about Privacy Enhancing Technologies such as encryption and Tor in order to talk to young people about their privacy rights and responsibilities. They work in each of UCL’s museums, engaging visitors in conversations about UCL’s research and have contributed to a blog series nominated for ABSW Science Blog Award. They have taught on several science communication courses, delivering lectures and tutorials on science story writing, podcast making, and the responsibilities of science communicators.

Hephzi Angela Tagoe is a multiple award winning science communicator having received recognition from the Royal Society of Biology, Queen Mary University of London and the Financial Times for her work in community engagement with STEM. She organises a science fair in Basildon, Essex now in its 4th year and is the founding director of GhScientifc a UK charity engaging under-served communities in the UK and in Ghana with STEM. She recently completed her PhD at the Blizard Institute and has been awarded a Winston Churchill travel fellowship to research informal methods of STEM education. Hephzi believes that stem needs to get out of the big city bubble to give more opportunities to communities outside major STEM hubs.

Brian Mackenwells currently works at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics as the Public Engagement Officer, supporting almost 400 researchers in their engagement efforts. For the seven years before that he developed and delivered science shows and workshops to all ages of young people. He has also derived E=MC^2 live on stage in the back room of a pub, floated in zero gravity, and has only made two children cry in the course of his public engagement career to date.

Philippa Skett is the press and communications manager for the Royal Society of Biology, and also oversees their outreach and engagement programme. You may know her from the #iamabiologist social media campaigns, last year’s biosciences engagement symposium, or various PSCI-COMM mailing list arguments.

Imran Khan is Wellcome’s Head of Public Engagement. He leads Wellcome’s efforts in involving the public in their mission. This includes empowering people to use or participate in health research, understanding and using public perspectives and expertise in Wellcome’s work, and strengthening the relationship between Wellcome and the rest of society. Before joining Wellcome Imran was Chief Exec of the British Science Association and Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering. He’s also worked as a science writer and a political researcher. He also serves as a Council Member for the UK’s environmental science funder, NERC, and is a trustee of the innovation foundation Nesta and the international development charity Practical Action.

Alice Bell is co-director at climate charity 10:10, working on everything from solar powered trains to community tree planting. She holds a PhD in science communication from Imperial College, where she also lectured on their science communication MSc and set up an interdisciplinary undergraduate course on climate change. She’s also taught at City Journalism School, and was Head of Public Engagement at the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex. She worked as a journalist for a few years, specialising in the history and politics of science, including a study of the radical science movement for Mosaic magazine, and is currently writing a book on the history of climate change. She is also active in Art Not Oil, is a trustee of Medact, and sits on the the advisory committee for the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, University of Surrey.

Rebecca Wells is a post-doctoral Research Fellow on the QuEST (Quality and Effectiveness in Science and Technology Communication) Project in the Department of Journalism at City, University of London. A former BBC radio producer and food journalist, Rebecca’s PhD in Food Policy and Journalism looked at the interaction between nutrition policy and the UK media. The QuEST project is funded by a Horizon 2020 grant from the EU Commission within the SwafS action – Science with and for Society – launched by the EU to re-examine the role of Science Communication. During the two-year project, researchers and experts from the QUEST consortium will investigate science communication in three areas – journalism, social media and museums – through three case studies: climate change, vaccines and artificial intelligence.

Lucy Eckersley is the outreach officer at the RVC, working with underrepresented groups in the field of Veterinary and Animal sciences through workshops, lectures and demos, winning an AimHigher award for a London school debate series. She creates public engagement events such as the Night at the Vet College and Animal CSI, delivers science research at exhibition events, and tutors on the Wild Animal biology MSc. She is also known for her irreverent science presenting as Punk Biologist, with comedy shows and workshops around the more unusual aspects of nature. Lucy firmly believes that every young person should be given the tools to make their own decisions about a career in STEM.

Jess Wade is an excitable scientist with an enthusiasm for equality. She has been involved in several projects to improve gender inclusion in science, as well as encouraging more young people to study science and engineering. Multi award winning, including the IOP Daphne Jackson Medal and Prize (2018), Jess sits on the committees of the IOP’s Women in Physics Group, Physics Communicators Group and London & South East Branch. She is on the Council of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and Women in Science & Engineering (WISE) Young Women’s Board. She is a keen Wikipedian, and is helping to upload the biographies of women, LGBTQ+ and POC scientists – creating one every day in 2018.

Tom Saunders is Head of Public Engagement at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the national funding agency for science, research and innovation. His team run projects in areas such as citizen science, public involvement in research and innovation policy making and informal science learning. Before this Tom led research on technology and inequality at Nesta, focusing on the future of work and inclusive policymaking. His projects included working with the UNDP on participatory approaches to poverty measurement and the Brazilian government on inclusive health innovation.

Mary-Clare Hallsworth is the Public Engagement lead at Birkbeck, University of London and is responsible for public engagement strategy and support across the institution. Mary-Clare created the London Public Engagement Network (PEN) to connect, often isolated, public engagement professionals across London.

Duncan McMillan joined Queen Mary University of London in late 2018, as Centre of the Cell’s Head of Learning. He previously ran the Royal Society of Chemistry’s education resources and services programme. Prior to that, he helped launch digital education company Whizz Education and set up its Seattle office, wrote questions for TV quiz shows, taught sports in Sydney, and made fencing swords. Duncan is an alumnus of Bristol University and Imperial College and was once the fifth fastest woman in North London, due to a number mix-up.

Emily Dawson‘s work focuses on how people learn about and engage with science, with an emphasis on equity and social justice. Her research and teaching explore how practices across science communication, education and engagement (for example, from schools, to museums, to watching TV at home) set certain kinds of people up to feel comfortable when they engage with science, while other people are set up to feel profoundly excluded. Emily works to try and figure out how that happens with a view to re-imagining what meaningfully inclusive and transformative practices might involve. Emily is based in Science and Technology Studies at UCL.

You can view the event details on Eventbrite: London SciComm Symposium 2019 Eventbrite

* We’ve met scientists, teachers, learned society staff, coordinators of public engagement in universities, TV presenters, marketers, writers, performers, comedians, press officers, scicomm students, bloggers, historians of science, museum folk and we want to meet even more people!

Evaluating public engagement and Impact training

On Monday 25th June 2019 London SciComm Socials co-creator Kimberley Freeman ran an introductory session about evaluating public engagement at Queen Mary University of London.

This session looked at some of the commonly used techniques and approaches to evaluating public engagement projects, including planning and embedding evaluation into public engagement activities, capturing feedback in innovative ways, and producing meaningful evaluation reports that can be used as evidence of Impact.