Day 2- Newton Researcher Links Workshop
17 November 2019
After mappings out the tools and resources on the first day, day 2 of this Beijing workshop moved onto the practicals.
In the morning, we had three consecutive sessions of ‘the Anatomy of An Idea’. A few participants pitch their idea on future research bids in the life science and acted as 'Project Leaders' (PLs). Based on these idea pitches, which included its intended scientific and social benefits, as well as potential difficulties/uncertainties and the expertise required, other participants decided on which group/project they were to join. In the second session, these self-selected small groups helped the PLs examining the entire process of his/her research plan, assessing its scientific and social/legal viabilities, finding ways to better incorporate public value/public needs, and exploring innovate approaches of reaching out to various end-users or affected communities. In the third session, each project group reported back to the whole workshop on what action plans they had discussed to help promote social embeddedness of their bioscience bids, and/or how it contributed to cross-cultural public engagement of science.
This was a mutual learning process. Through the workshop discussions, we discovered that, despite its long tradition, many UK ECRs were also inexperienced in factoring in engagement and interdisciplinarity to their planning. Many were unaware of the need/opportunity for this work or of the resources and support that are on offer. This highlighted the need to deepen and widen guidance on public engagement of science that speaks to practical research managements.
We originally intended this to be a mocking exercise for making international bids, but after the discussion, we were not so sure – there were some innovative and feasible ideas, it wouldn’t be surprising that participants would take them forward and turn them into successful grants!
A more reflective turn came in the afternoon when we made a group visit to the China Science and Technology Museum.
After a briefing by the Museum staff, we started working in pairs, examining and critiquing the strength and weakness of science communication of 'the only comprehensive museum of science and technology at national level in China'.
Everyone was tasked to seek their answers to the following four questions through systematic reflection of the four-floor exhibitions:
- What is the general 'tone' or orientation of the exhibition? To what extend do you find this general tone helpful to promote public dialogues of science?
- How is scientific uncertainties featured in the Museum's exhibition? Based on your previous experiences, what could be improved and how?
- What is the most engaging aspect of the Museum and what makes you feel this way?
- Which aspects of the exhibition promote public understanding of science? Which aspects of the exhibition may lead to or aggravate public 'misunderstanding' of science?
To some extent, both the success and failures of China Science and Technology Museum’s curation serve as a mirror, which help practitioners in both the natural and social sciences to open up imaginations of creatively communicate their desires, intentions and concerns within and outside of academia.