Inspirational science communicators from across the country come together at UCLan

Inspirational science communicators from across the country come together at UCLan Banner Image

Organisers of the INTERACT Symposium hosted by UCLan.

UCLan hosts second ever national INTERACT Symposium science event

Researchers and public engagement professionals from across the country have come together at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) to explore new ways of inspiring the wider public to engage with cutting edge scientific research.

UCLan is the second university to host the INTERACT Symposium, which attracted representatives from 46 universities from all over the UK as well as from Government laboratories, learned societies and organisations dedicated to public engagement and school outreach. 

The day-long event had the aim of sharing best practice in ways to engage with diverse communities about science and how to explore together ways in which scientific research can affect people’s everyday lives.

Key themes included challenging children’s stereotypes of scientists, communicating science through art and culture (such as storytelling) and breaking down barriers between scientists and communities that generally assume the subject isn’t really applicable to them.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), part of UK Research and Innovation, was one of the co-organisers of the event. Derek Gillespie, Interim Associate Director of STFC, said: “Public engagement isn’t just telling people about research and hoping they’ll learn something, it’s about having a conversation with them and finding out what they want to learn and how what we do may be relevant to them.”

INTERACT provides a fantastic opportunity for researchers to come together and commit to new and exciting ways of sharing what they do. There are so many ways to engage with the public and inspire a whole host of audiences.

Claire Harvey, the Chief Executive of the Ogden Trust which also helped to organise the event, said: “INTERACT provides a fantastic opportunity for researchers to come together and commit to new and exciting ways of sharing what they do. There are so many ways to engage with the public and inspire a whole host of audiences.”

UCLan is the first university in the north to host the prestigious event and brings its own expertise in public engagement through its award-winning Lancashire Science Festival, which attracts around 12,000 visitors a year and is an inspirational celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths.

Robert Walsh, Professor of Solar Physics at UCLan and STFC Leadership Fellow in Public Engagement, said: “UCLan is the ideal candidate to host the Interact Symposium. We are a leading light in public engagement for the local community and we are proud to host an event that brings so many passionate scientists and practitioners together in one place.”

A big attraction at the Symposium was a replica skeleton of a Gorgosaurus; a 7.3 metre predatory dinosaur that lived more than 70 million years ago. It was brought to UCLan by Professor of Natural History Phil Manning from the University of Manchester.

He added: “I pinch myself every day that I get to do the job I do and I’m keen to make my work as accessible as possible. It’s our job as scientists to be ambassadors for the exciting research we do and make it understandable and relevant.”

The INTERACT Symposium was organised by UCLan, STFC, the Institute of Physics, the South East Physics Network, the Ogden Trust, the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry and it attracted over 200 participants made up of scientists, community organisations and charities.

View images from the event on the UCLan Flickr gallery.


Staff from the University of Manchester

Lyndsey Boardman | 10 September 2019