Projects

Project picture

Developing policy through communities

Location
Manchester

Project Summary

How the outcomes of two-way engagement with local communities helped the Dermatological Sciences Research Group in establishing public engagement routinely in all areas of research.

Project Partners

Name:
Dr Mark Farrar
Role:
Research Associate, School of Translational Medicine, The University of Manchester
Role Description:
Project Leader
Name:
Marie Durkin
Role:
Research Nurse, School of Translational Medicine, The University of Manchester
Name:
The Dermatological Sciences Research Group, School of Translational Medicine, The University of Manchester
Name:
The Indian Association Manchester, The Greater Manchester Bangladeshi Association

Benefits & Impact

The results of the questionnaire have shown a high degree of interest in our research and that of the University as a whole, emphasising the need for a public engagement policy that can be applied to all research projects undertaken in the Photobiology Unit and wider Dermatological Sciences Research Group. Unfortunately the time taken to organise community meetings has delayed the drafting of such a policy but this will happen in due course. One aspect of this policy will be the return of research findings to volunteers. The majority of research volunteers were interested in being informed of the study results. Published papers are unsuitable for this purpose therefore one proposal is that following a study, a brief lay report will be written and made available to volunteers involved in that study. In addition to addressing public needs, this project has given several members of staff in the Photobiology Unit valuable experience in developing public engagement activities.

Quotes

"I always considered public engagement worthwhile but my involvement on the Beacon has shown how important it is not just to give the public information but to justify the public-funded research we do." Mark Farrar

Lessons Learnt

There is a great deal of interest from the public in the University, research and other activities.

  • The key challenge in all public engagement activities would appear to be time - arranging meetings and generating community interest are time-consuming.
  • Some people will not want to participate if they feel it takes too much of their own time - public engagement activities should be simple but productive.
  • The biggest learning point was for the actual project team in understanding the wide range of activities that come under the umbrella of public engagement. This should be highlighted to get away from the more traditional thinking that public engagement is just about giving talks to members of the public.

Background

The Dermatological Sciences Research Group within the School of Translational Medicine carries out clinical research involving several hundred patients and healthy volunteers. At present there is no formal procedure for informing study participants of the outcomes of this research other than referring to publications in scientific journals which are often inaccessible to the public and difficult to understand. There is also a clear need to make information on research activities available to the wider public. Previous public engagement activities, although limited, have been successful and have highlighted the interest there is in the community in the University and its research.

Aims & Objectives

  • Gather opinion from members of local S. Asian communities involved in a current study on vitamin D status, in order to identify means of effectively promoting the results of this and other studies in appropriate terms to be easily understood.
  • Listen to and understand the needs of the wider community with respect to planning, publicising and conducting our research.
  • Draft a policy for public engagement within Dermatological Sciences and the wider School of Translational Medicine.

Approach

A one-page questionnaire was developed to ask simple questions with ‘yes/no’ answers about aspects of University research and community involvement in that research. If a ‘no’ answer was given, respondents were prompted to give a reason for that answer to try and understand the challenges faced in promoting public engagement.

Current research volunteers were asked to complete the questionnaire during one of their routine study visits. A total of 70 people completed the questionnaire. Most striking was the high percentage of people interested in finding out more about our research (90%) and 74% had a wider interest in University research. A summary of the results from the questionnaires is at the end of this report. When negative answers were given, the most common reason for that answer was a lack of time or other commitments preventing involvement in public engagement activities.

Local Indian and Bangladeshi associations were contacted and wider community meetings arranged.