Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
24 Aug 2012
The MRC has been supporting the Cheltenham Science Festival for the past 10 years. Like all great partnerships, our relationship with the organisers and visitors to the festival has grown with time; we now help to develop content for the festival programme as well as being a sponsor.
Here’s just a flavour of what we do… [...]
Continue reading: The MRC at the ‘Glastonbury of science’
7 Aug 2012
Mini Scientists at the Edinburgh Science Festival
MRC Regional Communications Manager Hazel Lambert reveals a little of what goes into preparing research for curious ‘mini scientists’, just one of the activities in which MRC researchers share their expertise with thousands of people at UK science festivals every year.
Edinburgh and Glasgow are flooded with rain so wellies are essential for walking in Scotland’s cities today. I leave mine at reception in the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit where I’ve come to meet researchers who’ve been developing a game they call Health and the City. I’m looking for new ideas for Mini Scientists, the MRC lab at the Edinburgh International Science Festival where MRC-funded researchers help kids aged seven and over explore stem cells, DNA and even cell-signalling with the help of play-doh and cuddly brain cells.
PhD student Gillian Fergie shows me a tower block and tenement she has improvised out of wooden blocks and laminated paper to represent Glasgow’s housing. Using a blank roll of wallpaper liner as our city backdrop, and interlocking sections of toy road, cars and trees, we think about how we can share public health research with festival-goers. [...]
Continue reading: Wallpaper, wax and paper DNA: the tools of a mini scientist
18 Jul 2012
The MRC Max Perutz Science Writing Award for early-career researchers is now in its 15th year. As we announce the shortlist for the 2012 competition, one shortlister reflects on the process.
A few weeks ago, I briefly swapped my job as a science writer to become a science reader, reading all 119 entries for the Max Perutz Award, which this year asked the entrants to answer the question ‘Why does my research matter?
For 10 days I carried a bundle of articles around with me, delving into them on park benches, at my desk, over coffee and on the bus.
Some entrants, those that have made it on to the shortlist that we’re announcing today, made their research leap off the page, combining arguments about the necessity of their research with lively prose and a great use of imagery. As my buses trundled through London, I imagined proteins whizzing around cells, viruses coursing around bodies, the tragic slide of minds and bodies into disease. Some people focused solely on their research, while others brought themselves into the stories, describing their thoughts and feelings about their work. [...]
Continue reading: Science reading
10 Jul 2012
Heather Bailey (Copyright: Heather Bailey)
What exactly is medical science policy? And how can researchers influence it? Heather Bailey is a PhD student at the MRC Centre of Epidemiology for Child Health at University College London. She took three months out of her studies to delve into science policy by participating in an internship programme run by the Academy of Medical Sciences and the MRC.
Policy can be something of a black box to scientists so the most remarkable aspect of my internship experience was the opportunity to become familiar with the variety of people and organisations involved in shaping medical policy in the UK.
From patients to professors, from trade unions to charities, I had no idea of the breadth of roles and approaches for getting medical issues onto the political agenda. I particularly valued the opportunity to be involved with the policy work of the Academy of Medical Sciences, a focal point for leading scientists to influence UK government decision-making on both current issues and in anticipation of future priorities.
For my PhD I am studying HIV in women in Ukraine. To learn about influencing medical policy in Ukraine, I spent a week with ECOHOST, a research group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This group’s work has shown that out-of-pocket payments to see a doctor in Ukraine are common and often unaffordable to those who most need care. As with so many medical policy problems, this has complex economic, social and political roots — an understanding of which is essential for effective medical policy reform. [...]
Continue reading: Getting to the bottom of medical science policy
5 Jul 2012
Heather Blackmore (Copyright: Heather Blackmore)
PhD student Heather Blackmore attended a Standing up for Science media workshop in June. Here she tells us why she’ll now be looking at the science news headlines with new eyes.
Have you ever read a newspaper article and felt the need to challenge the journalism or scientific content? Whether a scientist or not, I’m sure that you too come across articles that seem exaggerated in their claims or inaccurate in the way they explain research.
As a second year PhD student, I had become increasingly aware of how little I understood about how scientists and the media interact, particularly how scientists can handle media interest after publishing in well-known journals. That’s why I attended the media workshop, run by Sense about Science, in London on the 15 June.
Speakers included scientists, journalists and representatives from learned societies and Sense about Science. Discussions centred on topics such as what journalists want, why media portrayal of research goes wrong and what you can do if you spot bad science. [...]
Continue reading: Making sense of the media
29 May 2012
Cathy Southworth explains why, when faced with the challenge of opening up stem cell science to the public, she turned to comic book artist Edward Ross and science fiction writer Ken Macleod. She is the Public Engagement Manager of OptiStem, an EU-funded stem cell research project based at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Edinburgh.
When I was tasked last year with developing a resource to open up the world of stem cell science to the public, I must admit my heart groaned a little at the thought of another leaflet or information page that would be lost among the mass of information on the web. We needed something eye-catching and enticing; something that would stand out, all the while ensuring that the science was portrayed accurately.
There was obviously a story to tell; a very human story about how contemporary medical treatments are brought to the clinic. How do ideas develop? How do these ideas become possibilities? How do they get tested? How do we know they are as safe as they can be? How do we decide what ‘safe’ means and who decides? These were among the many questions I wanted to address, along with including an array of characters: scientists, clinicians, regulators, ethicists and patients, to name a few. [...]
Continue reading: Hope beyond hype