Public engagement for the 75th
Question: What links cell biologists in waistcoats and curly wigs, herbal tea and Henry Wellcome on a penny farthing? Answer: The Wellcome Trust’s 75th Anniversary celebrations!
Last year marked our 75th birthday, and we invited nine Wellcome Trust-funded centres across the UK to help us celebrate. During September – December 2011 the centres went out into their local communities to tell the story of the past 75 years of biomedicine and the challenges that the next 75 years will bring.
The film stars researchers from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology in Edinburgh, the Structural Genomics Consortium in Oxford and ALSPAC (a.k.a. Children of the 90s) in Bristol, as well as a certain Sir Henry Wellcome. We follow their experiences of engaging public audiences with their research, from the mysteries of protein folding to the magic of the microscopic world. It also features cameos from some of our own luminaries of the research world, Sir Mark Walport, Sir Paul Nurse and Anne Johnson who give their unique perspective on what public engagement means to them.
Though our anniversary has come to an end, the momentum certainly hasn’t. We will be working to build upon the centres’ achievements in 2012 and beyond. Many of the centres have plans to take their activities to wider audiences – to name just a couple, Edinburgh’s Life Through a Lens project will be touring Edinburgh and Orkney Science Festivals, and the Children of the 90s will mark their own 21st anniversary this year with a programme of events across the south-west.
As Sir Mark Walport says, the Trust sees public engagement as an intrinsic and increasingly important part of the research process. As the film shows, it can be a lot of fun as well.
Jenny Jopson is Events Officer at Wellcome Collection and was Project Manager on the 75th anniversary celebrations.