This morning on BBC Radio 4 ‘Start the Week‘ had Elizabeth Pisani, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King’s College London.
Pisani said: ‘You sometimes think this whole public engagement with science through arts or whatever is like, Ugh! Really? Is that a good use of my time?’
Many of us (of course) think public engagement is a good use of our time, or to be more precise, it is vital (to the ongoing impact of research) for the public to access, understand and engage with our work, and to that end we feel a responsibility to invest our time, energy, resources and expertise. It is, after all, the public who fund, use, and/or participate in research.
It is in response to these type of comments that The Public Engagement and Performance Conference brings together creative, innovative practitioners and projects to offer illustrations, to provoke conversation, understanding, insight.
Pisani went on to say: ‘But what you’ve just said calls to mind an example. I was working with a centre for infectious disease research in Vietnam and they had an artist in residence and I was talking to a senior scientist who works on pigs there. He said: “I spoke to her and she was interesting,” but I did think What’s the point?
‘Then I looked at his artwork and he’d made this gorgeous marble sculpture that was a crouched form, you could see the spine, and I looked at it and I thought: I can’t tell if that’s a pig or a human. Then I thought: If I were a bacteria, or an organ, I wouldn’t care either. And I thought that was really interesting because we think of public engagement as: It’s a way of us explaining to them, the great unwashed, the unscientific. But sometimes engaging with artists can make you think: Uh, yeah, maybe I should think about my work a bit differently.‘
You can listen to the whole programme by clicking here.