HBP researcher awareness team members at the Science in Public 2019 conference

The Researcher Awareness team of the Human Brain Project (HBP) convened a session titled ‘Dynamics of interdisciplinary and inter-publics engagements’ at the 2019 Science in Public conference which took place on 10-12 July in Manchester, UK.

The theme for  this year’s interdisciplinary conference was ‘the global and the local’. The aim was to increase engagement between science communication practitioners and researchers locally, nationally and globally. The conference brought together 167 participants mostly from the UK, but some also joined from Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and other parts of the world. The conference participants  represented a wide range of perspectives on interactions between science and its publics. The topics discussed at the conference included science and public engagement, policy and practice, science fiction, media and online platforms, science and art as well as science and religion. In addition to traditional conference sessions and short lightning talks, the conference also included a number of diverse engagement formats such as provocation sessions, a sci-comm marketplace and even dancing organised by the Science Ceilidh initiative.   

Visions and realities of interdisciplinarity and public engagement

The members of the HBP Researcher Awareness team organised the ‘Dynamics of interdisciplinary and in inter-publics engagements’ session to share their research and practice related to interdisciplinary collaboration, Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and public engagement. Inga Ulnicane presented her findings on international scientific collaboration with a special focus on the benefits and challenges they pose for early career researchers. Tara Mahfoud discussed the concept of ‘critical friendship’ as a way to foster reflexivity and interdisciplinary engagement which are necessary for RRI. In her talk on capturing the complexities of ‘place’, Christine Aicardi encouraged us to pay attention to the situated dynamics of layered and nested scales of place in studies of interdisciplinarity. Finally, Simisola Akintoye spoke about civil society and opportunities and disruptions to public engagement in RRI.

The many questions from the audience demonstrated that these topics resonate with a wide range of  researchers and practitioners who share our concerns about structural aspects of contemporary science. Questions discussed during the roundtable included: How can or should the successes of interdisciplinarity and public engagements be measured? How to bring concerns to research funders? How much do the cultures of science, and scientists themselves, reinforce current problems? The session confirmed the need for further research and reflection on contemporary challenges for interdisciplinarity and public engagement.

This was the second session that the HBP Researcher Awareness team organised at the Science in Public conference. It built on the successful experience of the panel ‘Engaging with emerging technologies: representation, responsibility, and reflexivity’ they organised in the previous Science in Public conference in Cardiff in 2018.

This was the 13th annual UK-based Science in Public conference organised by the Science in Public Research Network. It has been decided that the conference would not be taking place in 2020. Instead, in 2020, dedicated panels will be organized in science communication and history of science conferences. Calls for hosting the Science in Public conferences in 2021 and 2022 will be launched soon. 

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