Technology can be key to supporting public engagement with research and since we introduced this category four years ago, we have seen incredibly inspiring entries. This year did not disappoint. We have one honourable mention, a runner up and a winner, and the co-judges were Charlotte Medland, Humanities Division, and Alun Edwards, Academic IT.
Lesley Paterson, Shane McCracken and Michaela Livingstone-Banks for I'm a Researcher... get me out of here!
'I'm A Researcher... get me out of here!' is an exemplary account of an activity that did everything in its power to engage its target audience of school pupils and make a difference to their perception of research as a career.
The project involved real two-way engagement, with researchers opening up and responding to a wide range of unfiltered questions, both online and in person through a live final at Curiosity Carnival last September. The activity is innovative for Oxford in its all-encompassing inter-disciplinary nature, meaning that researchers took as much away from the experience as the pupils. Not only did they look at their subject through the eyes of others, but in the final event the researchers were challenged by the perspective of experts in other disciplines. This meant that the project's success was as two-way as its engagement, and its legacy shows how similar activity is made easier for other areas of the University thanks to the range of techniques used and the publication of a thorough evaluation of the project [pdf].
Tom Hart, Fiona Jones, Chris Lintott, Andrew Zisserman, Carlos Arteta, Caitlin Black, Grant Miller, Campbell Allen and Victor Lempitsky for Penguin Watch - a citizen science platform for large-scale penguin conservation
'Penguin Watch' deserves recognition as an excellent initiative that effectively engages the public in citizen science and respects their contribution.
To automate the collection and analysis of data that can be used to inform policy while also engaging and educating the public as to Antarctic research and conservation.
Penguin Watch mission statement
The project's mission statement highlights how the audience for, and purpose of, the engagement was always at the forefront of researchers’ minds. The digital platform makes it easy for public volunteers to annotate images, therefore turning raw research data from the automated cameras into a useable research resource and greatly enhancing the capacity of the project.
Alongside such a productive research tool, the project has become a true source of interest, education and enjoyment to its public volunteers, as demonstrated by the comments on the Penguin Watch website.
The project is now being used as a model for conservation research on other animals, and we congratulate the team on a truly 'engaged' and 'engaging' digital project!
Gabriela Pavarini, Jessica Lorimer, Arianna Manzini and Ilina Singh for Can your phone be your therapist? Young people's ethical perspectives on Chatbot Therapy
'Can your phone be your therapist?' is an excellent example of co-production between scientists and young people. The project focused on putting young people at the centre of public debate and decision-making for mental health support using automated conversational agents (i.e. chatbots): something we were surprised to learn is not standard practice when considering these tools and intervention, even though young people are the target audience. In the NEUROSEC Young People's Advisory Group (YPAG) the young participants explored the social and ethical concerns around three existing platforms:
- HelloJoy, and
These respond to users in ways that mirror a real-life interaction to provide mental health support.
They also collaborated with Wellcome and BBC Tomorrow's World in a video on Chatbot Therapy. The project resulted in a co-written framework on what we consider to be minimum ethical standards for these platforms, and has been submitted to an academic journal.
Our commendation is for the true partnership at the centre of this project, which showcased brilliantly how research is enhanced by including its 'subjects' in the process. We would like to congratulate the researchers and their young partners for using this work towards real change in the way that chatbots are used, and we look forward to hearing what happens next!
Many congratulations to our well-deserved winners!